The Will Sports Group

The RIG 28 for January

January 2

Chabot keeps his promise
Andrew Podnieks
IIHF.com

In the exciting New Year’s Eve game against the United States, he was on the ice for nearly half the game (27:45 to be exact). He is the rock upon which the team’s defence is founded, and for good reason. Chabot is big and quick and moves the puck well.

Drafted 18th overall by Ottawa in 2015, he played in his first NHL game earlier this year before being sent back to junior.

“It was great,” he said of his NHL debut on October 18, 2016, a home game against Arizona in which he had 7:09 of ice time. “As a kid, I watched all of the Montreal Canadiens games. When I was five years old, I remember watching a game on TV with my grandmother, and I told her one day that’s going to be me on TV. To have the chance to play my first game was great for me and my family. My parents have sacrificed so much in their life for me and my brother, who played hockey, too. We travelled everywhere to play, so it was a way of saying thank you to my parents.”

Of course, the game was especially memorable for his grandmother. “She couldn’t make it to Ottawa that night but she watched the game on TV. It was great. Before the game I was thinking about her because I remember telling her one day that would be me on TV, so I was glad she was able to watch.”

Ever since he was old enough to understand what hockey is about, Chabot has dreamed about the game with his every thought.

“I have so many memories of watching Canada’s games with my parents when I was a kid,” he related. “I never missed a game, no matter what countries were playing. Even when games were in Europe, I’d wake up early to watch.”

Like many Canadians, one game stands high above all others, namely the semi-finals against Russia in Ottawa in 2009.

“The one I remember best was in Ottawa when Jordan Eberle tied the game with only a few seconds left,” he recalled. “And now to have the chance to be here and play for my country is amazing. I used to dream of playing and now I’m here. It’s even more special this year being on home ice.”

The Quebecker will be even closer to home now that Canada has moved to Montreal for the playoff round. Chabot was born in Ste. Marie-de-Beauce, just south of Quebec City.

“The first time I wore a Team Canada sweater was at the U18 World Championship in Switzerland. We all know what a big tournament that is for the players, and to be there was amazing wearing the maple leaf.”

Canada won bronze that year, and last year he was on the U20 team that finished a disappointing sixth. He’s here because after that NHL game the Senators sent him back to Saint John in the QMJHL.

“They didn’t tell me anything,” he explained of his training camp with the Sens. “I was trying to earn a spot on the team, but I have to give a lot of credit to the defencemen they have. They’ve done a great job, so I never really had a chance to make the team. Inside of me, I felt I could play on the team, but they’re having a good season so far, so I can’t complain. I’m happy to be back in Saint John. We have a great team there, and it’s given me the chance to be here for the World Juniors. Not a lot of guys have the chance to play, so it’s a real notch in my belt, so to speak.”

Make no mistake, though. The 19-year-old did everything in his power to make the team, and his ambitions have not been dulled by being sent back to junior.

“I went to Ottawa about six weeks before camp to skate with the guys,” he said, “so I was used to the pace. It’s really when I went back down to junior that I realized how fast the NHL is. Whether they’re on the first line or fourth line, they’re all so good.”

As for takeaways, he knows what he has to do to make it to Ottawa on a permanent basis.

“I think Ottawa was kind of worried about my defensive game, so I’m trying to work on that,” he explained.

“Every time I step on the ice here it’s against the first or second line of the other team, so that’s great to
be able to do that against the best under-20 players in the world. Being harder on the puck, harder in front of my net. That’s what I’m working on the most this year.”

The more he works on it, the more ice time he gets and the better off Canada is. Chabot will wind up in the NHL as a regular defenceman, of that there is no doubt. It’s all just a matter of time.

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Jan 3

Cammalleri goal vs Hurricanes

Jan 4

Mitchell Stephens returns to lead Canadian juniors in quarter-final win over Czech Republic
Michael Traikos
National Post

MONTREAL — Mitchell Stephens didn’t want to talk about it.

“Next question,” he had said when asked about the ankle injury that had kept the Team Canada forward out of the lineup for the previous two games.

The point was that whatever had been bothering Stephens was no longer an issue. And in a 5-3 quarter-final win against the Czech Republic at the World Junior Hockey Championship here on Monday, the Peterborough, Ont., native proved it.

Stephens, who had gone without a point in the first two games before getting injured, broke out with a goal and two assists in his return on Monday night. It was the type of game-breaking performance that Canada had been missing when it lost 3-1 to the United States in its final round robin game on Saturday.

“Well, being off for a couple of days helped, I guess,” said Stephens with a laugh. “It’s tough when you come out of an injury and go back into the system and try to get your legs under you. It was a team effort tonight. I wouldn’t say it was one individual guy.”

an 8-3 winner against Slovakia in quarter-final action Monday.

“They’re a good team,” said Team Canada captain Dylan Strome of the Swedes. “We’re going to have to be aware. We’re going to have to be aware on all sides of the puck and in the offensive zone they can attack just as quick as we can.”

Certainly, Canada will need to be better against Sweden than it was against the Czech Republic.

Canada went into the quarter-final having crushed the Czech Republic 8-0 and 5-0 in a pair of pre-tournament games. Since then, Canada had cruised to the medal round, outscoring its opponents 21-8 in winning three of four games. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic managed just one win in its four- game slate.

But the quarter-final was a different beast. When it’s a single-elimination game, anything can happen, as was the case a year ago when Canada 6-5 lost to Finland in the quarter-final en route to placing sixth overall. Finland went on to win the gold medal.

“You can’t take any team for granted,” Strome said. “You’ve got to be prepared for anything.”

Monday’s effort against the Czech Republic was not much different. Strome said Canada seemed “a little nervous” at times.

Still, no one could have predicted that the game would be this close — or that the game would start so poorly for Canada.

The Czechs not only scored the game’s first goal. They got it on the luckiest of bounces, with goalie Connor Ingram stopping a shot but having the rebound ricochet off one of the referees and onto the waiting stick of Czech forward David Kase, who made no mistake.

“I’ve never seen one go straight to a guy like that,” said Ingram, who stopped 13 of 16 shots. “I’ve seen one go off a linesman setting up a breakaway or a two-on-one or something like that, but I’ve never seen one like tonight. That’s something new and it’s going to happen once in a blue moon.”

By the end of the first period, Canada trailed 1-0 and left to boos by the home crowd. But the team settled down in the second period and jumped out to a 2-1 lead, thanks to Stephens, whom Strome called “our best player tonight.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, who has 28 points in 22 games in the Ontario Hockey League this season, has been used in an energy-type role for Canada at the world juniors. And whether his team was down a goal or tied, Stephens provided the much-needed spark.

“He’s an energy guy,” said Ingram. “He’s huge for us and I thought this was one of the best games I’ve seen him play. He was fantastic tonight.”

Shortly after Mathieu Joseph stole a clearing attempt, Stephens took a pass down low and found Blake Speers in front of the net for a redirect goal past Czech goaltender Jakub Skarek. Stephens then gave Canada a 2-1 lead when he beat the Czech goalie from the top of the faceoff circle.

With the score tied 2-2, Stephens picked up his second assist when he set up defenceman Thomas Chabot, who toe-dragged around a Czech defender and scored his third goal of the tournament.

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Chabot shines in Canada’s quarterfinal win
Frank Seravalli
TSN.ca

MONTRÉAL — The temperature inside the Canadian dressing room was a little warmer than usual during the first intermission on Monday, with the demons of last year’s worst showing at the World Junior Championship in nearly two decades dancing around in the heads of five returning players.

It was one period, yes, but Canada trailed a Czech Republic team they romped by a 13-0 margin in two pre-tournament games.

Just about everything that could have gone wrong did: Canada was booed off the Bell Centre ice after their potent power play suddenly sputtered and the Czechs scored on a strange bounce off the referee.
Then Thomas Chabot piped up.

According to Blake Speers, Chabot told the team during the first intermission: “We’ve got this. We were going to score more than one goal today anyways. It’s not a big deal that they got one. Keep sticking to our game.”

As Chabot spoke, Speers looked around the Canadiens’ hallowed dressing room that Team Canada was inhabiting.

“You see could see everyone around the room listening to him,” Speers said, “that he’s going to lead the team.”

Then Chabot did just that. A 50-50 puck squirted out to Chabot at the point. He gambled and not only kept the play alive, but ducked a Czech defender and beat goaltender Jakub Skarek to quell any lingering thoughts of an upset and give Canada a lead they would never relinquish.

Canada pulled away for a 5-3 victory thanks to two third period tallies by Julien Gauthier, but the quarterfinal victory served as a poignant reminder that the 2017 World Junior Championship has served as Chabot’s official coming out party.

“The whole country knows who he is now,” goaltender Connor Ingram said.

Canada will now face tournament favourite Sweden in one semifinal on Wednesday night at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. on TSN 1/3/4/5 & 4K). The winner of that game will square off against either Russia or the United States for the gold medal on Thursday.

Chabot, one of the five returnees, helped make sure Canada skirted what would have been a quarterfinal exit for the second consecutive tournament – which would have been Canada’s worst back-to-back showing since the playoff format was introduced in 1996.

Chabot, 19, has averaged five more minutes ice time per game than any other Canadian skater and aptly covered for the absence of concussed blue liner Philippe Myers.

The Ottawa Senators’ first-round pick now leads all defencemen in tournament scoring with three goals and four assists for seven points in five games.

When Chabot made the play for the go-ahead goal, he said he wasn’t sure if he should take the risk as the only defenceman between himself and Ingram.

“It was a pretty tight play,” Chabot explained. “But that’s when I told myself I might as well go around him.”

Most players, Speers said, might think about the obvious danger and fumble the puck – particularly in a die-or-die elimination game setting.

“If you’re thinking, ‘Well, I’m the last guy back, I better not bobble it,’ that’s when you’re going to bobble it,” Speers said. “You’ve got to be confident in yourself and confident in your ability with the puck.

“He’s just a calm leader, a really calming voice if temperatures are starting to boil over or we’re getting a little anxious. He’s the guy to settle things down.”

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CRANDALL NAMED SHER-WOOD HOCKEY/ECHL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
AHL.com

Justin Crandall of the Reading Royals is the Sher-Wood Hockey ECHL Player of the Week for Dec. 27-Jan. 1.

Crandall scored two goals, added six assists and was a +6 as the Royals went 3-0-0 last week.

The 24-year-old old had two assists in a 5-0 win over Elmira on Wednesday, scored a pair of goals in a 4-2 victory against Wheeling on Friday and tallied four assists in a 5-2 win at Adirondack on Saturday.

A native of Lakeville, Minn., Crandall has 26 points (10g-16a) in 25 games with the Royals this season.

Crandall has recorded 84 points (28g-56a) in 83 career ECHL games with Reading while adding three points (1g-2a) in nine career American Hockey League games with Chicago and Albany.

Prior to turning pro, Crandall played four seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he had 79 points (40g-39a) in 145 career games.

On behalf of Justin Crandall, a case of pucks will be donated to a Reading youth hockey organization by Sher-Wood Hockey, the exclusive puck supplier of the ECHL. Since beginning its sponsorship of the award in 2000-01, Sher-Wood Hockey has donated more than 35,000 pucks to youth hockey organizations in ECHL cities.

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Seguin goal vs Canadiens

Jan 5

Thomas Chabot leads the way for Team Canada’s defence
Sean Gordon
The Globe and Mail

Hockey games at the elite level involve decisions – hundreds of them, made rapidly and under intense psychological and physical duress.

Some people call this fun.

In any case, when something looks and feels like a decisive moment, the ability to judge exactly when to dive in becomes the difference between the good and the great.

An example: When Team Canada forward Mitchell Stephens’s blind pass wobbled into the slot during the world junior hockey championship quarter-final against the Czechs, defenceman Thomas Chabot was presented with a dilemma.

“To be honest with you, I was thinking I probably shouldn’t go for it,” the Ottawa Senators prospect said. “I was the last guy back; it’s a tie game.”

But the opposing winger was also slightly out of position, there was a bit of space to get to the middle of the ice – so why not?

What followed may live on as a signature moment of the 2017 tournament.

Chabot deked around the Czech covering him, bulled through the stick check of another and fired home a quick, low shot that made it a 3-2 game – a lead Canada would not relinquish.

Pliny the Elder once said (in a somewhat different context – he was commanding a Roman naval vessel) that fortune favours the bold.

Yeah, as long as the puck doesn’t get turned over near the blueline.

After scoring his third goal of the event – “that’s more than he has in Saint John this year,” joked Team Canada and Sea Dogs teammate Mathieu Joseph – Chabot leaped into the glass in a moment that seemed equal parts elation and catharsis. The 19-year-old is one of five returning players from the squad that fell in the quarter-final in Finland a year ago. He also suffered the indignity of getting cut by the Sens – who drafted him 18th over all in 2015 – and being told off in public at the team’s summer development camp because his game lacked intensity.

“I was disappointed to get sent back down to junior, but when that happened, my focus became this tournament,” said the native of Sainte-Marie, Que., who stands a solid 6 foot 2.

You might say it has gone well. Chabot leads all defencemen in scoring in the tournament. When the quarter-final game was over, fans could be heard chanting his name.

“Well, I did have about 60 people from my family here,” he said afterward with a smile. (That they could be heard so distinctly was also a function of the disappointing Bell Centre attendance: 10,215.)

And though his game has scaled new heights despite losing regular partner Philippe Myers to injury, he’s not satisfied just yet.

“I don’t think at this level you can do everything on your own,” he said, “I won’t be happy until we get the job done.”

If Canada is to reach the gold-medal game, they’ll have to get by unbeaten Sweden and winger Alex Nylander, the tournament’s top scorer, in Wednesday’s semi-final.

It’ll be Chabot’s job, along with Brandon Wheat Kings rearguard Kale Clague (an L.A. Kings prospect) to shut down the top line of Nylander, Filip Ahl and Swedish captain Joel Eriksson Ek.

Canadian coach Dominique Ducharme said that for all Chabot’s offensive prowess, he’s been just as efficient in Team Canada’s end.

“He’s dominant, both with the puck and on the defensive side. He’s the boss back there, and I’ve really liked the way he’s reacted to his responsibilities,” Ducharme said.

The Canada/Sweden match will hinge on which team succeeds in asserting its quick-passing, swift-skating possession game, which means Chabot and his fellow blueliners – who as a group are perhaps less heralded than the Swedish defence – will have a crucial role in transition.

It’s a nip-and-tuck game, which may explain why Ducharme felt the need to engage in a little gamesmanship. He played coy when asked who would start in net and proclaimed that while Sweden typically excels in the round-robin stage of the championship – he said “they haven’t lost in 10 years or something like that” – the medal round is a different story.

“They have ways to lose when things get tough for them,” he said, “and we want to make it tough on them.”

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Chabot named MVP
Lucas Aykroyd
IIHF.com

Chabot, a 19-year-old defenceman who plays for the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs and appeared in one NHL game this season with the Ottawa Senators, was also voted to the tournament All-Star Team, and was named Best Defenceman by the tournament directorate. He scored Canada’s opening goal and added an assist in the final against the United States.

Chabot led all defencemen in tournament scoring with 10 points (4+6), and led the World Juniors in ice time, averaging 26:14 per game.

The U.S. and Russia both placed two players on the tournament all-star team. Russian captain Kirill Kaprizov, who led the World Juniors with nine goals, was named Best Forward and an all-star.

Individual Awards (selected by the directorate)
Best Goalkeeper: Felix Sandstrom, Sweden
Best Defenceman: Thomas Chabot, Canada
Best Forward: Kirill Kaprizov, Russia
Most Valuable Player (selected by the media): Thomas Chabot, Canada

All-Star Team (selected by the media)
GK: Ilya Samsonov, Russia
DE: Thomas Chabot, Canada
DE: Charlie McAvoy, United States
FW: Kirill Kaprizov, Russia
FW: Alexander Nylander, Sweden
FW: Clayton Keller, United States

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Jan 6

Thomas Chabot shines on the big stage leading Team Canada to a silver medal at world juniors
Michael Traikos
The National Post

MONTREAL — By the end of the first period in the gold medal final, Thomas Chabot had already scored a goal. But once again, the more telling stat was his 11-plus minutes of ice time, which was three more minutes than the next-highest player.

It’s been like that for the Canadian defenceman, who teammates have called a “monster” ever since Philippe Myers suffered a concussion in the final game of the preliminary round, requiring Chabot to take on an even bigger role.

With four goals and 10 points in seven games, he has made the most of the extra minutes. No question, Chabot has been Canada’s best player — if not the tournament’s best — and it had not gone unnoticed by his future boss.

“To play for Canada with all the exposure that the world juniors gets here, it’s that highest level of pressure and to succeed only builds in your baggage or forte as a player,” said Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion. “So for us, we’re really happy about that.

Chabot gave Canada a 1-0 lead early in the first period in Thursday’s gold medal game against the U.S., when he jumped up in the rush and converted a backdoor pass from Mathew Barzal. It was not only a showcase of Chabot’s offensive instincts, but also his ability to transition quickly from defence to offence.

“I think we always saw the skills in the toolbox in his draft year,” said Dorion, who was the assistant GM when the Senators selected Chabot 18th overall in 2015. “We see him more as a transitional defenceman, someone who can move the puck with both his feet and his hands. His skating ability is such that he can go up the ice and recover in-stride coming back.”

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Canada’s Thomas Chabot stands out at world junior hockey championship
Kelsey Patterson
The Canadian Press

MONTREAL – Thomas Chabot was named the best player at the world junior hockey championship, but the accolades couldn’t temper the sting of losing the gold-medal game.

The Canadian defenceman was named the most valuable player at the under-20 tournament just moments after Canada lost the final 5-4 in a shootout against the United Sates on Thursday.

Chabot was also named the best defenceman of the tournament and best player of the final.

“That’s the last thing on my mind,” said a distraught Chabot after the loss. “It’s definitely a bonus at the end of the day to be rewarded for my efforts, but we didn’t get the result that we wanted. That’s all that matters.”

The 19-year-old Chabot was dominant throughout the tournament. The offensive-minded defenceman often drove the play for the Canadians while putting on a show for the fans.

He finished the tournament with 10 points — the most for any blue liner.

The native of Sainte-Marie, Que., was also the only defenceman to record at least one point in every single game during the two-week tournament.

“He was great, he was dominant,” said head coach Dominique Ducharme of his top defenceman. “He was good offensively and defensively, shutting down the best players on the other side. He was just tremendous all tournament.

“He was a great leader for us. They named him MVP and he deserves it. I’m happy for him.”

In Thursday’s gold-medal game, the Ottawa Senators prospect was on the ice more often than not. He played 43:53 — more than half the game — including 11:06 in the 20-minute overtime period. The six-foot-two Chabot finished the game with a goal and an assist.

“With the fans cheering in the crowd, I don’t think I would have ever run out of energy,” said Chabot, who was drafted 18th overall by Ottawa in 2015.

With time winding down in overtime, Chabot saved a sure goal by poking the puck out of the crease right before American Jordan Greenway got his stick on it.

But it didn’t matter in the end, as the Canadians failed to score on goalie Tyler Parsons in the shootout. Chabot had to watch his hockey rivals celebrate on his home turf.

“I just sat on the bench and I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Chabot after teammate Nicolas Roy failed to score on the fifth and final shootout attempt. “We had so many chances in overtime. That’s what tears me up. I don’t want to take anything away from them (the Americans), but if there was a second overtime period, it may have changed things. Those are the rules, but it’s tough to lose that way.

“At the end of the day, we lost the gold-medal game in a shootout. We have to keep our heads up high. We accomplished something here. We made it to the final and we know how difficult that is. We didn’t get the result we wanted but we have to be proud of our accomplishments.”

Chabot, who plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was one of five returning players on the Canadian team. In last year’s tournament, he finished with three assists in five games but couldn’t help his team win a medal as the Canadians finished sixth.

“We wanted to enter this year’s tournament and correct what we did wrong last year,” said Chabot. “Night after night, I did everything I could to help my team and represent my country as best as I could.”

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ILYA SAMSONOV SNARES A BRONZE MEDAL FOR RUSSIA
Ryan Kennedy
The Hockey News

The Washington Capitals first-rounder was definitely the best goaltender in the tournament and Russia has a medal for a seventh straight year because of him

So here’s how voting works for the world junior all-star team: media folks are given a form and it’s due in by the end of the first intermission of the gold medal game. So there’s a bit of a dance, because the most important game of the tournament hasn’t been resolved yet.

But I’m guessing that won’t matter this year, because Russia’s Ilya Samsonov is gonna get the nod for best goalie. The Washington Capitals first-rounder was absolutely stunning in the bronze medal game, despite the fact he appeared to hurt himself on at least two separate occasions. Samsonov stopped 38 Swedish shots, including many high-caliber chances in a 2-1 overtime victory. And really, he should have had a shutout, had New Jersey pick
Yegor Rykov not served up a turnover directly in front of the crease in the second period.

“That was the most outstanding game by him,” said Montreal first-rounder Mikhail Sergachev. “Like, I’ve seen him before like that, but today he made the craziest saves of his life. It was pretty amazing.”

The fact Samsonov was rebounding from a heartbreaking semifinal loss to Team USA the night before compounded the impressiveness of his performance today. Truly, for the Russians to medal in a tourney where they didn’t have a very deep team (by their high standards), was quite a feat.

“Players were completely exhausted, physically and emotionally,” said captain and Minnesota pick Kirill Kaprizov, through a translator. “But you should just step on the ice and battle and fight to the very end because a bronze medal is still a medal.”

Russia has now medalled in the past seven world juniors, by far the longest run by any country right now. Coach Valery Bragin has been a big factor and Russia’s ability to finish strong even when their round robin play has been spotty is well established.

“Obviously our coaches are, I think, the best coaches in the world,” Sergachev said. “With our strategy, we’re
pretty good.”

Now the question turns to Samsonov’s future. He’s already playing against men in the KHL and with Washington employing one of the best netminders in the world in Braden Holtby, there’s no rush to get the kid to The Show. As Sweden’s Rasmus Asplund pointed out post-game, Samsonov is basically an NHL goalie already. Given the kid’s size, athleticism and compete level, it’s hard to argue against his opponent’s assessment.

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Jan 7

Predators Sign Irwin to One-Year Contract
Nashville Predators

Nashville, TN – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Friday that the club has signed defenseman Matt Irwin to a one-year contract for the 2017-18 season worth $650,000.

Irwin, 29 (11/29/87), has appeared in 32 games for the Preds this season, and has earned eight points (3g-5a). He leads the team and ranks third among Western Conference defensemen with a +14 rating. From Nov. 1-5, the blueliner scored in three consecutive games, matching a career high. Irwin’s first goal as a member of the Predators came on Nov. 1 at Colorado, which was the game-winning goal.

Never drafted, Irwin played two seasons at the University of Massachusetts from 2008-09, posting 42 points (14g-28a) in 67 NCAA games. Prior to jumping to the collegiate ranks, he spent three seasons with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers, being named Coastal Conference Defenseman of the Year and to the league All-Star Game in both 2007 and 2008.

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Clendening goals vs Blue Jackets


Jan 8

Savard goal vs Flyers

Jan 9

Seguin goal vs Kings

Jan 10

Attack Acquire Cordell James from Barrie
Kate Stockmann
Blackburn News

In a flurry of trade activity in the OHL yesterday ahead of the Overage Trade Deadline, the Owen Sound Attack acquired centre Cordell James from the Barrie Colts.

The Hamilton native played in 66 games in 2015-16, scoring 19 goals and chalking up 25 assists for 44 points. He was named captain of the team in September.

In a release on the Attack’s website, general manager Dale DeGray says: “Cordell is a big bodied forward with skill that can create space on the ice in multiple ways. He gives us another offensive option and we couldn’t be more thrilled to bring him into the fold.”

In exchange for James, the Attack sent a fourth round pick in 2018 OHL Priority Selection to Barrie.

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Peterborough native Mitchell Stephens traded by Saginaw Spirit to the London Knights
Examiner Staff
Peterborough Examiner

He looked good in silver at the world junior hockey championships but Peterborough native Mitchell Stephens won’t be rocking the maroon and white for the Ontario Hockey League playoff stretch as many Peterborough Petes fans had hoped.

The London Knights acquired the Saginaw Spirit captain on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s OHL trade deadline for four second-round picks and two third-round picks without giving up any of their younger players.

“I am excited to join the London Knights organization (and) excited to see what lies ahead,” Stephens tweeted on his Twitter account.

“(I) would like to thank the entire Saginaw Spirit organization for the past few years. They have given me the opportunity to grow as a person and a player. I have made a lot of memories and friendships. That will stay with me forever.”

“We want to thank Mitchell for his commitment to the Saginaw Spirit and Great Lakes Bay Region, on and off the ice in his 3 1/2 seasons with the hockey club,” Saginaw general manager Dave Drinkill stated in a release. “On behalf of the organization, we wish Mitchell the best of luck with the London Knights.”

Stephens is expected to suit up for the Knights on Friday night when they host the Spirit.

The Knights are loading up on talent with the aim of making a Memorial Cup run this year. The Knights also acquired forward Dante Salituro from the Ottawa 67’s as well as defenceman Mitchell Vande Sompel from the Oshawa Generals.

“Any time you add players of this quality and already have good kids in your room, it’s an exciting time,” London GM Rob Simpson said. “It’ll be a tough road because there are a lot of great players this year on a lot of different teams. Our (Western) conference is very stacked. It’s going to be an interesting season down the stretch and good for fans around the league to watch some great hockey being played.”

By dealing for Stephens, the defending Memorial Cup champs are almost as impressive up the middle as they are at the back end. The Lightning can sit back and watch two of their prospects — Stephens and Cirelli — go head to head when London and Erie meet four more times in the regular-season, all with playoff seeding implications.

Vande Sompel grew up watching the Knights and will boost the club’s special teams and championship pedigree. Give an assist on Salituro to former London GM Basil McRae, now the Columbus director of player personnel who dictates where the club’s talent plays.

Stephens, a 5’10” and 190-pound centre, has 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points in 22 games in his fourth season and also had two goals and three assists during the world junior tourney, where he missed three games with an ankle injury.

Stephens, 19, played 193 regular season and playoff games for the Spirit and had a total of 64 goals and 76 assists for 140 points.

The NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning drafted Stephens in 2015 in the second round, 33rd overall.

Stephens was a first round pick, eight overall, by Saginaw in the 2013 OHL draft after he played minor midget with the Toronto Marlies program.

The Hamilton Bulldogs traded defenceman Jesse Saban, a Lindsay native, and a 10th round 2017 pick to the North Bay Battalion for defenceman Stephen Templeton and a conditional sixth round pick in 2019 from the Battalion.

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Troops pick up blueliner Saban
Nugget.ca

The North Bay Battalion has acquired defenceman Jesse Saban in a trade with the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Ontario Hockey League club announced Monday.

For Saban and a 10th-round pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, the Battalion gave up defenceman Stephen Templeton, a fifth-round pick this year and a conditional sixth-round selection in 2019. North Bay got Templeton from the Oshawa Generals on Friday for a 10th-round pick in 2017.

“He’s a big, strong stay-at-home defenceman who can play against good players on the other team and help bring some stability there,” Stan Butler, Battalion director of hockey operations and head coach, said of Saban, a 19-year-old resident of Lindsay, Ont.

Saban, a left shot who stands six-foot-two and weighs 208 pounds, was a second-round pick, 21st overall, by the Erie Otters in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection from the Toronto Red Wings minor midgets. He had eight assists for as many points in 33 games this season with Hamilton while accumulating 29 penalty minutes.

Saban played 23 games for Erie in 2014-15 before being traded to the Belleville Bulls on Jan. 5, 2015, with centre Trent Fox for left winger Remi Elie and centre Jake Marchment. Saban earned four assists in 27 games with Belleville over the rest of the season before the Bulls relocated to become the Bulldogs.

In 145 OHL games, Saban has three goals and 30 assists for 33 points with 122 penalty minutes. He went without a point or penalty in three playoff games with Belleville in 2015.

The 10th-round pick acquired by North Bay originally belonged to the Kingston Frontenacs.

Templeton, the 19-year-old grandson of the late Bert Templeton, legendary North Bay Centennials coach, was a sixth-round pick by Oshawa in 2013. Templeton is a resident of Waterdown, which, as part of the Town of Flamborough, was amalgamated into Hamilton in 2001.

With the Troops on a three-game eastern road trip over the weekend, Templeton didn’t play for North Bay.

Butler said last week that he might add a depth defenceman in light of Cam Dineen likely being sidelined into March after undergoing knee surgery in December.

The acquisition of Saban came a day before the OHL trade deadline of noon Tuesday.

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IceDogs Acquire Maksimov, Picks for Davis
Jordyn Moussa
Niagara IceDogs

This morning, Niagara IceDogs Director of Player Personnel, Joey Burke, announced that Hayden Davis has been traded to the Saginaw Spirit, in exchange for Kirill Maksimov, and Saginaw’s 3rd round pick in 2018, and their 2nd round pick in 2019.

In the year and a half that the Hamilton native has been in Niagara, Davis has played in 77 regular season games for Niagara compiling 12 points.

Maksimov, a second round pick and 99 birth year, originally chosen by Saginaw in the 2015 OHL Priority Draft (38th overall), is in his second season with the Spirit, the dual citizen (between Canada and Russia) has collected 37 points in 91 games. As a 16 year old rookie, Maksimov collected 21 points in 54 games, and is on pace to surpass his career high totals this season. The IceDogs are very excited to welcome Kirill to the organization, as he will join the team this weekend.

Joey Burke felt that this move was necessary to deepen the IceDogs young, but talented forward group, as well as prepare for the prospect of a strong future with the included draft picks. Burke and the coaching staff are very excited to acquire Maksimov, “he brings size, skill, and a complete game that will be fun for the Niagara IceDogs fans to watch”.

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Ian Blacker acquired by Oshawa at Trade Deadline

Jan 11

Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin selected for NHL All-Star Game
Star-Telegram

Center Tyler Seguin is the lone representative for the Dallas Stars on the NHL All-Star Game rosters, which were announced Tuesday.

Rookie sensations Auston Matthews of Toronto and Patrik Laine of Winnipeg were also among the 40 players selected for the NHL’s 62nd midseason showcase at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Chicago Blackhawks led the league with four selections for the game on Jan. 29.

The game format will again be a 3-on-3 tournament featuring a team from each of the four divisions. The players also will compete in a skills competition on Saturday, Jan. 28.

It’s the fourth All-Star selection for Seguin, who was also selected in 2012, ’15 and ’16. Entering Tuesday’s play. Seguin was tied for sixth in NHL scoring with 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists).

“It’s always pretty special,” Seguin told the Stars’ website. “Looking forward to a fun weekend.”

Seguin admitted he has tried to put an injury-plagued 2016 behind him and sees 2017 “as a bit of a fresh start.” He also said he was told it would take a year to fully recover from the partially severed Achilles tendon he suffered March 17 near the end of the 2016 regular season.

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Peterborough native Mitchell Stephens says he’s glad to have Dale Hunter as his new coach
Ryan Pyett
London Free Press

LONDON, ONT. – Peterborough native Mitchell Stephens doesn’t have many happy memories playing at London’s Budweiser Gardens.

There haven’t been many wins for visiting foes the past four years. And last season, the Canadian world junior forward broke his foot blocking a shot in the building.

“The Knights have always been an awesome team,” the ex-Saginaw captain and newly-acquired London star said by phone from his Peterborough home Tuesday, “and it’s a grind to come in and play against them.

“I’m looking forward to doing that to other teams now.”

Stephens and former Ottawa sniper Dante Salituro are expected to take part in their first Knights practice Wednesday.

“I don’t know,” Stephens said with a laugh. “I might slip him a bill under the table.”

His new teammates are just happy he’s here.

“That one hour (Monday) was pretty crazy,” over-ager Owen MacDonald, “getting three of the best players in the league. It’s exciting.”

Stephens, who waived his no-trade clause for London, had another description of the drama.

“Nerve-racking,” he said. “You didn’t know what you were going to do or where you would end up, but the Knights are a world-class organization and they’ve proven that over numerous years.

“I don’t want to change too much of what I do. The biggest thing is come in with an open mind and not come in and take over at all.

“I’m looking forward to being coached by one of the best coaches (Dale Hunter) in Canada.”

His first game since the world junior final will be against the Spirit.

“I’m still thinking about that (shootout loss), as tough as it was,” Stephens said. “I was proud to be part of that experience with Team Canada. It was good to come home, relax and have a little down time.”

And now, it’s all about making some happy memories at the Bud.

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Jan 13

Maksimov makes his mark early with IceDogs
Rod Mawhood
St. Catharines Standard

Pre-scouting is huge in hockey. It’s grown so big that even minor hockey teams look to video to learn the tendencies of their opponents.

That’s why it was no surprise that Kirill Maksimov made an immediate impact, and paid immediate dividends, for the Niagara IceDogs Thursday night.

Maksimov, acquired in a trade with Saginaw on Tuesday, sparked a struggling IceDogs powerplay with a goal and an assist as the Dogs downed the Ottawa 67’s 6-3 in front of 4,543 fans at Meridian Centre.

“That’s why we traded for him, 100 per cent,” said Niagara head coach Dave Bell when asked about putting Maksimov on the powerplay.

“Maxi is a pretty heady guy, and a real skilful guy that kind of goes to good areas and that opens up seems.

“We knew in his draft year watching tape on him he’s a skilly, skilly guy — that’s his game, and that’s why we got him.”

Maksimov’s powerplay goal tied the game at one 3:05 into the game. And the IceDogs would never look back.

“It feels good to score in my first game,” said a smiling Maksimov, who played his bantam and midget hockey with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens.

“We have to continue to build on our powerplay every game.”

As for how he sees himself as a hockey player, Maksimov prefers the non-selfish approach.

“I think I’m more of playmaker. I like to score goals, but I like to make good plays and help my (teammates) get better, and score goals.”

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Jan 16

Le plan biennal de Thomas Chabot
Nicolas Landry
RDS.ca

MONTRÉAL – Thomas Chabot est subitement apparu sur le radar de plusieurs amateurs de hockey grâce à ses performances presque surhumaines au plus récent Championnat du monde de hockey junior. Mais son ascension parmi les meilleurs défenseurs d’âge junior au monde ne s’est pas faite du jour au lendemain.

Il y a deux ans, Chabot et l’entraîneur responsable des défenseurs des Sea Dogs de Saint John, Paul Boutilier, ont établi un plan visant spécifiquement à faire graduer le jeune Beauceron au sein d’Équipe Canada junior et d’éventuellement en faire un élément indispensable. Voici comment les deux hommes s’y sont pris pour arriver à leurs fins.

UNE VISION

L’élève et le maître ont commencé à travailler ensemble avant la saison 2014-2015, la première année d’admissibilité de Chabot au repêchage de la LNH. Ce dernier n’aurait probablement pu tomber sur un meilleur mentor. Comme lui, Boutilier avait été un arrière à caractère offensif pendant un peu plus de deux saisons dans la LHJMQ, remportant même le trophée Émile-Bouchard remis en défenseur par excellence du circuit, au début des années 1980. Le Néo-Écossais a participé deux fois au Mondial junior – où il portait le même numéro 5 que son poulain – en plus de participer à une conquête de la coupe Stanley des Islanders de New York.

Pour Chabot, la première année de cette collaboration s’est amorcée par une dure leçon d’humilité. Insatisfait de son éthique de travail, son entraîneur-chef de l’époque l’avait laissé dans les gradins pour le match inaugural de la saison.

« J’avais entendu toutes sortes de choses à son sujet, mais j’essaie toujours de me fier à ce que je vois, et non à ce que j’entends, pour me faire une idée d’un joueur, affirme Boutilier. Je l’avais invité à passer le match avec moi dans une loge ce soir-là. La plupart des gars de son âge aurait probablement préféré faire autre chose, mais il est venu s’asseoir à côté de moi et m’a dit : ‘Boots, mettons-nous au travail’. Tout de suite, j’ai compris que sa mauvaise réputation n’était pas justifiée. »

Chabot a terminé la saison avec 41 points en 66 matchs et en juin, il a été sélectionné en première ronde, au 18e échelon du repêchage, par les Sénateurs d’Ottawa. À son retour à Saint John, il s’est fixé un nouvel objectif : faire sa place au sein d’ÉCJ à l’âge de 18 ans.

« À l’époque, je dirais qu’il était probablement le 12e ou le 14e défenseur sur la liste de Hockey Canada, estime Boutilier. Notre but était de le faire monter jusqu’au septième de façon à lui donner une petite chance de faire l’équipe. Mais l’ouverture était étroite. Quand on part d’aussi loin, c’est possible qu’on réussisse, mais il se pourrait aussi fort bien qu’on n’y arrive pas. »

À la demande de son professeur, Chabot a donc commencé à consacrer plus d’efforts sur les tâches ingrates reliées à sa position, celles qui passent généralement inaperçues jusqu’à ce qu’on y faillisse.

« Au niveau national, le septième défenseur n’a pas de rôle sur les unités spéciales. C’est un bouche-trou, en quelque sorte, qui doit bien faire son boulot quand on fait appel à lui, mais qui doit laisser les autres donner le show, verbalise franchement Boutilier. On s’est donc entraîné en conséquence. Pendant une demi-saison, il a appris à neutraliser l’adversaire, il a solidifié son jeu défensif. Comme il était déjà repêché, il pouvait se consacrer à la tâche sans craindre de voir sa cote diminuer. »

Chabot a gagné son pari. Non seulement a-t-il convaincu l’entraîneur Dave Lowry de l’amener en Finlande avec le reste de la sélection nationale, mais il lui a forcé la main en héritant de responsabilités accrues à mesure que le tournoi progressait.

« Ça a élevé sa confiance à un autre niveau », a remarqué Boutilier.

UNE EMBÛCHE

Dans les mois qui ont suivi, cette confiance a atteint son paroxysme. Chabot a amassé 21 points en 17 matchs de séries éliminatoires au printemps et se sentait indestructible quand il est arrivé au camp de perfectionnement des Sénateurs.

Mais tout ce qui monte doit redescendre et cet été-là, l’espoir ottavien est tombé de son nuage. Dans une décapante sortie publique, le directeur général adjoint des Sénateurs, Randy Lee, a durement critiqué son jeune prospect en clamant qu’il n’avait pas répondu aux attentes parmi les autres « recrues » de l’organisation.

« Une semaine plus tôt, on l’avait louangé dans les journaux. Je me souviens d’avoir lu qu’il était peut-être prêt à jouer dans la LNH, raconte Boutilier. N’importe quel jeune joueur qui tomberait là-dessus se dirait que le gros du travail est déjà fait. Mais les Sénateurs avaient un nouveau DG, un nouvel entraîneur et je crois qu’ils ont voulu passer un message. Thomas était tombé dans un piège et je crois que ça l’a ramené sur terre. »

Les propos de Lee ne sont pas tombés dans l’oreille d’un sourd. Chabot s’est promis que l’on ne l’y reprendrait plus, mais avant, son entourage a décidé qu’il devait regarnir ses réserves d’énergie.

« Avec ses agents, nous avons convenu qu’il lui serait bénéfique de s’éloigner du hockey pour deux ou trois semaines. On oublie souvent à quel point les jeunes de son calibre jouent souvent à cet âge avec toutes les compétitions et les évaluations qui précèdent le repêchage et les obligations ajoutées par les clubs pros auxquels ils s’affilient. L’année dernière, je crois que Thomas a passé 25 jours à la maison. Parfois, trop c’est trop. »

Le congé a eu les effets escomptés. Chabot a si bien fait au camp d’entraînement des Sénateurs en septembre que Guy Boucher l’a gardé avec son groupe pour le début de la saison. Il a disputé son premier match dans la LNH avant d’être renvoyé à son club junior.

Quand Chabot est revenu à Saint John, Boutilier l’a retrouvé dans une forme splendide et l’a aussitôt préparé pour une saison en deux temps. Les Sea Dogs auraient besoin de lui afin d’être de sérieux aspirants à la coupe du Président, mais auparavant, ils voulaient lui donner tous les outils pour qu’il puisse les représenter de nouveau sur la scène internationale, cette fois dans le but avoué d’y dominer.

Progressivement, Boutilier a augmenté la charge de travail de son quart-arrière pour faire en sorte qu’il ne soit pas dépaysé quand le niveau de compétition monterait de quelques crans.

« Peut-être deux ou trois semaines avant le début du camp de sélection d’Équipe Canada, on est parti sur la route, narre l’entraîneur. Un soir, à Shawinigan, je l’ai fait jouer pendant environ 43 minutes. Chaque fois que son partenaire s’en venait au banc, Thomas se retournait pour le suivre et je lui faisais signe de rester. Il changeait une fois sur trois. Je voulais étirer son élastique, juste pour qu’il puisse se faire une idée de l’effort requis pour s’acquitter d’une telle charge de travail et aussi pour lui faire comprendre qu’il était capable de le faire. »

À son arrivée au camp d’ÉCJ, Chabot était le seul vétéran de l’édition précédente et le leader incontesté de la brigade défensive. Jamais son rôle n’a été remis en cause, mais personne n’aurait osé prédire qu’il survolerait ses pairs avec autant d’aisance pendant le tournoi.

« Le plan était de ne pas amorcer la compétition de manière trop agressive, dévoile Boutilier. Je lui avais dit de prendre son temps pour trouver ses repères et son synchronisme, de laisser le tournoi venir à lui. Il l’a fait de façon sensationnelle. »

Chabot avait déjà inscrit un point dans chacun des matchs de la ronde préliminaire quand son équipe est arrivée à Montréal pour la ronde des médailles. Il a disputé un match divin en quarts de finale contre la République tchèque, inscrivant notamment un but de toute beauté pour enflammer le Centre Bell en deuxième période. Il a été tout aussi spectaculaire en demi-finale contre la Suède, contribuant à limiter les dégâts contre le meilleur trio offensif du tournoi. Puis en grande finale, il a dirigé le trafic pendant près de 44 minutes dans une défaite crève-cœur contre les États-Unis.

Il est revenu de son expérience avec la médaille d’argent, la seule que son entraîneur n’avait pas obtenue lors de ses belles années avec Hockey Canada, et le titre de joueur par excellence du tournoi. Son nom était soudainement alors sur toutes les lèvres, mais Paul Boutilier avait vu venir cette spectaculaire éclosion.

« Ça n’est pas arrivé par hasard. Tout le monde a peut-être appris à le connaître sous un jour différent, mais on a travaillé ensemble pendant deux ans pour qu’il puisse savourer ce moment. »

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Jan 17

Former Barrie captain providing offence in Owen Sound’s historic run
bwalker@postmedia.com
Barrie Examiner

Cordell James thought he’d finish his Ontario Hockey League career where he started it four years ago.

But the 20-year-old Hamilton native is a realist and the centre knew that likely wasn’t an option with the way the season was going on Barrie.

And he was bang on with his evaluation as he was traded to the Owen Sound Attack.

“I didn’t ask for (a trade), so it was more of a surprise,” James said prior to scoring twice in Owen Sound’s 7-3 win in Guelph on Friday.

The victory extended the Attack’s franchise-record winning streak to 12 games. The Attack followed up another win on Saturday, a 6-2 decision over the visiting Sarnia Sting in which James scored his 16th goal of the season and also added a pair of helpers, to push the streak to 13 games.

“I knew that as an overage on a young team in Barrie that there was a chance I might get traded at the deadline,” he said. “I was there for three-and-a-half years and spent all that time with the same billets.”

While James is leaving behind teammates, he’s not leaving behind many longtime friends.

“It’s a new change room this year and everybody I basically played with before is gone so it’s nice to get a new start here,” said James, who grew up not far from Attack overager Matt Schmalz.

James also went to the National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars camp with Ethan Szypula this September.

What the Attack provides James in his final OHL season is a chance to extend it.

“The main goal is to win an OHL championship and I’m happy to come here and help these guys do it,” said James, who describes himself as “a two-way centreman.

“I like to take care of my own zone and also chip in offensively as well,” he added.

For the Attack – which traded overager Justin Brack to Niagara to make room for James – the six-foot-two, 221-pound centre gives them more depth.

“He’s a proven leader and he was a top-eight guy on a very good team there last year,” Attack coach Ryan McGill said.

“He was their leading scorer this year,” the bench boss added. “He’s a smart player. He’s a heavy player. He’s going to give us a lot of depth in being able to play four lines.

“He’ll be a real good penalty killer for us and he’s great in the faceoff circle,” McGill said. “Depending on what we do with our power play, he’s probably going to have an impact there, too, because he’s really good in front of the net.”

James also wore the alternate captain’s ‘A’ in Saturday’s game against Sarnia due to an upper-body injury to defenceman Jacob Friend.

The Owen Sound Attack (29-13-1-0) is now off until Saturday when they travel to Barrie to take on the Colts (12-24-4-1).

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Crandall leads Royals over Elmira
Jason Guarente
Reading Eagle

The self-deprecating side of Justin Crandall says it’s because he doesn’t have a hard shot.

The more likely answer is it’s the product of many hours spent on frozen Minnesota ponds with his older brothers.

Crandall loves to pass. He’d much rather assist a goal than score one.

The second-year pro provided both and helped the Reading Royals defeat Elmira 6-2 at Santander Arena Monday afternoon.

In his final showing before representing the Royals in Wednesday’s ECHL All-Star Game in Glens Falls, N.Y., Crandall had two goals and an assist.

Crandall reached the break with 13 goals and 20 assists in 30 games. This was his sixth multi-point game in the last nine. During that stretch he has a hat trick and a four-assist performance.

What never goes away is his pass-first mentality.

“It’s probably one of the hardest things to teach: hockey sense and the ability to visualize things,” Royals coach Larry Courville said. “He has a knack for it. That’s what makes him a quality player. He makes players better when he’s on the ice.”

Crandall’s ability to see plays unfold in ways others can’t becomes increasingly apparent the more one watches him.

There are many sequences when he holds the puck for an extended time while waiting for something to break open. A scoring chance is often the result.

“The biggest strength of my game, ever since I was a little guy I’ve been told, is my hockey sense,” Crandall said. “I like to set guys up, find guys in different lanes.”

Crandall was on the receiving end twice Monday. He redirected a shot in the first period for a goal and took a great pass from Robbie Czarnik to finish in the third.

The Royals again overmatched their last-place division rivals. They’re 5-1-0 against Elmira this season with four of those wins coming by four goals or more.

Czarnik, Matt Willows and Ryan Penny scored for the Royals. Muhlenberg grad Steven Swavely had an empty-netter in the final minute.

Defenseman Jesper Pettersson had two assists and stepped into a more offensive role after Michael Boivin left the team for Austria. Boivin was the Royals’ top scoring defenseman

“I want to get as much ice time as I can,” Pettersson said. “It’s always fun to get that opportunity on the power play. Today it paid off. We had good movement and got some shots to the net.”

The Royals bounced back from a frustrating loss to Elmira Saturday night to claim two points they needed to have in the rugged North Division.

Reading (21-13-2) moved into a tie with Brampton for second place. First-place Manchester, Adirondack and Wheeling are all competing for the division’s four playoff spots.

After a slow start because of a broken thumb suffered in the final practice before the opener, Crandall has been the Royals’ points leader.

The All-Star spotlight awaits him.

“It’s a great time to show yourself off,” Crandall said. “There will be guys watching. It’s going to be on NHL Network. I’d like to showcase what I can do, for sure. Hopefully get that call to the next level.”

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Jan 18

Tyler Seguin out to raise average with Stars
Dan Rosen
NHL.com

NEW YORK — Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin will play in the NHL All-Star Game for the third straight season and fourth time in seven NHL seasons. Based on that alone it would seem natural for Seguin to think he’s having a good season at the very least.

“Average,” Seguin said when asked how he thinks his season has gone so far.

We all get the humble nature of hockey players, but Seguin has 44 points in 46 games, good enough to be seventh in the League, and he’s tied for eighth in assists (28). Those aren’t average numbers. That’s not an average season.

So why is it average in Seguin’s mind?

“When you’re having this kind of season, personally you’re almost a point a game, but the team isn’t having success, it doesn’t put a good feeling on your year and you personally,” said Seguin, who will be the Stars’ lone representative at 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles from Jan. 27-29. “When I talk about my year I would never want to say this year has been great. The team is .500 right now. It definitely makes you put a lot of pressure on yourself. You want to find ways how to help the team get out of it. That’s what the mindset is.”

And that brings us to the bigger point here for Seguin and his season. The Stars are 19-19-8, two points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. They have vastly underachieved based on their preseason expectations. If the Stars have underachieved, Seguin believes he has too.

Dallas finished first in the Western Conference last season and Seguin had 33 goals and 73 points in 72 games. The Stars advanced to the Western Conference Second Round without Seguin, who was sidelined because of an Achilles injury he still is getting over. More on that later.

This season the Stars are 27th in the League in goals-against per game (3.13), 29th on the penalty kill (74.0 percent) and 7-12-4 on the road.

It’s hard to pin those defensive numbers, especially the penalty kill, on Seguin, who has played 58 seconds shorthanded all season. But looking at the numbers and Dallas’ overall erratic play, it’s easy to see why average was the first word he said.

“I’d definitely take 10 more wins if I had 20 less points,” Seguin said. “In the end, points are points. They reflect certain things. But there’s a lot of things that I could have done differently so far.

“I’m still trying to find ways personally and as a part of the team to get better and make us take that next step forward.”

Seguin also still is trying to get his entire game back after a difficult bout with injuries, all to parts of his left leg or foot.

He sustained a partially torn left Achilles tendon on March 17, 2016. He was supposed to miss 3-4 weeks and be back for the playoffs. Seguin returned for Game 2 of the first round against the Minnesota Wild, but a left calf strain prevented him from playing again in the postseason.

Doctors also told Seguin it would be a full year before his Achilles was fully healed.

Seguin changed his training regimen to compensate for his Achilles. He altered his eating habits by hiring a personal chef and discovering kale. He went to training camp with Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey 2016, but against Team USA in his first pretournament game, he fractured his left heel. He missed the tournament and Stars training camp.

“You can talk about the actual stuff, but a lot of it was mental,” Seguin said. “Missing the playoffs was mentally tough. I’ve never been through that before. I had to change my summer routine and that was still a little mental in getting ready that way. To have the setback I did, the first exhibition game against the U.S., that was another mental bridge that I had to get past. Then it was missing camp and preseason and trying to step in right away. It’s been mental. It’s been a process. Now it’s about getting past that mental stuff. Now it’s about building up that muscle and getting back to 100 percent.”

Seguin doesn’t think he’s quite there yet, especially his speed. Stars coach Lindy Ruff agrees.

“There’s another gear to separate from guys and to create those extra chances; he hasn’t quite got that gear,” Ruff said. “He’s still shooting the puck really well. He’s making the most of his chances. I’d just like to see him create those extra one or two chances 5-on-5 just using his legs. I don’t think he’s quite there. I think he thinks that too. There’s been some plays he’s left out there.”

Which brings us back to the word average, a word rarely associated with an All-Star who is a near point-per-game player. The fact is Seguin is being hard on himself because his team has been average. But if he weren’t it would be hard to believe him when he says he can help make the Stars better.

“I think the best is yet to come,” Seguin said. “It’s not a hope. I also know it’s not just a flip of a switch. It’s something I’ve been gearing up to. I want to be better than I have been.”

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Un bond impressionnant pour Koltygin
Jonathan Habashi
L’Express

HOCKEY. Pavel Koltygin ne cesse de progresser depuis son arrivée en Amérique du Nord. L’attaquant des Voltigeurs de Drummondville a fait un bond impressionnant sur la liste de mi-saison de la centrale de recrutement de la Ligue nationale de hockey (LNH) publiée mercredi.

Parmi les 217 patineurs nord-américains répertoriés, Koltygin est classé en 44e position, ce qui fait de lui un espoir de deuxième ronde. En début de campagne, les recruteurs de la LNH l’avaient classé dans les rondes 4 à 6.

Âgé de 17 ans, Koltygin occupe également le quatrième rang parmi les 25 patineurs de la Ligue de hockey junior majeur du Québec (LHJMQ) répertoriés sur cette liste.

Devenu le premier joueur de centre des Voltigeurs depuis la fin de la période des transactions, Koltygin se démarque par son style de jeu polyvalent. Talentueux, physique, travaillant et responsable, il a récolté 33 points (18-15) en 42 parties cette saison, ce qui le place au 8e rang parmi les recrues du circuit Courteau. Le Russe de 6 pieds et 192 livres affiche également une efficacité de 52,7 % au cercle des mises en jeu.

Réclamé au 9e rang au total lors du dernier repêchage européen, Koltygin a notamment été comparé à Timo Meier et Valentin Zykov, deux joueurs qui évoluent chez les professionnels après un passage remarqué dans la LHJMQ.

Un second joueur des Voltigeurs, le défenseur Marc-Olivier Duquette, a également percé la liste de mi-saison. L’athlète de 18 ans occupe le 204e rang parmi les patineurs nord-américains.

Acquis dans une transaction avec les Olympiques de Gatineau durant le dernier camp d’entraînement, Duquette se démarque par son jeu physique et fiable en défensive. L’arrière de 6 pieds, 4 pouces et 192 livres a obtenu 14 points (2-12) en 42 parties cette saison. Il vient d’hériter des fonctions d’assistant-capitaine.

Le prochain repêchage de la LNH se déroulera à Chicago, les 24 et 25 juin 2017.

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Red Wings’ Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen impress Blashill, teammates
Helene St. James
Detroit Free Press

As they take aim at securing a playoff spot, the Red Wings appear to have a good thing going in their young defense pair.

Xavier Ouellet and Nick Jensen have looked at home at the NHL level, even as Jensen, especially, still is feeling his way after making his debut last month. He was looking at his 12th career game Wednesday night as the Wings were scheduled to play the Boston Bruins at Joe Louis Arena. Ouellet has been partnered with Jensen since last week.

“We are trying to talk, communicate a lot, help each other on the bench,” Ouellet said Wednesday morning. “It’s been pretty easy playing with him — he’s a really good skater, he gets good position, and I think we have done a good job together.”

Jensen, 26, has jumped Ryan Sproul on the depth chart on the strength of being a strong skater, among other assets. Ouellet, 23, has established himself as a regular partly by making good decisions with the puck.

The Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen battles for the puck
The Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen battles for the puck with Red Wings defenseman Nick Jensen on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017 at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)
“When Jensen is playing his best, he is a great skater, he breaks the puck out great, he defends great with his feet, and he’s ultracompetitive,” coach Jeff Blashill said. When X is playing his best, he breaks the puck out great with good poise, he doesn’t try to do more — takes what is given, and he is a big-time competitor.

“I think they have stalled the play in our end, meaning they’ve created stall opportunities in the D-zone so that we can be fast in the D-zone and get the puck out. They’ve done a good job of it.”

Their growing experience at this level is being noticed by veterans.

“I think they are just gaining confidence each game that they play,” Justin Abdelkader said. “X has been up here for a while and is getting an opportunity to play now. I feel like he has grown a lot this season. I think Jensen has really come on lately and played well. Hopefully we can expect that on a nightly basis from those guys.”

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Ouellet goal vs Bruins

Jan 19

Spotlight: Di Perna leaving a lasting legacy in Kitchener
Alyscia Warner
Kitchener Rangers

There are a lot of things you probably don’t know about Dylan Di Perna.

One is that the guy enjoys to cook, and he’s pretty good at it, too. His favourite meal to make? Ham and cheese omelets.

The one thing many fans do know is that he’s generally a pretty quiet, laid-back guy, hence the fact that fans just don’t know that much about him. Emotions, reactions, opinions; he keeps those things pretty tight to the vest.

Another thing you may not know about him is that he is an exceptional speaker. When his strong-but-silent demeanor gives way to a genuine conversation about anything, he delivers his message very poignantly, yet purposefully. When he does speak, you listen.

But the Rangers coaching staff and his teammates all know this about him. And that’s what makes Dylan Di Perna one of the pivotal leaders on this Kitchener Rangers hockey club.

“It definitely means a lot to me,” said the veteran Di Perna on being asked what it means to him knowing he’s looked up to as a 20-year-old on the team. “When I was a young player I looked up to a lot of teammates for guidance and to show me the ropes of how to be successful in this league. Now I’m one of the older guys and have younger players looking up to me. That’s something I take a lot of pride in.

“I appreciate that guys feel they can come up to me and ask me questions and learn from me. I can share advice or experiences I’ve learned and gone through as a player, and just try to help them out with the process of adjusting to the game as much as possible.”

Now in his overage year, Di Perna has a wealth of experience to lean on, skating in what is his fifth and final Ontario Hockey League season. Those experiences include parts of four seasons in Kitchener, and prior to that, getting his feet wet in the league after being drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs in the second round of the 2012 OHL Priority Selection.

He’s skated with plenty of teammates over the years, and tried to learn something from them all. When asked what might be the most important thing he’s learned, he answers without hesitation.

“The biggest thing for me was learning not to waste a day,” he says with conviction. “Not to waste a practice. To take advantage of every moment and all the resources we’re given. This league is meant to help you succeed and achieve your goals, but if you’re not doing your part you’re selling yourself short.

“Especially being here in Kitchener, and it being the great organization that it is. I’ve been able to play for the many different coaches and different captains, and I’ve been able to learn from their personalities. I try to take a little bit from each of them.”

It’s one thing to hear a player talk the way he does, but Di Perna follows his words up with actions. It’s commonplace to see him be the first one on the ice at practice and the last one off, treating every drill with the utmost importance knowing it could make all the difference during a pivotal moment in a game.

He aims to put himself in the best position to achieve what his sights are set on, although he’s not necessarily a goal-driven person in respect to points on a score sheet.

“I think goals are more factual things,” he says. “Certain stats, certain number of goals, number of points; to me that’s a goal. I think expectation is more so what I hold myself accountable for everyday.

“When I come to the rink, I expect myself to be 15 minutes early. I expect myself to do the little things right. I expect myself to eat right. Those are expectations I have of myself every day, and if I can achieve that every day and keep those good habits the same and whole, I should translate that into on-ice success and achieve what I’ve set out to do in my mind.”

As his junior career winds down, he’d love nothing more than to cap it off with a championship for his teammates, coaches and the fans. Regardless of how this season ends though, he hopes the fans remember him as the type of player he feels he is.

“I never want to be classified as one particular type of player,” says Di Perna. “To be labeled as just an ‘offensive defenceman’, or a ‘defensive defenceman’. I want people to remember me as a guy that would do whatever was asked of me. Whether it’s throw a hit, shut down the opposing team’s top line, skate with the puck, score a goal here or there, whatever it may be.

“I hope that’s the impression I leave behind when my time here comes to an end.”

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Jan 21

Clendening Finding Rhythm With Rangers
Matt Calamia
NHL.com

Rangers defenseman Adam Clendening is expected to play his seventh consecutive game Sunday afternoon against the Red Wings in Detroit, marking the first time this season he’s played in that many games in a row during his first season on Broadway.

“It’s definitely nice to know in the back of your head that you’ve got another game if you make a mistake or something like that play in Toronto … I know I have a practice today to work and get another chance tomorrow afternoon,” Clendening told NYRangers.com Saturday.

“I think knowing the confidence of going back in and having the same reps and not having to kind of … play a perfect game definitely lets you play more into your rhythm,” Clendening added.

The proof is in the pudding for Clendening. He has assists in back-to-back games and five points since returning to the lineup Jan. 4 in Philadelphia and is averaging 16:01 of ice time, including 19:19 in Montreal last Saturday.

Clendening knows part of his job is to provide offense from the blueline, but also understands his role to provide solid play in his own zone as well.

“Scoring – it’s not all about this for me – and creating some offense and getting on the scoresheet is nice to see, especially when you kind of have that offensive side to your game,” Clendening said. “I think defensively it’s gone pretty well. I’m a young guy. I’m going to have my lapses every now and then. If I can limit that to less than one a game or one every couple of games, that would be nice.

“I think that comes with playing more and more and more and not having breaks in between games,” Clendening added. “I thought as I’ve played more in a row, the defensive side of the puck and my play away from the puck has gotten much better.”

Thursday’s performance in Toronto was a positive one for not only Clendening, but his partner Brady Skjei, who had a goal and an assist in the 5-2 victory.

Clendening said the two compliment each other well.

“I think we both like to skate, we both like to have the puck,” Clendening said. “We like to make plays. I think that helps both of us. We kind of know that we have to give each other an option and if you do, you’re probably going to get the puck. He’s a great skater, he’s probably one of the best on the team. For me it’s nice to know that in the back of my head if we get in trouble, we’ve got Brady to skate us out of trouble. I think that helps.”

Skjei praised Clendening’s skill, as well as the way he sees the game, which allows the duo to contribute in the offensive zone.

“He’s a very smart player and he’s got a lot of skill,” Skjei said. “I think we can both jump in the offense and kind of read off each other. He can skate too. If I get a chance that I can go up in the play, he can cover for me too.”

Despite being two young players – Clendening is 24, Skjei 22 – Clendening said there’s trust between them and that breeds confidence.

“I think we both trust each other as well,” Clendening said. “That’s a big thing. We’re both young and relatively still new to the League. I think we have trust in ourselves and trust in each other that we can play against any line that we’re up there against.”

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Jan 25

Xavier Ouellet cements spot on Red Wings’ blue line
Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Since defenseman Xavier Ouellet re-entered the lineup a second time in November, it’s been awfully difficult to get him out.

And when Ouellet plays the way he has, it’s no wonder.

Ouellet has arguably been one of the team’s best overall defensemen over that span, living up to the scouting reports that labeled him as a sound, two-way defenseman, efficient at both ends of the ice — may not be a star over his career, but could certainly play 10 years and have a long, successful career.

Judging from his first extended work in the NHL, Ouellet looks like he may prove the scouts wrong.

“What X has done for me is he’s gone in and he’s executed at a pretty high level,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “For the most part, he’s had very few nights when he was off and he’s had a lot of nights when he’s been on.

“He’s not played slow, he’s played fast, and that’s something we’ve done a much better job of as we’ve gone through the season.

“When he’s playing at his best, he’s smart and he makes real good decisions with the puck. He brings the puck out and he’s strong as well. Those are things that have helped us. He’s been a real good player for us.”

Ouellet saw regular duty in the lineup to begin the season, but lost his job to Ryan Sproul. He’s played with confidence and passion since regaining the spot against Montreal Nov. 26.

“It was kind of hard to be out of the lineup, frustrating,” Ouellet said. “When I came in, I was really excited about the opportunity and I just wanted to make sure that I would give everything I had every night and that’s what I’ve been doing.

“I’m taking every game like it’s my last one and I do everything I can to win that (particular) game. In doing so, it allowed me to play consistently good.”

Ouellett never felt confidence was an issue earlier in the season, and if anything, it’s been limiting mistakes and making good decisions that’s been a key difference for him the second time around.

“I feel confident. I’ve always been a pretty confident player,” Ouellet said. “When you come in, you want to get a spot (in the lineup) and you want to limit mistakes, the risks.

“I just try to look for the opportunity and jump in (to the offense) and judge whether there’s risk or not. If there’s no risk, I’m going to go and support the offense.”

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Jan 31

VERHAEGHE NAMED SHER-WOOD HOCKEY/ECHL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
ECHL.com

Carter Verhaeghe of the Missouri Mavericks is the Sher-Wood Hockey ECHL Player of the Week for Jan. 23-29.

Verhaeghe scored three goals, added five assists and was a +5 last week as Missouri swept a three-game series against Cincinnati.

The 21-year-old had four points (1g-3a) in a 5-4 win on Wednesday, tallied a pair of assists in a 4-2 victory on Friday and scored two goals, including the game-winner, in a 5-2 win on Saturday.

A native of Waterdown, Ontario, Verhaeghe has 24 points (9g-15a) in 12 games with the Mavericks this season and enters tonight’s game against Quad City on an 11-game point streak. He has added eight points (4g-4a) in 19 games with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League this season.

Under an NHL contract with the New York Islanders, Verhaeghe has tallied 49 points (17g-32a) in 32 career ECHL games with Missouri while posting 23 points (10g-13a) in 49 career games with Bridgeport.

Prior to turning pro, Verhaeghe recorded 224 points (83g-141a) in 262 career games with Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League.

On behalf of Carter Verhaeghe, a case of pucks will be donated to a Missouri youth hockey organization by Sher-Wood Hockey, the exclusive puck supplier of the ECHL. Since beginning its sponsorship of the award in 2000-01, Sher-Wood Hockey has donated more than 35,000 pucks to youth hockey organizations in ECHL cities.

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