The Will Sports Group

The RIG 28 for April

Apr 2

Ho-Sang goal vs Sabres

Savard’s heads-up defensive play

Apr 5

William Pelletier Lands on Skates with IceHogs
Dan Cohen

ROCKFORD (WREX) – William Pelletier’s rise to professional hockey is not your typical journey, but as the 13 Sports Authoirty learned, the newest Rockford IceHog has made a smooth transition.

“I had to work a lot harder than some guys that have been drafted.”

And it’s paying off for William Pelletier, whose road to Rockford was a whirlwind.

“We just won the national championship with Norwich,” Pelletier said. “A week later I’m here with Rockford. It’s amazing.”

“It’s a great story,” says Rockford head coach Ted Dent. “He’s a 24-year old Division III hockey player, undrafted, that came here under the assumption he’d practice. We didn’t guarantee he’d play in a game, but after I saw him in the first practice, he’s good to go, he can play.”

“I can contribute to the team’s success, it’s an amazing feeling.”

It’s been an instant impact – in his second professional game, Pelletier piled up four points against Grand Rapids to start the month of April. The diminutive speed demon credits his game to a Stanley Cup champion.

“Back in the day, I think one of my favorite players was Martin St. Louis,” said Pelletier. “Like me, he’s not a big guy and he can skate. I used to look at him as a role model.”

William Pelletier’s first taste of pro hockey has been a success, with six more games in Rockford’s regular season to cement a strong first impression.


Apr 6

Goldobin goal vs Coyotes

Apr 8

Seguin goal vs Avalanche & Shootout Winner

Sharks Recall Goodrow from Barracuda
San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE – San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has recalled forward Barclay Goodrow (@bgoodrow23) from the San Jose Barracuda (@sjbarracuda), the team’s top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.


Apr 9

Goldobin goal vs Oilers

Andrew Campbell Postgame

Apr 10

Isles Clean Out Day: Ho-Sang

Apr 13

Nick Nollenberger

Barclay Goodrow played in 60 NHL games for the San Jose Sharks in his rookie season, but over the last two years, he’s appeared in a combined 17.

Goodrow’s not the same player he was a wide-eyed rookie during the 2014-15 campaign, then just 21-years old. He’s better, and he’s become one of the AHL’s best players.

“He’s matured into a man, he plays a man’s game,” said Barracuda development coach Mike Ricci. “The game has changed but not that much. Goals are scored from the areas in front of the net and winning battles on the boards, and he’s learned to do that.”

With a logjam of talent in the NHL with the Sharks, Goodrow has been stuck in the American Hockey League for the majority of the last two seasons, not wallowing in self-pity or doubt, Goodrow has developed the crucial areas of his game to become a full-time NHLer one day.

Undrafted, Goodrow signed a three-year standard entry-level deal with San Jose as a free agent in 2014.

Now in his third season as a pro, Goodrow has been a vital component to arguably the AHL’s best team. The native of Toronto, Ontario, leads the Barracuda in goals (25), fourth in points (44), first in shorthanded goals (4), T-third in power play goals (6), and has the teams only two hat tricks (2).

At 24-years-old, Goodrow is an elder statesman in one of the AHL’s youngest locker rooms. Now a “grizzled vet”, Barclay has been able to develop into one of San Jose’s biggest leaders along with putting up points in almost every game.

“I’ve tried to provide some wisdom, being a third-year guy. If guys have questions they know they can come to me, but I’m also trying to lead by example too,” said Goodrow. “I try to show that if you play the game the right way and sacrifice you will be rewarded.”

His effort both on and off the ice and his workman like approach to the game hasn’t gone unnoticed by the organization.

“He’s a difference maker every time he’s on the ice,” said Barracuda general manager Joe Will. “He’s never once complained about his role. Everyone in the organization from the coaches to management and the scouts are so proud of the way he approaches the game and has provided leadership.”

Aside from increasing his goal total from a season ago, Goodrow’s versatility has become his greatest strength. Head coach Roy Sommer has utilized his power forward in every situation this season, and he has excelled in in all of them.

“Barclay’s turned into an all-around player for us. He kills penalties, he’s on the power play, he’s on our top line, he’s played both wings and even taken draws on his strong side,” said Sommer. “He’s just turned into a great pro.”

At 6-foot-2, 216-pounds, the former OHLer has added quickness to his game not seen before this year, and that second gear has allowed for Goodrow to elevate his game to the next level.

“What stands out the most is that he’s improved his skating tremendously and it has helped create a lot,” said Barracuda assistant coach Ryan Mougenel. “He’s got skill and grit, and great hockey smarts, but this season he’s been able to put them all together on a consistent basis.”

“Development is a year to year thing, and if you’re not getting better you’re getting worse, and Barclay’s continued to improve his game every year,” said Ricci.

San Jose has already punched a post-season birth and clinched both the Pacific Division and Western Conference regular-season title in the AHL. Next week, Calder Cup playoffs begin, and the Barracuda will rely heavily on their leading goal scorer to take them where they hope to go.


Kurashev one to watch
Ryan O’Leary

It was a full, first year for Philipp Kurashev in Quebec, a product of Swiss hockey and Russian genes. And it was a great year.

There was the monstrous 57-point performance, a last-second cut from the World Junior Championship, a scary knee incident, a 98-mph slapshot at a skills competition, and yes of course, a lot of attention on the 2018 draft-eligible forward from Switzerland of Russian origin.

Yes, it was an eye-opening experience for Kurashev, whose Swiss team is preparing for Group A foe Latvia on the eve of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Slovakia.

The Quebec Remparts must have a little luck when it comes to drafting hockey talent with Russian names. For the past 12 years, the Remparts have drafted and developed some pretty high-profile names.

Alexander Radulov’s number is retired and hanging from the rafters at the Centre Videotron. Nikita Kucherov was discovered by the Remparts and imported to North America in 2012.

But this year, it was all about Philipp Kurashev on the north side of the St. Lawrence River. Yet, Kurashev might not even be in Quebec without a chance encounter.

Quebec Remparts head coach Philippe Boucher was on a flight to the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in North Dakota when he heard Russian being spoken. After hearing a few minutes of the dialogue, he decided to take action.

“How many people are speaking Russian and flying to Grand Forks?” Boucher joked. “I knew they were heading to the tournament, so I introduced myself.”

The people Boucher are referring to were Kurashev’s mother Elena and Igor Larionov, the NHL Hall of Famer who is now his agent.

“They told me all about Philipp and that he was competing for Switzerland at the tournament,” said Boucher.
“They told me how talented he was so I knew I had to keep my eye on him at that tournament,” Boucher added.

Philipp, already in Grand Forks preparing for the tournament, learned of this discussion 36,000 feet above the ground and met the news with enthusiasm. After all, playing in North America was Kurashev’s childhood dream and now another brick in the foundation was laid.

“It’s hard to explain in English how excited my mom and I were,” Kurashev said through his thick Russian accent. “Just a great feeling to know that a team was interested.”

Once in Grand Forks, Boucher saw Kurashev’s speed, shot and most importantly, passion for the game up-close and in person. As a young 16 year-old he only notched two points, but the promise of his skill was not to be questioned.

“I coach junior hockey because I’m passionate about hockey,” added Boucher. “We want players here who are passionate as well and Philipp really loves the game.”

Impressed, Boucher sent a note to his assistant general manager that Kurashev should be on their draft board for the CHL Import Draft.

On the other end, Kurashev made up his mind that he’d play the 2016/2017 season in North America despite being drafted by KHL side SKA St. Petersburg the same year.

The necessary interviews and scouting were executed and as chance would have it, Kurashev was still available when the Remparts’ 21st pick came in the 2016 CHL import draft.

Professional hockey is not unfamiliar to Kurashev who comes from good stock.

Kurashev’s father, Konstantin, played for Dynamo Moscow in the Soviet Union before leaving his homeland in 1992 to finish his hockey playing days in Austria.

For the past 18 years he’s served in various coaching roles throughout Switzerland from junior hockey to the top senior league. Kurashev was born in 1999 in Switzerland during that time and spent most of his junior career with the SC Bern organization before moving to Zurich for his last season in Switzerland.

The younger Kursashev says everything about hockey rubbed off from his father – from bringing him to practice every day to teaching him the fundamentals of his explosive shot and explaining the finer points of the game – it all grew his love of the game.

The Swiss product with a Russian name holds passports from both countries, but says it was an easy decision to play his international hockey under the white cross.

“Russia and Switzerland are both home,” Kurashev began. “But, I’ve always played for Switzerland and I’ll stick with them.”

Kurashev fell in love with hockey early on and developed through the Swiss ranks quite quickly.

“Swiss hockey is getting better and better,” said Kurashev. “We look at Kevin Fiala, Roman Josi and say we want to have the same success.”

Back in Quebec, Kurashev’s transition to live in the QMJHL was made easy this year by Coach Boucher and two Russian Players – Igor Larionov Jr., the son of Philipp’s agent, and goaltender Yevgeni Kiselyov.

“It was nice having two Russian players help me get used to the team, the league and life in Quebec,” says Kurashev. “They made me feel comfortable early on.”

Boucher sensed that comfort and gave Kurashev a long leash – playing him in all situations despite his lack of experience in North American hockey.

“Even though he just turned 17, I gave him first line duties right away,” says Boucher. “I also put him on the power-play and gave him a ton of responsibility early on.”

Kurashev responded by finishing fifth amongst rookies in scoring – delivering a team-high 54 points in 65 regular season games. He would add another three points in four playoff games as Quebec was swept in the opening round by Gatineau.

That total also made him the highest scorer amongst 2018 draft eligible players.

What’s more than the points and accolades is what Kurashev proved to himself and the hockey world throughout this past season.

“What I learned this year is that I can play at a very high level and I can help my team win,” said Kurashev.
Next season is primed to be huge for Kurashev on many levels. First of all, he’s already established that he’ll return for second year with the Remparts – a move that will hopefully bolster his already high draft stock.

“I have learned a lot – it was difficult to play that many games but I got used to it,” says Kurashev who admitted to fatigue late in the season.

“Next season will be even better.”

The 2017/18 campaign will also give Kurashev a chance to make the World Junior Championship team for Switzerland next winter. Last season he was the last one cut prior to the tournament, something that has motivated Kurashev.

“I want to prove that I’m one of the best in my age group in the whole world,” says Kurashev.

No matter what next year brings, Boucher knows that Kurashev is primed for greatness.

“All the scouts came to watch the 17 and 18-year-olds, but they all make comments about Philipp, they all ask about him,” Boucher bragged.

“They say he’s going to be a franchise player – they say you got a good one.”


Apr 20

Red Wings’ Xavier Ouellet aims to be hard to play against
Ansar Khan

DETROIT – One of several knocks against the Detroit Red Wings defense is its lack of abrasiveness, that it’s too soft.

Niklas Kronwall isn’t the big hitter he was in the past due to age and injuries. Big Jonathan Ericsson is not physical. Brendan Smith was traded at the deadline.

Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green and Nick Jensen are good skaters but don’t hit.

Xavier Ouellet might be the only one of the group who can provide a sandpaper-like presence.

“I like the intensity, the emotion in the game,” Ouellet said. “I like to play physical to a certain point, play solid. I want to be hard to play against, that’s something I want to bring to my game a little more, too. I want teams to not like playing against me. I’ll keep working on this, too.”

Ouellet, 23, had a shaky start in his first full NHL season, getting scratched in 15 out of 17 games from Oct. 21-Nov. 25. But an injury to Alexey Marchenko provided opportunity and Ouellet capitalized. He played all but one game the rest of the way and Marchenko was waived and claimed by Toronto.

Ouellet appeared in 66 games, picking up three goals and nine assists. At plus-2, he and Robbie Russo (19 games) were the only defensemen who didn’t post a negative plus-minus rating.

“I think it was a good year for me,” Ouellet said. “It was challenging, but it was fun. I think it taught me a lot about what it takes to be a regular and play every night. I obviously got a lot of work to do and I’m going to keep doing it.”

The Red Wings were high on Ouellet, a second-round pick in 2011 (48th overall), since 2013-14, when he appeared in four regular season games and former coach Mike Babcock trusted him enough to insert him into the lineup in the decisive Game 5 against Boston in the first round of the playoffs.

But his waiver-exemption status worked against him until this season, when he finally landed a regular spot on the roster.

“Part of guys’ growth is opportunity and he had lots of opportunity down the stretch to prove he can help us win and not just a guy who’s able to play,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “When he’s playing his best, he’s managing his game real well, he’s moving the puck. When he gets opportunities to move it, he’s skating. When he gets opportunities to skate he’s defending hard. I think it’s been a good year for him.”

Ouellet’s not a fighter but he had three fighting majors and showed a willingness to stick up for teammates.

“I think my hockey sense and my compete level allowed me to play all these games this year,” Ouellet said. “I obviously got to keep working on a lot of things on the ice but one thing I’m going to do for sure is complete every night.”


Apr 28

Brentwood Bay’s Irwin right at home on Predators’ blue line
Cleve Dheensaw
Times Colonist

Willie Mitchell brought the Stanley Cup to Port McNeill and Rod Brind’Amour to Campbell River. Will its next Island destination be the Saanich Peninsula?

And no, not to the Central Saanich household of the Benn brothers, who are now both out of the 2017 Stanley Cup race.

Not to jinx it, but Matt Irwin and the Nashville Predators are undefeated in the Stanley Cup playoffs heading into tonight’s Game 2 in St. Louis of the second-round series against the Blues.

“This is unbelievable,” said the Predators defenceman Irwin, the Peninsula Minor Hockey product who hails from Brentwood Bay, and now plays in the unlikely setting of the country music capital of the world.

“I have never heard a building as loud as ours was in the first round against Chicago. The support in Nashville is incredible. It has grown over the years and the fans have become very knowledgeable about hockey,” added Irwin, the former Saanich Braves Junior B player, whose No. 44 jersey is retired and hanging from the rafters of Pearkes Arena.

Within the larger Preds story, Irwin has fashioned his own personal tale of redemption in Music City USA after being bought out from his Boston Bruins contract. His NHL career seemingly at a standstill last season, the Islander has carved his own niche this season by providing solid depth minutes on a potent Nashville blue line that includes P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Roman Josi.

“Last year was a disappointment, to say the least,” said Irwin, about the 2015-16 season spent in the American Hockey League.

The AHL is where the Predators also started Irwin this season after acquiring him. But that lasted only four games before the call-up came and he hasn’t looked back in logging 74 regular-season games and now all five playoff games in Nashville.

“With an early injury [on the Preds] blue line came my opportunity. I had been in the NHL before [three seasons with the San Jose Sharks] so I wasn’t nervous like a younger player because I know how to play at this level,” said the 29-year-old former BCHL Nanaimo Clippers junior standout.

“You have to believe in yourself. I took my chance in stride and pushed forward.”

And found his place.

“Our top four defencemen are so creative offensively and solid defensively. For me, it’s about giving consistent minutes on the third pairing,” said Irwin.

That he has been doing and is now getting some notice in the media for his understated, yet valuable in its own way, role with the Predators.

“I am keeping my game simple, but if I see a chance, I will jump up in the rush,” said Irwin.

While also jumping up hopes among Brentwood Bay locals of seeing the Stanley Cup in the neighbourhood this summer.


Peterborough native Quinn Hanna named OHL’s top academic high school student
Examiner Staff
Peterborough Examiner

Peterborough native and Guelph Storm rookie Quinn Hanna is the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award winner as the OHL’s top academic high school student for 2016-17.

Hanna achieved a 96 per cent average with a full six-course Grade 12 workload at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School where he studied University English, University Physics, University Biology, Religious Education, University Calculus and Vectors, and University Chemistry.

“It’s a huge honour to win this year’s Ivan Tennant Academic Award,” said Hanna, in an OHL press release. “I was very fortunate to have such a supportive group of people surrounding me this year with the Guelph Storm including Mike Kelly and academic advisor Coleen Driscoll. The list goes on and includes my teammates, coaches, billets and teachers. I can’t thank them enough for the time and energy they put into helping me pursue my academic goals this year.”

The 18-year-old, the son of teachers David and Tracey Hanna, was chosen by the Storm in the fifth round of the 2015 OHL Priority Selection. The defenceman played in 37 games this season with four points including his first career goal scored on Feb. 10 against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

“Quinn is simply an exceptional student athlete,” said Storm Academic Advisor Coleen Driscoll. “He is conscientious, dedicated and a very bright young man. This commitment to his academics has enabled him to continue to achieve incredible success in the classroom carrying one of the most demanding course loads for any high school student. Quinn has dedicated himself to his studies, holding himself to an extremely high standard, while effectively balancing his hockey commitments. He is currently considering post-secondary studies in Biomedical Engineering but is also entertaining studies in Astrophysics in the future. Regardless of his program of study, I have no doubt his level of excellence will be maintained.”

The Ivan Tennant Memorial Award is given to the Top Academic High School Player and is named in honour of Ivan Tennant, who spent a lifetime combining hockey and education. He was the Kitchener Rangers’ Education Consultant for 20 years and a key figure on the OHL’s Education Consultant’s Committee. First presented in 2005, Hanna is the second member of the Storm to receive the award following Adam Craievich in 2014. Past recipients also include brothers Matt and Adam Pelech (Sarnia 2005 and Erie 2012), Freddie and Dougie Hamilton (Niagara 2009 and 2010), and recent winners Stephen Dhillon (Niagara 2015) and Kyle Keyser (Flint 2016).