The Will Sports Group

The RIG 28 for September

Sep 1

Sep 3

Sep 4

Sep 8

Thomas Chabot’s shot at staying a Senator up with Erik Karlsson still out
Don Brennan
Ottawa Citizen

If ever there was doubt, it’s surely gone now.

With Erik Karlsson expected to miss the start of the National Hockey League season because of his recovery from ankle surgery, Thomas Chabot is all but locked into a spot on the opening night roster.

The 20-year old rookie could, in fact, have an even greater role on the Senators’ blue-line when they line up for the Oct. 5 lid-lifter against the Washington Capitals.

If Chabot has considered the opportunities, though, he’s not letting on. After the first day of Senators rookie camp at Bell Sensplex, he maintained his personal game plan had not changed.

“I hope for the best of the team, (that) he’ll be ready for the start,” Chabot said of Karlsson. “Obviously I hope the best for him. He’s probably the greatest player in the NHL now … the greatest defence in the NHL. But right now, my focus is still the same. I’m just focusing on trying to be the best I can during this camp.

“My goal is still the same. I want to make the team. I want to show my coaches that I can play here next year, so I want to focus on that.”

Whether it be on the first, second or third pairing on defence.

“Wherever they give me my chance, I’m going to try to take it,” Chabot said. “Whatever situation I’m going to play, whatever pairing, whoever I’m going to play with, I’m just going to try to make the best out of it and show them I can play in this league.”

Chabot is fully prepared for the challenge. For the first time in three years, he did not have a summer camp with both his junior team and the Canadian under-20 squad. In strength tests with the Senators on Wednesday, he registered one of the highest grades.

“I got the chance to have a lot of rest,” Chabot said. “I had a lot more time to focus on myself and the gym and off the ice. I was in the gym every day of the week, except on the weekend. And I was on the ice with a skill coach, so that was good.”

Also beneficial should be the time Chabot spent in Ottawa last fall. The Senators had no intention of keeping their then-teenaged prospect for the whole season, but Chabot was still with the team after the final cuts and until the beginning of November.

That was when he was finally returned to the Saint John Sea Dogs and began a banner season that included recognition as the top blue liner in major-junior hockey plus lead roles in taking his team to the Memorial Cup and bringing Canada to within a goal of a world junior championship.

The Senators admitted they wanted Chabot to study Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf and other D-men on their NHL roster to see what it took to be a pro.

“I think he’ll be more ready to step into our lineup this year, in whatever the role might be, than if we wouldn’t have kept him around for a month,” general manager Pierre Dorion said.

Chabot agreed.

“I learned a lot about myself, on and off the ice here, just being around,” he said. “I had the chance to play one game, played a lot of preseasons, so I know what to expect this year. I know what’s going to come in front of me. I know what the challenges are. I know what I have to show the coaches.”

To Chabot, that means playing solid defensively. starting with this weekend’s rookie tournament in Toronto against prospects for the Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.

“I know they’re going to be watching,” Chabot said. “I just want to show them I can play both ends of the ice.
“They know I can skate. They know I can do good things with the puck, but they want to see if I can play real well in my own zone. So that’s the main thing I’m going to focus on for this weekend.”

Chabot says he’s “really an open guy” and he’ll be telling teammates who have never been to a rookie camp what they can expect, much like any good leader would do. He’ll receive no special instructions from the coaches when the team travels to Toronto following one more Sensplex practice Friday morning.

“We know what kind of a player we have,” said Kurt Kleinendorst, the Belleville Senators coach who will be behind the bench at the tournament. “We’re not going to treat him special or any differently, even though we know he’s special. He’s one of us and we’re just going to approach it like he’s a solid left-shot defenceman that skates well and gets up the ice well and shoots well and does all these things.

“We want to be able to showcase everybody we have on our roster. We know he’s going to be around for the main camp. Some of these other guys may not get that opportunity, so we want to give them every chance to show us what they’re capable of.”

At the same time, the final score of any game is important to players.

“We play Toronto and we know how big of a rivalry it is,” Chabot said. “The Ontario battle, they call it, so obviously it’s big. We want to show ourselves to the coaches, but, at the end of the day, we’re all big competitors, we always want to win. So we’re going to jump into those games, and we’ll find a way to win.”


Dallas Stars stars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin: Forget last year, we’re ‘going for it’ this season
Emily Kaplan

The Dallas Stars aren’t a sleeper pick — they already seem to be everyone’s trendy breakout team for this season. After finishing 34-37-11 (their second-worst record in franchise history) and missing the playoffs by a whopping 15 points last season, the Stars reunited this summer with former coach Ken Hitchcock, who guided the franchise to its only Stanley Cup championship, in 1999. Dallas also dominated with its moves, making splash (signing goalie Ben Bishop) after splash (signing forwards Martin Hanzal and Alexander Radulov) after splash (trading for defenseman Marc Methot).

And this is a team that already featured two of the league’s top five point scorers over the past four seasons: captain Jamie Benn, 28, has 324 points since 2013-14, while 25-year-old center Tyler Seguin has 306 points in that span.

Benn and Seguin sat down separately with ESPN for interviews during the NHL’s annual player media tour in New York this week. Here they are, unplugged, on everything from why hockey wasn’t fun last season, to how Connor McDavid could become an even bigger star and why Jaromir Jagr should play in Vegas.

On last season’s woes

Seguin: I did lose focus and had to still find a way to compete. It was miserable, something you never want to go through. I mean, [I didn’t] even like hockey.

Benn: When you get knocked out of the playoffs and are officially out, you still have games that need to be played. It’s about playing with pride and honor and representing your team and city well. It’s not always the easiest thing, but it shows character and it shows a little bit about yourself.

Seguin: It wasn’t fun. It was a learning process. It’s something that I’m almost happy that I went through — and that we went through as a group. It was not good times. Once [you’re eliminated from the playoffs], once you’re sort of done, then all of the rumors start, right? The coaches rumors, the goalies, what’s wrong. … You need to find a way to stick together, which we did. We had this trip through Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. After that we found a way to get it together and play with pride at the end of the year and try to find ways to make hockey fun.

On additions and subtractions

Seguin: I knew we had things we needed to address. We got Bishop, and I was like, “That’s awesome. [He’s] one of the best goalies you can get right now.” We went out and got Methot and I was like, “OK, we got the goalie and the D-man.” Then we got Hanzal, and I’m like, “Heck that’s a good summer.” … I was ready to go and then I saw on Twitter that Radulov was following me on Instagram. There were rumors that he was coming to Dallas. So I called Jamie Benn and, sure enough, we got Radulov. That was the cherry on the cake. We got the feeling from the organization that, “Hey we’re kind of going for this.”

Benn (whose brother, Jordie Benn, was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in February): We all know trades happen, and guys come and go, but to see it first-hand and how fast it actually happens — it was weird. [Jordie] got a call at 4 p.m., and he was at the airport at 6. It was weird to see him go, but I think it was probably for the better. [Stars GM Jim Nill] called me right afterward and explained why he made the deal. It’s a business, there’s no hard feelings. Just because it’s your brother, you can’t have a grudge against your GM.

On why they’re fans too

Seguin on personalities in hockey: The way I look at it, I’d like Connor McDavid to go out and date a celebrity. Go to the ESPYS like P.K. [Subban]. I’d love for the game to keep getting bigger and bigger. P.K. is a little extra maybe sometimes, but he’s personable.

Seguin on personalities in Dallas: I’ve met a lot of [Dallas athletes]. Who do I look up to? Probably Dirk Nowitzki. He’s such a nice guy. I go do his softball charity tournaments a lot. He’s such a good dude. Kind of a big nerd, but such a good dude.

On Jagr being Jagr

Benn on the biggest personality he’s played with: Jaromir Jagr. We were in Columbus for morning skate. It was like 10:15 in the morning and Jagr just rolled in and put on his gitch [underwear], went to his stall, sat on the floor and fell asleep for about 45 minutes. Me and Brenden Morrow were taking photos. That’s Jags.

Benn again, on Jagr: I think [Jagr] should play in Vegas. Why not get a hockey legend with a new team and try to sell some jerseys at least, put some people in the stands? He’s got his little entourage, people who follow him around from past teams. He can still play. He had a pretty good year last year. Just because he’s 70 doesn’t mean he needs to hang up the skates.

On what’s ahead

Seguin — who won a Stanley Cup title as a rookie with the Boston Bruins in 2011 — on where he wants to be in five years: Stanley Cup champion — times two. At least one more. [Winning a Cup] is a lot harder than people think. Start with one. Pittsburgh did it back-to-back. [After the Bruins won] my first year, I was like, “S—, we can do this again.” The second year we lost to the Washington Capitals, the third we lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. But I’m like, “Yeah, I’m right there.” Then we don’t make the playoffs, then lose in the first round [the next year], in the second round [the year after that]. It’s hard. It’s a grind. I’d be really happy with one more.

On keeping score

Benn on what keeps him satisfied on long road trips: We play a board game called Super Tock. It’s like Trouble, on steroids. … with money involved. It’s just four of us. We have multiple boards, but I play with three other guys. Antoine Roussel, our French guy, brought it in one year. You have to get certain cards to get out of your house, then you go around the board and try to eat other people who are trying to get into your house. We play on the plane, in hotel rooms, late at night. We play it everywhere. Four, six or eight people can play, but we just play with four players. It’s me, Roussel, [Jason] Spezza and [Dan] Hamhuis.

Seguin: I’ve never had a point in a home opener. I’ve never scored a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the regular season. I can’t get a goal against them.

On their mutual admiration society

Benn on Seguin: He is a leader and could be a better one and have more impact in the room. He’s got a big personality; we’ve all seen that through social media and his charitable work. He’s a big part of our team. He’s our No. 1 center and when your No. 1 center is your best player, don’t think that doesn’t have an impact on the team.

Seguin on Benn: He’s been my ultimate captain so far in my career. Don’t tell him that, though. We’re close in age; it’s a little weird.


Sep 9

Sep 10

Chabot ready to make impact with Senators
Dave McCarthy

TORONTO — Defenseman Thomas Chabot has a legitimate opportunity to play for the Ottawa Senators this season, and he intends to make the most of it.

Chabot, a first-round pick (No. 18) in the 2015 NHL Draft, possesses a skill set not unlike Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair torn tendons in his left foot in June and has not started skating. It’s up to Chabot to earn the trust of the Senators coaching staff in his own end.

“They know I can skate and I can do things with the puck, but I just want to show that I can play real well and solid in my own zone,” Chabot said after he had two assists in an 8-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens at the 2017 Rookie Tournament at Ricoh Coliseum on Saturday. “That’s what it is, that’s what it’s all about nowadays in the NHL. Everyone is just so good, you have to watch everyone, so to be a good defenseman in the NHL you have to be good in your own zone. That’s what I’m focusing on going into main camp, but obviously my goal is to have a spot for the season with the Senators.”

Karlsson, the Senators captain, is expected to miss the start of the regular season, leaving the door open for Chabot if he can impress in training camp.

“(His defensive game) is in place for sure, but it’s going to be more about training camp and going out and playing well defensively against men every night against NHL players,” said Kurt Kleinendorst, who coaches Belleville of the American Hockey League and is serving as coach of the Senators rookie team. “Now the next step is about professionalism, and professionalism is being able to come back and do it again right, so if he can do it night in and night out, that’s the next leap.”

As far as Chabot’s ability to contribute offensively at the NHL level, Kleinendorst has no concerns.

“It’s just a matter of how he does without the puck. We know how he is with the puck, that’s a non-issue,” Kleinendorst said. “It’s about how he’s going to handle NHLers without the puck.”

Chabot spent the past four seasons with Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He had 45 points (10 goals, 35 assists) in 34 regular-season games and 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 18 playoff games last season. He played in one game with the Senators last season against the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 18, 2016, and was minus-2 in 7:09 of ice time. He said that taste of the NHL early in the season served as a useful benchmark.

“It’s a place that’s way faster, but at the same time it’s kind of easier because everyone is good out there, everyone can make passes and everyone can score,” Chabot, 20, said. “As a defenseman, though, you have to watch everyone on the other team because everyone can score. It was a totally different game than at the junior level.”

Chabot stood out against the Canadiens on Saturday, controlling the play and moving the puck effectively up the ice. His best moment came when he set up forward Filip Chlapik with a long pass through traffic in the slot for a one-timer that put the Senators ahead 6-1 at 7:11 of the third period.

“I feel fine about my game,” Chabot said. “Obviously, it was my first actual game in a long time. I liked the way I played, I was solid in both ends of the ice. That’s what I was focusing [on], playing solid defensively, and I had the chance to help the team score some goals. So, I liked my game.”

If Saturday served as Chabot’s first test on his road to earning a roster spot with the Senators, it appears he passed with flying colors.

“I thought he played the way we know he’s capable of playing,” Kleinendorst said. “It was a tough game for him because the ice really wasn’t all that good, it was really sloppy, it was hard to get pucks to settle down and it was really heavy on the legs. If you think about his game, it’s a skating game, it’s a passing game and I don’t think the ice suited him at all. But he worked through it and he was noticeable. He did some really nice things.”


Sep 12

Sep 14

London Knights line up brother act
Ryan Pyette
London Free Press

Every time the couch at home in Holland Landing beckoned this summer, Richard Whittaker felt the proverbial tap on his shoulder.

Younger brother Liam wanted to go to the gym.

“He got drafted by London and was excited to get signed and make the team, as well,” said 17-year-old Richard, who appeared in a combined 81 regular season and playoff games with the Nationals and Knights as a rookie last year. “So I took less than a week off. He was motivating me to go to the gym with him and that helped me continue to stay in shape.”

And if that wasn’t enough to get him going, part of their routine was spent at Gary Roberts’ training centre in North York, like so many Knights before them.

“Gary’s fun to work with,” Richard said. “He’s usually always at the gym, critiquing our little mistakes. He wants us to become like the pros. And we always see (Phil) Kessel or (Connor) McDavid in there, and it motivates us to work like them.”

The effort has been rewarded.

The Knights announced the signing of Liam, a sturdy defenceman and fifth-round pick, on Wednesday. He’ll live in London with the same billet family as his brother and follow a similar path, playing some junior B nearby with the Strathroy Rockets.

Richard, meanwhile, was one of the standout offensive performers in the Knights first two exhibition tilts with Sarnia two weeks ago.

With most of London’s main guns at NHL camps, both are bound to see significant ice in the club’s final two preseason games, which come against defending OHL champ Erie Friday at Budweiser Gardens and Saturday in Komoka.

Whittaker scored his only major junior goal in his second regular season game last year against the Otters. He wants to create a few more looks for himself in his second go-round and pay it forward.

“I expect to play more and be effective to help (the Knights) go far in the playoffs,” Richard said. “Living here and having (that) first year was good for me. It was away from home and I was used to living without my parents and brothers. Now, I have to continue to work harder and introduce my little brother to all these things, and help him as well.”

The Knights, of course, love that he is part of a winning atmosphere wherever he lands. They were 8-3 in games he played last season.

Then he joined the Nats full-time in January and was part of their Sutherland Cup run, losing to Elmira in the final.

He clearly wasn’t shy, racking up 73 penalty minutes in the regular season and 36 more in the post­season as a youngster on an experienced squad.

“It’s always a fine line between wanting to play a lot and being in an environment that’s conducive to winning,” Knights GM Rob Simpson said. “You build those traits into your game. Sometimes, you can play on a team not as strong and be able to free-wheel out there, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re playing the right way to win later on.

“Each player is different but that was a good environment for Richard.”

Simpson thinks Richard looks quicker with more explosive first steps.

“He had a good summer,” he said, “and you can see he feels more comfortable. Vision and hockey sense has been a strength of his.”

So, too, is timing.

Richard Whittaker grew up playing hockey mostly at the ‘A’ and ‘AA’ levels. He was often a York-Simcoe Express call-up, so that’s how he came to befriend a wiry goaltender from Bradford named Jordan Kooy, now a Knights teammate.

“He was the ‘AAA’ goalie, so every time I APed (affiliate player), I would be on his team,” Richard said, “until my last year in minor midget when I played on York-Simcoe and he played on a different ‘AAA’ team (Central Ontario Wolves).”

Whittaker’s Express won the OHL Cup minor midget championship.

Does he tease Kooy about it?

“Nah, not too much,” he said with a grin.

The plan is to win now, together in London.

With Liam around, there’s plenty of motivation.


Kings’ Michael Cammalleri enjoys reuniting with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar on and off the ice
Curtis Zupke
LA Times

The “Nostalgia Line” was unveiled on the first day of Kings training camp.

Michael Cammalleri skated with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, just as they did nearly a decade ago. The only thing different was Cammalleri’s jersey number — he wears No.14 — but the dynamic was the same.

“He’s open every shift, every play,” Brown said. “Even if you score a goal, he’s still open. Not much has changed.”

Brown recently found a video highlight of the trio, circa 2008, and sent it to Cammalleri — not because of the goal but because of the goal celebration.

“I came down the wing and I scored a nice a goal,” Brown said. “He was wide open. We had the huddle and he’s like, ‘Hey, Brownie, nice goal, but I was wide open.’ ”

The Kings want those jokes to flow again in Cammalleri’s second stint with them. They signed the 35-year-old to a one-year contract that constituted the major offensive addition of their free-agent activity.

The time gap can be quantified in pacifiers and diapers. When Cammalleri was traded from the Kings in 2008, he did not have children. He now has three, including a newborn boy. Brown has four children. Cammalleri feels like he still knows Kopitar and Brown just through social media.

“It’s the Instagram effect,” Cammalleri said. “Even though you don’t talk to people on a regular basis … you feel like you know people’s lives. You see a guy you haven’t seen in so long and it’s like, ‘How’s your kid?’ It makes the world a much smaller place.

“Kopi and Brownie — it’s actually been endearing seeing them again. It’s been so long. We were a line [so long ago], and so seeing them again, having a little bit of the chitchat, that has been fun. It’s been somewhat romantic, if you think of sports in that sense.”

Will romance, or bromance, translate to offense and victories?

Cammalleri scored 10 goals, none after Jan.3, last season with the New Jersey Devils. He sat out most of March because of a shoulder injury and has not played a full season in a nonlockout season since 2008-09.

But Cammalleri deemed himself ready, as do the Kings.

“I think we’re getting a healthy Mike Cammalleri that’s extremely motivated,” coach John Stevens said. “He’s a guy that’s driven to score. You can see that in his game.”

The 5-foot-9 Cammalleri long has been proof that a smaller forward can excel in the NHL. He was a 30-goal scorer and scored 27 goals as recently as 2014-15.

Brown said the biggest benefit is Cammalleri’s aforementioned approach.

“He’s selfish in a good way,” Brown said. “He wants to score. He wants to make a difference. You need more guys with that attitude. He’s a bit of a pit bull, in and around the net. He’s not the biggest guy, but if it’s a puck battle, he wins a lot of them.”

Cammalleri understands the skepticism about how much he has left. He’s into health and wellness, and he speaks with the confidence of a veteran with a proven record of production.

“Time will tell,” Cammalleri said. “[But] those that know me well … know the answers to all these questions already. How about I’ll leave it as a big, ‘We’ll see?’ ”

Cammalleri did not request his former No.13 from Kyle Clifford. He chose No.14 after his father suggested it in homage to former Toronto Maple Leafs center Dave Keon.

A fresh start could reenergize Cammalleri, known as a likable, accessible presence in a locker room.

“I’m keen about the opportunity,” he said. “From what I can gather, the core group here is motivated as far as they know what’s happened last year and getting back to where they think they deserve to be.”


Mark Friedman playing bigger than his frame in Flyers camp
Dave Isaac

VOORHEES — There’s no sign in the Flyers’ back office that says, “Must be at least this tall to ride the hype machine.”

That’s good news for 5-foot-10 defenseman Mark Friedman, although with the chip on his shoulder he plays every bit as big as Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Phil Myers, who seem to get all the publicity in the growing list of Flyers defense prospects.

Friedman, 21, played one game for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season after a three-year career at Bowling Green State University. He turned pro a year before the Flyers would have lost the rights of their 2014 third-round pick and in short order he’s made people notice him.

His biggest stage was Wednesday, in a rookie game against the New York Islanders. Friedman was quick, good with the puck and solid in terms of positioning. With all the other prospects the Flyers have, that are closer to the NHL than he is, it would be easy to feel forgotten.

“No, I don’t really care about the media (hype) or stuff on the internet,” he said. “Like I’ve said a million times, I just play my game and worry about what I can control. There’s nothing I can do to get in their heads and let them know I’m here. I’m just playing my game and see where it takes me.”

More eyeballs followed him Friday, the first official day of training camp for the Flyers, when the players ended with a tough skating drill. In the “bag skate” he was well ahead of nearly everyone else, most of them gasping for air.

“I’m a very competitive guy,” Friedman said. “If you don’t come first, you come last. Just working my hardest out there. I ended up being first a couple times, but that doesn’t mean much.”

What will tell more is his play in preseason games. It’s one thing to play well against junior players and some AHL guys like he did Wednesday. Starting this weekend games will include veteran NHLers.

Most of them aren’t giving 100 percent, with the regular season on the horizon and their jobs locked up, but Friedman has something to prove.

He was solid at Bowling Green, putting up eight goals and 26 points in 40 games last season, and wants to prove that skipping his senior year was because he was ready for the higher level. When he arrived with the Phantoms he practiced a ton, but only saw action in one game because the team had to battle for a playoff spot until the second to last game of their season.

“It wasn’t easy just sitting there, but it was also a learning experience as well,” he said. “You can’t look at everything in a negative aspect. You’ve got to take away the positives out of everything. For me sitting up there and watching the games and learning the systems, learning guys’ tendencies and all that, it really helped me out for sure.”

He certainly caught the eye of the man who will probably be his coach this season (Friedman would have to absolutely blow the doors off in training camp and have several other players falter to get a legitimate shot at the NHL).

Scott Gordon, the Phantoms’ bench boss, was running the show Wednesday night and liked what he saw.

“He’s a competitor,” Gordon said. “He played a game for us last year. We saw his speed in practice the last month and a half of the season he came in for. There’s no question he’s got NHL speed.”

Someday Friedman may get to that level, but he’ll need to prove his worth as a pro in the AHL first.


Sep 15

Sep 16

Erik Karlsson on Thomas Chabot: “He’s further ahead than I was
Ken Warren
Ottawa Citizen

The way two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson sees it, Thomas Chabot has all the makings of being a future National Hockey League star himself.

The Ottawa Senators captain goes so far as to say the 20-year-old Chabot is more accomplished than Karlsson was at that age.

“He is from (Canada), he is more accustomed to the way things work than I was at the time,” Karlsson said Friday after the Senators hit the ice for the first time in training camp. “I still think he’s probably further ahead than I was when I got here, which is always a good sign.”

Just in case the Chabot hype meter wasn’t high enough already, Karlsson has cranked it up another notch.

Interestingly, Karlsson’s foot injury – he’s still weeks away taking his first skating strides post-surgery – has created an opening for Chabot to showcase himself.

Karlsson says Chabot has already proven he can deal with lofty expectations, dominating with Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and with Canada in the world junior championship.

“Whenever he’s going to be able to take that next step, whether it’s now or in a couple of months or in a year, I think that, however it plays out, he’s going to have every opportunity in the world to be a world-class player in this league,” Karlsson said.

“I think he made a lot of improvements and a lot of progress both personally on and off the ice from (last year). It’s just the experience part of things. He’s a lot more comfortable than he probably was last year.”

Chabot was named Canadian Hockey League defenceman of the year and most valuable player of the world championship.

Drafted 18th overall by the Senators in 2015, Chabot scored 10 goals and 35 assists in 34 regular-season games with Saint John last season. He added five goals and 18 assists in 18 playoff games. At the world juniors, he scored four goals and six assists in seven games.

“They were expecting him to be really good and he delivered that,” Karlsson continued. “And, even when he was playing really (well), they expected more and he did that, as well.

“Just being a year older, going through the pressure that goes with being a top prospect in Canada, that has helped him a lot and going to help along and speed things up and moving forward into his professional career.”

Senators fans will likely see Chabot on the ice in Monday’s pre-season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre.

A few words of caution are necessary here.

Before anyone anoints Chabot as Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year, let’s also remember that Karlsson experienced his share of hiccups before rising to the top of the ladder among NHL defencemen.

Karlsson rode the bus in Binghamton for a month in his rookie season of 2009-10, playing a dozen American Hockey League games before becoming a Senators regular.

In his first full NHL season in 2010-11, he produced excellent offensive numbers — 13 goals and 32 assists — but was often a disaster defensively, finishing with a plus/minus of minus 30.

Chabot, who was paired with Ben Harpur during Friday’s practice and intrasquad game, is doing his best to block out what others are saying about him.

“Whenever I have the chance to play in the pre-season, I’m going to try and show them that I can play in this league,” Chabot said. “I’m trying not to read anything about me in the media and social media or anything like that. I’m coming in every day just trying to work as hard as I can and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”

That said, it might be just a tad difficult to ignore what Karlsson says about Chabot.

Chabot has offensive gifts galore, including a long skating stride that almost looks effortless, but he also recognizes he must earn the trust of head coach Guy Boucher by showing he can hold his own in the Senators’ zone. It was a point of emphasis throughout his final junior year.

In the early going of training camp, Boucher has also tested Chabot to see how the left-shooting defenceman handles playing on the right side of the ice.

“I’m played a few times on the right side during my career,” Chabot said. “Obviously, as a lefty, playing on the left side is better, but I don’t mind playing on the right side at all.”


First-round pick Lucas Rowe doesn’t lack for support with the London Knights
Ryan Pyette
The London Free Press

Lucas Rowe knows one thing heading into his first OHL season.

He isn’t alone.

“He’s got a lot of support here,” London Knights sophomore centre Liam Foudy said. “Any questions he has, he can ask and we’ll help him.”

Foudy knows what it’s like to be the first-round pick on a team that aims to win every year and plays in a rink like Budweiser Gardens.

He went through that pressure last year, just like d-man Evan Bouchard before him, NHL campers Max Jones (and Victor Mete, by way of trade with Owen Sound) before that, and even back to Maple Leafs regular Mitch Marner in the Memorial Cup hosting year of 2013-14.

“It’s a lot easier in exhibition,” said Foudy, who set up blue-liner Ryan Bangs’ opening goal in a preseason game against the defending OHL champ Erie Otters on Friday at the Bud. “Once regular season starts, it’s an awakening. You can’t dominate like minor midget.

“But you get used to it and you’ll know your role.”

Rowe didn’t get into London’s first exhibition game on home ice two weeks ago. But he played in Sarnia the following night and ran into his first surprise pop quiz.

Sting coach Derian Hatcher matched him up at one point against veterans Jordan Kyrou and Drake Rymsha.

“Playing against them, it was a dream come true,” the 16-year-old said. “Knowing how good they are and getting that chance to get out there against them, it’s not a small deal.

“They’re great players.”

The Knights thought the kids stood their ground.

They were happy with Rowe, who led the team with five entries into the Sting zone and generated two scoring chances.

“He looked comfortable,” GM Rob Simpson said. “Some guys come in and feel it out. I thought he went out and played his game. There’s development to do and things to work on, but first showing, we were pleased with his start.”

The Knights, who only used three centres against Erie, have already asked Rowe to move to the wing in the early going. He played centre in minor midget.

But he already has the attitude Dale Hunter appreciates.

“The wing is a little different, but playing hockey you have to be ready for every position,” Rowe said. “If they put me on D, I’d have to work through that and be defence that game.

“It didn’t bug me at all.”

There will be times this season when Hunter leans on his veterans for long spells. That’s something every youngster must overcome.

Even Marner went through that early in his rookie season.

“It’s difficult not playing for long periods of times, then going out cold and providing some energy,” Foudy said. “But it’s something you have to do and it helps the team.”

Rowe will find it’s easier to generate that intensity on home ice.

“It’s the best place to play in the OHL and I always wanted to be here one day, in front of these fans,” he said. “It was intense the first time out. The pace was higher and it’s a little nerve-racking. Going from minor hockey to this is a lot different.”


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Sep 24

Josh Ho-Sang making his mark with Islanders
Arthur Staple

In a game that didn’t feature much offense, Josh Ho-Sang was in the middle of whatever the Islanders did generate on Friday night in Bridgeport against the Rangers. No. 66 dangled, he weaved, he drew defenders to him and dished — your eyes are always on him when Ho-Sang is on the ice.

There’s still plenty for Ho-Sang to digest about being an NHLer, with just 21 games under his belt. But another strong training camp has the 21-year-old in position to make an impact this season.

He’s also just happy to still be with the NHLers in training camp. The Islanders made their big wave of camp cuts on Saturday and, unlike last year, Ho-Sang is still among the group who will be in Columbus on Oct. 6.

“I didn’t make it past this point so this is a happy day for me,” Ho-Sang said after Saturday’s practice, which was exclusively devoted to special teams. “I’m achieving my goals slowly and I just want to keep focusing on that.”

Doug Weight pared down to five forward lines on Saturday and barring injury, that group of 15 forwards will likely be reduced by only two before the season opener against the Blue Jackets in 12 days.

Ho-Sang has done quite a bit to bolster his case to be in the lineup opening night. On Friday, he had one shift late in a one-goal game when he created a couple scoring chances, didn’t exactly hustle back to break up a Rangers rush late in his shift but found enough energy to get going on a breakaway that was turned aside.

But even with a few 200-foot game flaws, Weight has plenty of time for Ho-Sang.

“Oh, I got time for him,” Weight said. “And that’s because he’s a good kid, tremendously talented and he plays with no fear and he plays hard. He’ll battle in the corner, creates chances and he wants to learn. Right before he got his breakaway, he was dangling around, looked like he was out there for six minutes on the back check. Looked like he couldn’t take another step and then he’s off because he sees a chance. He created tonight, he played hard, he was better doing some things the way we wanted him to do them. So yeah, I got lots of time for him.”

Whether that means lots of ice time for Ho-Sang depends certainly on what he can help create. Ho-Sang skated Saturday in practice with familiar linemates — he had Anthony Beauvillier on the opposite wing and Brock Nelson in the middle for a fair number of his 21 games late last season and Weight clearly liked what he saw, keeping that trio together as the Isles whittled down to a near-23 man roster.

“I love playing with those two,” Ho-Sang said. “Beau is a little energizer bunny, he’s amazing and I think people haven’t even seen how good Beau is and I’m excited to see him explode and see him become a top player in the league. And Nellie’s just Nellie — he’s unreal. He’s one of my favorite players to play with. He’s trigger happy, he’s got one of the best shots I’ve ever seen and he’s really good at getting into position. And he’s a really nice guy on top of that. It’s fun to play with people who are good people that just want to score and win. Being on a line like that is obviously ideal.”


Sep 26

Sep 27

Ho-Sang has big plans for Islanders, himself
Jon Lane

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — “Get good.”

That message has been sent to forward Joshua Ho-Sang by the New York Islanders ahead of his first full NHL season.

“It’s just getting better every day,” Ho-Sang said when asked to elaborate. “If you’re not getting better you’re getting worse.”

The Islanders want Ho-Sang to be the best, and though that sounds quite simple, it’s not.

Ho-Sang’s talent and pizazz have him being mentioned as a Calder Trophy candidate. But understanding the rookie’s story requires an outsider to unlock the truth behind the perceptions that have tailed him since his junior career began.

The feeling around the Islanders is that he is misunderstood, that he is confident but not arrogant, as some have suggested. They say he has made mistakes like everyone else and should be commended for his drive to win.

There’s no denying what Ho-Sang, 21, brings as a player. He had 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) in 50 games last season, his first with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League, before debuting with the Islanders on March 2. In 21 games, he had 10 points (four goals, six assists) to help New York make a late run at the Stanley Cup Playoffs after they were near the bottom of the Eastern Conference for much of the season.

The Islanders finished one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the playoffs from the East. They retained much of the core from last season and acquired forward Jordan Eberle, a five-time 20-goal scorer who should immediately play right wing with center John Tavares on the first line, from the Edmonton Oilers in a trade for forward Ryan Strome on June 22. That could put Ho-Sang back at second-line right wing, where he skated with left wing Andrew Ladd and center Brock Nelson, which means favorable matchups against defensemen.

Ladd lauded Ho-Sang’s hockey smarts and understanding of time and space to have the patience to make plays. Veteran forward Jason Chimera has gotten to know Ho-Sang as a quiet kid who obediently follows rookie guidelines with regard to keeping his eyes open and mouth shut.

“Different and unique is good,” Chimera said. “It’s not a bad thing. When you bring different and unique to a lot of situations, it may rub people the wrong way sometimes but I think it’s a great thing to have people that are different and unique, and bring those elements to the table.

“I don’t think he’s immature at all. I think it’s maybe a lack of understanding of who he is. We know who he is in the room.”

Ho-Sang was criticized on social media last season when he chose to wear No. 66, famously worn by Mario Lemieux with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1984-2006. This was nothing new for Ho-Sang; in junior hockey with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League (where he also wore No. 66), he was perceived as selfish and overconfident despite scoring 148 points (49 goals, 99 assists) in 141 games before being traded to Niagara on Nov. 14, 2014.

Niagara general manager Joey Burke, an assistant at the time, knew what the organization was getting into. He had heard rumblings about Ho-Sang having a prima-donna attitude until Windsor assured him they were unfounded.

It didn’t take long for Ho-Sang to make an impression in his own way.

“He’s in the dressing room eating a couple of hot dogs getting ready for his first game with Niagara in front of the Sportsnet cameras,” Burke said with a laugh. “He came out and I think he had a two- or three-point night. It was just electric.

“He was a bit of a different guy but certainly more the sense in that he was very laid-back and easygoing, which sometimes can be misconstrued as arrogance. From our end, there was nothing like that.”

But that perception remained. Ho-Sang was passed over 27 times — including by the Islanders at No. 5 and twice by the Vancouver Canucks — in the 2014 NHL Draft before New York traded up to take him late in the first round (No. 28). The next year, concerns about his character were legitimized when he overslept before his first practice at his first training camp. He was forced to run up and down the stairs at Nassau Coliseum and immediately sent back to juniors.

“I grow every day and I learn from my mistakes,” Ho-Sang said. “I will continue to make mistakes and apologize in advance to anybody who gets upset by them. I just try to keep that positivity. Everyone’s human and that’s the reality. I don’t think you want to be perfect because that would be so boring. I kind of push limits, push boundaries. I poke the bear once in a while and I get bitten, and that’s the reality.”

When the Islanders reported for physicals Sept. 14, Ho-Sang was on time the morning after playing a rookie game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. He was on time the next day for the first on-ice session, skating with Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier. Coach Doug Weight had sat with Ho-Sang for three 15-minute meetings in the previous 72 hours, telling him he had every intent to stay in his ear, stay in his face, to ensure that his growth continues.

“That doesn’t translate to what he’s going to do on the ice, but he knows that it’s a team sport,” Weight said. “He wants to be a hockey player and he wants to be in the NHL. He wants to contribute to a team in a healthy environment. He knows that certain things that kind of slip his mind as important factors don’t slip ours. That’s just maturation.

“Some guys drive 75 (miles per hour) down a side street until they’re 23. Josh has grown up a lot, and I’m proud of him for making this commitment to this point. We’ll see how it goes.”

Ho-Sang is beginning his rookie season with great ambitions, and not just for himself. He referenced the Nashville Predators, the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference who advanced to the Stanley Cup Final last season, and wondered, why not the Islanders?

“If we can get our foot in the door,” Ho-Sang said, “I think we have the type of team that can go all the way.”

He hopes the Islanders, who have not won the Stanley Cup since 1983, can make a quick turnaround like the Chicago Blackhawks did; Chicago missed the playoffs five straight seasons before reaching the Western Conference Final in 2009, then won the Cup three times in the next six seasons.

“Things change,” Ho-Sang said. “I think that’s something you can look back on when you’re 70 years old, and be like, ‘Wow! I did something that helped change the franchise.’

“I want to win the Stanley Cup because the fans here deserve it. I want to be one of the best players in the League so people can look at this organization and be like ‘Holy, they have John Tavares, they have Josh Ho-Sang, they have Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy.'”

Challenged to get good, Ho-Sang is sure he has greatness inside, and plans to let it out while changing a negative perception into a positive reality.

“You never want to stand still in the hockey world,” Ho-Sang said. “You want to keep trying to find ways to contribute night in and night out and be a player that’s indispensable. I’m on my way but I’m not quite there yet. Until I am, I’m going to be twice as hungry. And then when I am, I’m going to be three times as hungry. I want to be the best and I want to stay there.”


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