The Will Sports Group

The RIG 28 for November

Nov 1

Nov 2

Cammalleri goal vs Maple Leafs

Nov 3

Irwin goal vs Predators

Nov 4

Seguin goal vs Sabres

Yakupov goal vs Flyers

Kurtis MacDermid is making a name for himself with Kings
Curtis Zupke
LA Times

The question hits Kurtis MacDermid when people realize he played for the Erie Otters.

“Quite often,” MacDermid said. “After I say I played in Erie, they ask if I played with him.”

“Him” would be Connor McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers star regarded as the most skilled player in the game, if not the best. MacDermid played two seasons with McDavid in the Ontario Hockey League.

“Being a part of that experience, a player like that is a generational talent, it’s awesome because he’s such a great guy and a great teammate,” MacDermid said. “It’s something special, for sure.”

MacDermid’s road to the NHL is the anti-McDavid story, but it’s also special. Considered a raw, long-term project as an undrafted free-agent signing, MacDermid has earned a defenseman job with the Kings.

“One of the best development stories ever,” Kings assistant general manager Mike Futa said.

MacDermid had an awkward growth spurt as a teenager on his way to his 6-foot-5, 233-pound body. It looked good on paper but it didn’t translate to the rink, outside of tough-guy duties. The Kings signed him in 2013 and he was among the OHL and American Hockey League leaders in penalty minutes.

“If it was the mid-‘70s Philadelphia Flyers, he’d be making millions of dollars,” Futa said. “It was a game of beasts. He’s really seen the way the game’s changed. He’s had to adjust in every aspect of the way the game has changed, and he’s still finding ways to play in the National Hockey League.”

MacDermid played rigid and tense as a younger player. But he was willing to learn the nuances of his position. Former Kings defenseman Sean O’Donnell took MacDermid aside this summer and taught him to think the game differently.

“With big guys, and with guys that are physically intimidating and want to use that intimidation as an asset, sometimes running to pay a guy back or make sure that you hit him as hard as possible isn’t the clearest way to think,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell showed MacDermid stick position and how to take an angle on a play, among other aspects. One characteristic stood out.

“He’s probably the hardest worker I’ve ever seen,” O’Donnell said.

MacDermid arrived at Kings camp in September intending to get a job. When Alec Martinez was injured to start the season, MacDermid stayed with the Kings, over fellow defenseman prospect Kevin Gravel.

Coach John Stevens has trusted MacDermid in various situations, including the second unit power-play unit. One of the warm moments of the season was MacDermid’s smile upon his first NHL goal Oct.26 at Montreal. Stevens also mixes up his defense pairs, so there are instances when MacDermid plays with Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty. Not bad for a kid formerly known as McDavid’s teammate.

“It’s been an awesome experience,” MacDermid said. “I’m very honored to be here. It’s just taking it day by day and coming in and working hard as possible and getting better every day. That’s been my motto for a long time now, and I’m going to keep doing that.”


Nov 5

Nov 6

Nov 7

Jason La Rose
Hockey Canada

Colton Kammerer took the chip on his shoulder everywhere with him this summer. Every time he walked into the gym, every time he stepped on the ice, there it was.

He watched friends and teammates make the trip to Calgary at the end of July for Canada’s national under-17 development camp while he stayed in Ontario and wondered, ‘Why not me?’

So he made it his goal to never ask that question again.

“It was a bit disappointing, but I just tried to use it as motivation,” Kammerer says of not getting the summer camp invite. “In the summer whenever I was working out, I’d always work hard to just prove them wrong.

“Going into the year I even said to my GM that one of my goals was to prove to Team Canada that I should have been at camp. I was expecting that to be for, say, under-18s or sometime in the future.”

Well … the future is now.

A third-round pick of the Sarnia Sting in the OHL Priority Selection last spring, Kammerer earned a roster spot out of training camp and quickly became a valued contributor, no easy feat for a 16-year-old.

His play caught the eye of Hockey Canada scouts and when the Canadian roster was announced for the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in mid-October, there was Kammerer – the lone player among the 66 named who did not attend summer camp.

(He was one of two non-campers when the puck dropped in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John; Dylan Holloway, who joined Kammerer on Canada Red late last week as an injury replacement, also wasn’t present in Calgary.)

So what changed in four months? What did the October version of Colton Kammerer have that the July version didn’t?

“When you talked to some [scouts], he was a good player but they didn’t see the total upside and see the package that all of the sudden he has become,” says Brad McEwen, head scout with Hockey Canada. “I don’t think there is any real substantial answer [to his improvement], but he obviously had a good summer, and he is a confident player.”

It also doesn’t hurt that Kammerer just so happens to play for one of the best Major Junior teams in the country; the Sting have an OHL-best 15-3-0-0 record, were ranked No. 1 in the CHL and had reeled off 13 straight wins before he departed for British Columbia.

The fact he was playing, playing lots, and contributing – Kammerer has a goal and four assists in 14 games with the Sting – resonated with McEwen and the Hockey Canada staff.

“One of the challenging things with this age group is that a lot of the kids don’t play,” he says. “It’s their first year in Major Junior and they’re usually getting slowly worked into the roster, so it is a little bit hard to evaluate that last piece.

“But with Colton, he was playing; you could sit and watch him play, see his skillset, see his competitiveness and hockey sense, and that made it pretty easy [to include him among the final 66].”

So step one is complete – making the roster. Next comes step two – proving he belongs.

Because he wasn’t at camp, Kammerer came into the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge at somewhat of a disadavantage, having missed out on 10 days of team-building, practices and learning systems.

His immediate problem, though, had nothing to with anything his coaches could draw on a whiteboard.

“It was nerves,” Kammerer says. “The coaches had never seen me play so I could really feel it in the first practice. The nerves were coming in. I was missing some passes, but I just tried to focus in when the coaches were talking, listen the best I can and so far I’m starting to get the systems.”

It shows. Kammerer has been a fixture on the Canada Red blue-line thus far, seeing time on the power play and posting one assist through two preliminary-round games.

He’s using his time with the Maple Leaf on his chest for exactly what it is – a chance to represent his country, get better on and off the ice, and take another big step in his young hockey career.

“I’m already learning a lot from the coaches, and playing on a world stage like this is a great experience,” Kammerer says. “I’m just trying to soak in as much as I can and use it as a great learning experience.”


Nov 9

Nov 10

Yakupov goal vs Senators

Nov 11

Ho-Sang goal vs Blues

Nov 14

Nov 15

Good to go: Sharks forward adapting well to new position
Curtis Pashelka
Mercury News

SAN JOSE — Sharks forward Barclay Goodrow earned positive reviews earlier this month in a game against the Anaheim Ducks, when, for the first time as a professional, he lined up as a center.

It wasn’t an easy assignment for the longtime winger, but it was a way for him to get back into the lineup.

Now Goodrow might be staying there for awhile.

In his last four games, mainly on a line with Joel Ward and Timo Meier, Goodrow’s possession numbers have been solid, he’s collected two assists and has won 17 of 27 faceoffs.

It appears Goodrow will be in the lineup for a fifth straight time when the Sharks host the Florida Panthers on Thursday to start a three-game homestand. That’s saying something after he was a spectator for all but one game in October.

“Felt good, getting more comfortable by the game at the center position,” Goodrow said Tuesday. “Our line’s been pretty consistent over the last few games, so it’s good to be a part of the team and help contribute to wins.”

Goodrow’s also doing enough to earn some trust from the guys behind the bench.

“It allows you to feel comfortable playing four lines, which allows you to keep the energy on your bench,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said of the fourth line’s play of late. “Especially in games where you’ve got penalties and you overuse some guys, it’s nice to have a group that you can throw out there and give some other guys a breather.”

Goodrow didn’t make the Sharks out of training camp last season but had a solid year in the AHL with 45 points in 61 regular season games and was one of the big reasons why the Barracuda advanced to the Western Conference finals.

Goodrow took that momentum into this year’s training camp. He had four points in four games and won a spot on the Sharks’ 23-man roster, beating out other forwards like Danny O’Regan and Marcus Sorensen for the last spot on the team.

After that, though, Goodrow had to wait.

The Sharks’ fourth line went through some variations as players were moved up, down and out of the lineup. Chris Tierney started as the fourth line center for the first two games of the season before he went to the third line, and the fourth line role went to Ryan Carpenter.

Carpenter, though, went without a point for 10 straight games and struggled to create chances. Even though the Sharks had won three straight following a victory over Nashville, DeBoer decided to take out Carpenter and insert Goodrow as his fourth line center.

At that point, Goodrow had been a spectator for 11 of the Sharks’ first 12 games. Ward, himself a healthy scratch for five games this season, was placed on the right wing.

“Both of those guys got the same message, it was wait,” DeBoer said. “The guys that were in there, we didn’t start the way we wanted, we weren’t playing the way we wanted early in the season and we have since those guys got in there, so that’s a message to everybody.”

Understandably, it didn’t really matter to Goodrow where he was asked to play.

“Was just staying ready, waiting to get a shot and then once I got a shot, making the most of it,” Goodrow said. “Trying to find a way to stay the lineup for every game.”

Goodrow and Ward have developed some chemistry since they were put together on the same line.

While the two have combined for two goals and three assists in that time, they’ve also shown — for the most part — they can limit turnovers and control the puck in the opposing team’s zone.

Goodrow, 24, doesn’t have any pretense about what the role is for the Sharks’ fourth line, which averages close to 220 pounds across the board.

“The name of the game is o-zone time,” the 210-pound Goodrow said. “Get the puck in the o-zone, grind away, grind away their D, just create momentum for the team. We were lucky enough to get a couple of goals in the last few games.”

“He’s an easy guy to read, just goes north-south,” Ward said of Goodrow. “There’s no secret plays to him. When you know a guy’s just going to go north-south, it makes things a lot easier to know where he’s going to be.

“Obviously he’s a big body too, so you know he’s going to be around the net, trying to create some havoc. The main thing is reading off of each other and helping each other out.”

Ward has some experience playing the middle, and that versatility helps to take a bit of the defensive zone responsibility off of Goodrow’s plate.

“There’s little things here and there that’s different from being a winger,” Goodrow said. “Whether its d-zone assignments, or breakouts, just different things. But we’re so interchangeable when it comes to d-zone. Wingers can play the center position. Centers play the wing, however it happens when you comeback into your own zone.”


Nov 16

Cammalleri remembers first goal, 15 years ago vs. Oilers
Mark Spector

EDMONTON — Mike Cammalleri rode into town a decade-and-a-half after his first visit to Edmonton, one that he remembers with fondness.

“Ziggy Palffy passed it to me on a two-on-one,” he recalled. “Brad Chartrand helped set up the play, and it was (Tommy) Salo in net. It was back-door, against-the-grain five-hole shot.”

That was his first ever National Hockey League goal, 15 years ago — to the day — from Thursday, and there is nothing about that play that Cammalleri can not recall. At age 35, the Oilers are hoping he can find some muscle memory and recall some of the offensive juice that produced six 25-goal seasons over an 855-game NHL career.

Does the Toronto native think he can still score goals?

“I do,” he said. “You (media) guys get the fun job of predicting all of that, but we’ll see who’s right or wrong.”

When Cammalleri was rifling home his first of 290 NHL goals in old Rexall Place, Oilers head coach Todd McLellan was still coaching at AHL Houston. Now, his Oilers needed an eight-goal game on Tuesday to climb into 27th in league scoring.

They need some goals from the bottom six forwards, which is where Cammalleri fits in — as well as the second powerplay unit.

“I think of the name Mike Cammalleri… I see him lowering that knee, taking that one-timer and scoring. That’s the vision that I have of him,” McLellan said. “We need to get him the puck in the right spots and encourage him to shoot it. If he can finish a little bit more from the bottom six, we’ll be in a better spot than we were before.”

Cammalleri, who will wear his traditional No. 13, will play left wing on a line with centre Ryan Strome and right-winger Iiro Pakarinen tonight against St. Louis. He’s moved from team to team enough times to know that the best way to fit in with a new group of teammates is after they sing the anthems and drop the puck.

“Going on the ice and playing competitive sport with your teammates is the quickest way to earn somebody’s trust,” he said. “Look at other lines of work where they have corporate retreats. We’re like the ultimate corporate retreat: put a bunch of guys together and go play a physical hockey game together.

“Earning trust out there on the ice, it’s the best way to do it.”


Nov 17

Nov 18

Andreoff goal vs Panthers

Nov 19

Yakupov goal vs

Nov 20

Nov 22

Ho-Sang goal vs Flyers

Nov 24

Leivo goal vs Hurricanes

Seguin goals vs Flames

Nov 25

Nov 26

Nov 27

Nov 28

Flashy Goldobin grows game as AHL penalty kill puck hound
Ben Kuzma
The Province

NEWARK, N.J. — The offensively gifted Nikolay Goldobin is killing penalties.

This will not kill the National Hockey League aspirations for the intriguing Russian right winger. It will only enhance them.

And because chasing pucks has become a recent addition to Goldobin’s professional pedigree — whether in a defensive or offensive posture for the Utica Comets — his road to becoming a mainstay with the Vancouver Canucks has shortened.

The offence speaks for itself.

Seven goals and 12 assists in 17 games with the Comets and leading the American Hockey League club in scoring is going to get the 22-year-old Moscow native noticed. Being just as good without the puck as he can be with it, is going to get him to get back to The Show for a longer stay.

“I never played PK early in my life and it’s hard,” Goldobin admitted following a Monday practice after being recalled Sunday. “I decided to do this and hounding players has helped me a lot, helps me battle for the puck.”

It’s why Goldobin spoke with new-found optimism. He knows he can’t be a one-dimensional game-breaker — even though his fast feet and release quicken the pulse of fans and the hockey operations department — and he knows Canucks coach Travis Green won’t coddle him.

“I played those (three) games for him in Utica last year and I know he’s hard on guys,” said Goldobin. “And, of course, it’s a good thing. He’s pushing you all the time to make you better.

“If he doesn’t care about you, it means you’re done.”

Goldobin alternated practice shifts with Thomas Vanek in a combination with Alexander Burmistrov and Sam Gagner. He may or may not play Tuesday against the New York Islanders or Thursday against the Nashville Predators. But either way, that’s OK. He’s here to learn systems, be evaluated and be immersed in the day-to-day culture of becoming a consummate pro. If he plays, that’s a plus.

That’s why his improved three-zone awareness — and contributing to an AHL penalty kill that was tied for ninth in efficiency — is as impressive as his offensive output. The Canucks are finding out how a guy known for a fun-loving attitude has embraced the tough stuff under Comets coach Trent Cull.

“He’s giving me that push,” added Goldobin. “He’s showing me with video when I’m doing something wrong and something right. And I’m thankful. I was disappointed in myself (not cracking Canucks roster) because I’m only human.

“But I had to understand when everybody talked to me that it’s a process and I want to get better and get confident. I’m working hard. An even the practices are better here because the puck is moving quicker.”

Green knows there’s a teaching element that goes into developing players and patience gets tested. Being hard on mistake-prone young players, or sitting them, is part of what’s best for the player and team.

Jake Virtanen is the poster boy for that mantra. His 9:45 of average ice time is a product of not being on special teams. That should catch Goldobin’s attention because even the penalty kill can add more minutes and more value to any club.

“That’s the whole idea,” Green said of the Goldobin plan. “It (penalty kill) is going to give him a different feel. Young, offensive guys look at the game offensively and in today’s game, you have to understand defensive responsibilities and the importance of it and the hard work it takes to play well.

“You have to win puck battles to kill penalties and you can’t just rely on instincts. Good penalty killers have good hockey sense and it’s not a glorious job.

“He’s got a lot of upside. Obviously, an intriguing prospect for us.”

The Canucks saw something in Goldobin when they sent Jannik Hansen to the San Jose Sharks in a Feb. 28 trade. Goldobin’s game was raw, but 41 points (15-26) in 46 AHL games last season piqued their interest.

And with the frequently scratched Hansen appearing in just 13 of the Sharks’ first 22 games this, and accumulating just one assist, the trade is tipping in the Canucks’ favour.

Goldobin is nine years younger than Hansen and could have a bright future. It’s up to him. He was told that much in a telling post-practice interaction with Ryan Miller last April. They took a knee at centre ice and the veteran stopper told the discouraged kid that he had a good practice because he needed to hear that.

“I remember,” recalled Goldobin. “Those were big words for me because I was really upset at the time. He said: ‘Hey, listen kid. Just work hard every day and you’ll get your chance. It’s your future, you’re just a young guy.’”


Nov 29

Staunch defense and the adage of ‘invisible play’
Alex Kinkopf
Tuscon Roadrunners

Invaluable is the feature of a steady, secure defensive corps.

There’s no hiding it. Or is there?

If a defenseman is playing well, if he’s doing his job, he may largely go unnoticed. For some time, that’s been an old maxim that’s made its way through hockey circles.

After all, sound structure low in the defensive zone, fluid transition in the neutral zone, lane deprivation; rarely will those qualities hit the airwaves the night of a substantial team victory.

“A lot of people would say that about the way I play,” Andrew Campbell said in regards to being overlooked. “I have some of my best games when I go unnoticed out there, just doing little things with my stick, blocking shots with my body, getting in lanes, and just playing well defensively. I think you can make a pretty good career for yourself if you do those little things right and make plays for the team, and having that team-first attitude.”

Often times, strong defense is built on simplicity.

“I think the simpler I keep it, the better I play,” Dysin Mayo said. “It’s not always pretty, and it’s not typically going to stand out to the typical fan, it’s just about doing all of the little things right.”

The Roadrunners are currently seventh in the American Hockey League in goals allowed this season, surrendering an average of 2.69 per game to their opponents, a very solid complement to the 3.50 median the team’s offense has been putting forth.

In 10 of the club’s 16 games played thus far, they’ve allowed two or fewer regulation goals.

“We take a lot of pride in defending first, managing the puck well, and coming out of our end,” Campbell said. “We focus on putting the puck in good places where we can get after it and play on our toes, and then get after them instead of chasing around.”

For a club that’s seen offensive firepower dominate the headlines, it’s easy for the consistency, strength of what the team’s back-end has brought to the table during the club’s marvelous start.

“I think just overall the team’s bought-in to the new defensive zone system that we have in place here this year,” Mayo said. “It’s actually all about getting up offensively as much as we can so our gaps are already good to begin with. With good gaps, it forces the other team to dump it, and we’ve been executing on our breakouts.”

Instead of staying back, waiting for the opposition’s attack, the Roadrunners have relied on a system that calls for pressure and keeps bodies close when there is in fact a change in possession.

And when they maintain control of the puck? Well, that’s when they feed the three bodies up front.

“From a defensive standpoint, I think we’ve been adding to the offense – and not by the numbers particularly, but by moving the puck up quick to the forwards and letting them do their thing in the offensive zone,” Mayo said. “Don’t forget, they’ve been helping us by back checking, which is huge in helping us keep our gaps.”

A lot of dirty work goes into getting the puck up to the forwards who, at times, attract most of the attention, who dazzle most of the spectators with their finishing touches.

But then again, that’s the job – and the Roadrunners have a group that’s completing their tasks marvelously.

“It’s just a blue-collar work ethic and attitude,” Campbell said confidently. “It’s about playing for the guy beside you and talking with your partner, and really just focusing on doing the little things right and making sure the puck stays out of your net.”

Recognition? Sure, that will come. And maybe it has already. Maybe you haven’t noticed it.


Nov 30