“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

July 1

Michael Cammalleri Signs 1-Year Deal with LA Kings
LAKings.com

The LA Kings have agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent forward Michael Cammalleri on a one-year contract, Kings Vice President and General Manager Rob Blake announced today. The AAV for the contract is $1 million (plus bonuses).

The 35-year-old Cammalleri (born June 8, 1982) is a 5-9, 185-pound native of Toronto, Ontario who appeared in 61 games during the 2016-17 season with the New Jersey Devils, posting 31 points (10-21=31) and 21 penalty minutes.

Cammalleri, who made his NHL debut with the Kings during the 2002-03 season, has scored 20-or-more goals six times, and 30-or-more goals twice during his NHL career, highlighted with a career high 39 goals with the Calgary Flames in 2008-09.

He scored 79 goals and collected 182 points for Los Angeles from 2005-08, highlighted by a 34-goal, 80-point season with the Kings in 2006-07. In 283 regular season games over five seasons with the Kings, Cammalleri registered 93 goals and 205 points (93-112=205), with 55 of those goals on the power play.

Drafted in the second-round (49th overall) by the Kings during the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Cammalleri has appeared in 840 regular-season games during his 14-year NHL career with the Kings, Devils, Flames and Montreal Canadiens. He has recorded 287 goals, 613 points and 407 penalty minutes during his career (287-326=613), and he has 102 career power play goals.

Cammalleri has recorded 32 points (17-15=32) and eight penalty minutes in 32 career playoff games.

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Wild Inks Defenseman Ryan Murphy
Minnesota Wild

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher today announced the National Hockey League (NHL) club has signed free-agent defenseman Ryan Murphy to a one-year, two-way contract ($700,000/$350,000).

Murphy, 24, tallied two assists in 27 games with the Carolina Hurricanes and one assist in seven contests with the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League (AHL) last season. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound native of Aurora, Ontario, was placed on waivers by Calgary on June 30, one day after being acquired by the Flames along with Eddie Lack and a seventh-round selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Keegan Kanzig and sixth-round selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He owns 37 points (6-31=37) in 151 career NHL games during five seasons with Carolina (2012-17) and has collected 66 points (10-56=66) in 89 career AHL contests with Charlotte. Murphy tallied 220 points (53-167=220) and 122 penalty minutes (PIM) in 228 games during four seasons (2009-13) with the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and was named to the OHL All-Rookie Team in 2010, the OHL First All-Star Team in 2011 and the OHL Second All-Star Team in 2012 and 2013.

The right-shot defenseman was originally selected by Carolina in the first round (12th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

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Clendening Seeks Chance to Play More Regularly
Dave Vest
Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE – The Coyotes added depth on defense when they signed free agent Adam Clendening to a one-year contract on Saturday, the first day of the NHL’s free agent signing period.

Clendening, 24, spent last season playing for the New York Rangers, for whom he notched two goals and nine assists and a plus-3 rating in 31 games.

“It’s a good opportunity,” said Clendening, who is craving more games and ice time. “It’s a chance for me to get maybe an opportunity every night, and really get my foot in the door in the League. I know it’s been a little bit of a rough ride, but we’ll go from there and hopefully it works … They have a lot of hope for me and I know they’re very excited to see what I can do on an every-night basis … I think it gets easier the more you play.”

The Coyotes are Clendening’s sixth NHL team since Chicago drafted him 36th overall in 2011.

“I kind of look at it as a positive,” Clendening said. “I’m still in the League, still kicking away here. People are still wanting me and giving me opportunities. Some teams are in different stages, and I think this is a good spot for me. I think they’re in more of a rebuild and looking to stay young and not in such a win-now mode. Some of the teams I’ve been on have been that way and don’t completely give their young guys a nice little look. I still consider myself relatively young for the League.”

Clendening played with some elite players in Chicago, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Edmonton and New York. He said some of them taught him how to manage the game and how sometimes less is more.

He lists Duncan Keith, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as a few of his mentors.

“I’ve been lucky,” Clendening said. “I’ve played with a lot of All-Stars and superstars. I just tried to take little bits and pieces from everyone and the way they handle themselves, and everything like that, on a daily basis.”

Clendening likely will compete with Luke Schenn and Kevin Connauton for a spot in Arizona’s third defensive pairing. The top two pairs appear set with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Jakob Chychrun and Alex Goligoski.

“We think he can be an impactful player,” Chayka said of Clendening, who played for USA Hockey and Boston University before turning pro. “… He has a lot to offer and hasn’t really gotten the opportunity or chance that he would have liked to date … He’s just an efficient player. He moves the puck and he moves it effectively … He’s got a good stick, he’s smart and he makes plays, so when you put that all together then you end up getting a player that plays a lot in the offensive zone and allows his forwards to get the puck up quick and go on the offense. That’s what we’re looking for from him.”

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Coyotes Sign Campbell
Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – Arizona Coyotes General Manager John Chayka announced today that the Coyotes have signed forwards Zac Rinaldo and Michael Sislo along with defensemen Andrew Campbell and Joel Hanley to two-way contracts. As per club policy, terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

The 29-year-old Campbell recorded 6-16-22 and 62 penalty minutes (PIM) in 75 games with the Toronto Marlies (AHL) last season. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman has collected two assists in 42 career NHL games with the Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs. He has also picked up 31-104-135 and 524 PIM in 595 career AHL games with Toronto, the Portland Pirates and the Manchester Monarchs. The Caledonia, Ont. Native was originally drafted by the Kings in the third round (74th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft.

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Avalanche Signs Agozzino
Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that the team has signed forward Andrew Agozzino and defenseman David Warsofsky to two-year contracts through the 2018-19 season and goaltender Joe Cannata to a one-year deal for the 2017-18 campaign.

This will be the second stint with the Avalanche for Agozzino. The 26-year-old was with the organization from 2012-16, collecting 194 points (79g/115a) in 266 combined games with the club’s American Hockey League affiliates, the then-Lake Erie Monsters and the San Antonio Rampage. He spent the 2016-17 campaign with the Chicago Wolves, finishing with 54 points (18g/36a) in 71 outings.

Agozzino made his NHL debut with the Avalanche on Nov. 22, 2014, against the Carolina Hurricanes and picked up an assist. He has skated in 10 NHL games with Colorado, registering three assists.

An undrafted free agent, the 5-foot-10, 187-pound left wing signed with the Monsters for the 2012-13 campaign, and after recording 52 points (20g/32a) in 76 games, earned a contract with Colorado in March 2013. He was named a starter for the Western Conference at the 2013 AHL All-Star Classic.

A Kleinburg, Ontario, native, Agozzino played five seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs from 2007-12. He served as captain for three campaigns (2009-12) and totaled 306 points (159g/147a) in 318 career OHL contests, all with Niagara.

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Lightning acquire forward Carter Verhaeghe from Islanders
Tampa Bay Lightning

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired forward Carter Verhaeghe from the New York Islanders in exchange for goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Verhaeghe, 21, skated in 45 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League, recording 16 goals and 29 points with 20 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-1, 182-pound forward ranked tied for third on the Sound Tigers for goals and tied for fifth for power-play goals with four. He set career highs for games played, goals, assists, points and power-play goals during the 2016-17 season. Verhaeghe also played in 16 games with the Missouri Mavericks of the ECHL, collecting 12 goals and 32 points.

The Toronto, Ontario native has appeared in 77 career AHL over the past three seasons with the Sound Tigers and Toronto Marlies, collecting 22 goals and 45 points. Verhaeghe played four seasons with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League prior to turning pro, recording 83 goals and 224 points in 262 career games

Verhaeghe was originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third round, 82nd overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft.

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July 3

Red Wings and Ouellet agree to terms on two-year deal
Kyle Kujawa
Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings today agreed to terms with defenseman Xavier Ouellet on a two-year contract.

Ouellet, 23, skated in 66 games with the Red Wings in his first full NHL season and tallied 12 points (3-9-12), a plus-two rating, 51 penalty minutes, 73 hits and 87 blocked shots while averaging 17:58 time on ice. He has logged 96 NHL games since making his NHL debut during the 2013-14 campaign, totaling 16 points (5-11-16), a plus-four rating and 57 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-1, 208-pound defenseman also appeared in 183 games with the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins from 2013-16, notching 62 points (9-53-62), a plus-21 rating and 112 penalty minutes and adding 10 points (3-7-10), a plus-two rating and 18 penalty minutes in 33 AHL postseason games. Ouellet was an AHL All-Star with the Griffins in 2015 and 2016 before graduating to full-time NHL duty.

Originally drafted by the Red Wings in the second round (48th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Ouellet spent four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Montreal Juniors and Blainville-Boisbriand Aramada prior to his professional career. The two-time QMJHL First-Team All-Star appeared in 223 games with the two teams from 2009-13, registering 160 points (41-119-160), a plus-61 rating and 177 penalty minutes. He added 37 points (10-27-37), a plus-10 rating and 54 penalty minutes in 43 QMJHL playoff games. A native of Bayonne, France, Ouellet skates for Canada internationally and contributed a goal and two assists in six games during the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships and won a gold medal at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.

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July 4

Avalanche Signs Nail Yakupov
Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that the team has signed forward Nail Yakupov to a one-year contract for the 2017-18 season.

Yakupov, 23, was the first overall pick by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2012 NHL Draft. He has appeared in 292 career NHL games for the Oilers and St. Louis Blues, tallying 120 points (53g/67a). The Nizhnekamsk, Russia, native skated in 40 games for the Blues this past season, collecting nine points (3g/6a).

“Nail is a young, skilled winger who will add depth to our lineup,” said Avalanche Executive Vice President / General Manager Joe Sakic. “We look forward to seeing him at training camp.”

Yakupov made his NHL debut in 2012-13 and went on to lead all NHL rookies in goals (17) and points (31-tied) in 48 games during that shortened season. He spent four years in Edmonton before being acquired by St. Louis prior to the 2016-17 campaign on Oct. 7.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound right wing played two seasons for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League (2010-12). In 2010-11, he won the Emms Family Award as the OHL’s top rookie and was also named the Canadian Major Junior Rookie of the Year after leading all first-year players with 101 points (49g/52a) in 65 games.

At the international level, Yakupov tied for the team lead with eight points (3g/5a) in seven games to help Russia win the bronze medal as the host nation at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. He also won a silver medal for his country at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Alberta, collecting a team-high nine assists (0g/9a).

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Maksimov at Oilers Camp

July 8

Dallas Stars sign Miro Heiskanen to a three-year entry level contract
Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed defenseman Miro Heiskanen to a three-year entry level contract.

Heiskanen, 17, played for HIFK of the Finnish Elite League in 2016-17, compiling 10 points (5-5=10) in 37 regular season games, and three points (0-3=3) in eight playoff contests. He also represented Finland at both the 2017 U-20 World Junior Championship and the 2017 U-18 World Junior Championship.

In the U-20 World Junior Championship, he recorded one assist in six games. At the 2017 U-18 World Championship, he registered twelve points (2-10=12) in seven games as Finland captured the silver medal. Heiskanen earned best defenseman honors and was named to the tournament all-star team after leading all skaters in assists and all defensemen in points.

The 6-foot-1, 172 pound native of Espoo, Finland was selected with the third overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

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Miro Heiskanen excited about first NHL contract
Mark Stepneski
Dallas Stars

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for Miro Heiskanen. The Stars selected the 17-year-old Finnish defenseman with the third overall pick late last month at the NHL Draft in Chicago. He made his first trip to Texas this week for Stars development camp. And on Saturday, he signed his first NHL contract, a three-year, entry-level deal with the Stars.

“I am really excited,” Heiskanen said. “It’s a big day for me.”

And the Stars are excited about the slick skating Heiskanen, who played in Finland’s top league last season and was considered the top defenseman in this year’s draft.

“He’s a great young player. He was a player our scouts were watching all year, the last couple of years,” Stars GM Jim Nill said. “I was able to go to the Under-18 World Championships and see him. He was arguably one of the best players over there and maybe the best defenseman. He’s what you are looking for in an NHL defenseman. He can skate, he can move the puck. He’s a guy that is never under pressure; the game looks awful easy to him. We’re excited that he is part of our future. I think he really helps moving our defense moving forward.”

A lot of people took notice of Heiskanen after that performance at the 2017 Under-18 World Championship, where he tallied 12 points (two goals, ten assists) in seven games as Finland took home a silver medal. He was strong in the Finnish Elite League as well, logging almost 19 minutes per game for HIFK and recording ten points (five goals, five assists) in 37 games. One of his teammates was Stars prospect Roope Hintz, the highly regarded second-round pick from 2015.

“He’s very good people, very good guy and very good on the ice,” Hintz said. “He’s a very good skater, and he can play with the puck. And he has it here (pointing to his head) also.”

All of that strong play and those attributes added up to Heiskanen going third overall in the draft.

“I didn’t know where I was going, but it’s nice to be third overall,” Heiskanen said. “It’s an amazing feeling, and now I have to work as hard as I can and play in the NHL as soon as possible.”

The Stars will give Heiskanen a look this September. Nill said Heiskanen will come back to North America to play at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan and then attend Dallas Stars training camp. If Heiskanen can’t crack the NHL lineup, then he’ll likely go back to Finland.

“I want to see him in camp. He’s a very young player still. Sometimes you can get ahead of yourself in this game. He is still only 17-years-old,” Nill said. “My preference is if he isn’t making the Dallas Stars he is probably going to go back to Finland for one more year. That’s the best thing for him. Let’s just see where he’s at. I don’t want to make any promises either way. He understands that. We’ve had a good talk with his representatives and him. He knows where we stand. In the end, a player’s play will dictate where he ends up. He’s either going to be here in Dallas or what I think is probably back in Finland.”

For now, Heiskanen is getting his taste of Dallas Stars development camp and his first experience in Texas.

“It’s been really great,” Heiskanen said. “It’s a really hot place, a lot hotter than Finland. I like it here.”

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July 13

Andrei Loktionov Agrees to Professional Tryout with LA Kings
LAKings.com

Andrei Loktionov has agreed to a professional tryout (PTO) with the LA Kings ahead of the 2017-18 season.

The PTO means the 27-year-old native of Voskresensk, Russia could return to the team that drafted him 123rd overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He will attend Kings training camp in September.

Last season, Loktionov registered 27 points (12-15=27) in 58 games for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL. He added 12 points (4-8=12) in 14 games during Lokomotiv’s run to the Western Conference finals of the Gagarin Cup.

Loktionov previously played 155 games in the NHL, amassing 48 points (22-26=48) during that time.

He scored his first NHL goal while a member of the Kings against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 20, 2010.

Loktionov also captured a Gold Medal at the 2014 IIHF World Championship while playing for Team Russia.

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July 14

MacDermid re-signs with Los Angeles
LAKings.com

The LA Kings have signed forwards Justin Auger and Andrew Crescenzi, along with defensemen Zachary Leslie and Kurtis MacDermid to one-year, two-way contract extensions, Kings Vice President and General Manager Rob Blake announced today.

All four of the players’ contracts carry a $650,000 cap hit at the NHL level.

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The 23-year-old MacDermid (born March 25, 1994) is a 6-5, 239-pound native of Sauble Beach, Ontario who appeared in 58 regular-season games this past season with Ontario, recording 20 points (6-14=20), a plus-11 rating and 135 penalty minutes.

He also appeared in all five postseason games for Ontario, going scoreless with a plus-4 rating and four penalty minutes.

Signed by the Kings as an unrestricted free agent on Sept. 12, 2012, MacDermid has appeared in 114 regular-season AHL games, posting 36 points (10-26=36), a plus-35 rating and 256 penalty minutes. He’s played in 18 postseason games, tallying three points (2-1=3) and 16 penalty minutes.

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Heiskanen impresses early with Stars
Sean Shapiro
NHL.com

FRISCO, Texas — Miro Heiskanen got his first taste of Texas summers during Dallas Stars development camp.

Although it was relatively cool in the rink, the temperature outside was in the upper 90s during the July 7-11 camp. That could have been a reason to complain, but Heiskanen embraced the heat.

“It’s been really great,” the defenseman prospect said. “It’s a really hot place, a lot hotter than Finland. I like it here.”

Heiskanen, the No. 3 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, had plenty of things to like about development camp, most notably signing his entry-level contract July 8.

“I am really excited,” he said. “It’s a big day for me.”

The Stars have big plans for Heiskanen, who is their highest pick since Mike Modano was taken No. 1 in 1988 when they were the Minnesota North Stars.

“We’re excited for Miro,” Dallas general manager Jim Nill said. “He’s a player our scouts have watched all year. He’s what you’re looking for in a prototype defenseman nowadays. He can skate, he moves the puck, he’s a guy that’s never under pressure. The game looks awful easy to him.”

Heiskanen (6-foot, 170 pounds), who turns 18 on July 18, had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 37 games with HIFK in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland. He also had 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) for Finland at the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, and was named the tournament’s best defenseman.

The Stars’ other prospects got a firsthand view of Heiskanen’s skill set during the five-day camp at their practice facility. Jason Robertson, their 2017 second-round pick (No. 39), went head-to-head with Heiskanen during a puck-control drill Sunday and was impressed.

“He’s a very skilled guy, not only on defense, but when I was on defense and how he handled the puck,” Robertson said. “I was shocked at how good he handled the puck and how well he skated.”

That wasn’t much of a surprise to left wing Roope Hintz, a second-round pick (No. 49) in 2015 who was Heiskanen’s teammate last season with HIFK.

“He’s very good people, very good guy and very good on the ice. He’s a very good skater and he can play with the puck. And he has it here also,” Hintz said while pointing to his head.

The Stars want to be patient with Heiskanen, but he is going to be on their roster for the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in September and could win an NHL roster spot with a strong training camp.

“My preference is if he isn’t making the Dallas Stars, he is probably going to go back to Finland for one more year,” Nill said. “That’s the best thing for him. Let’s just see where he’s at. I don’t want to make any promises either way. He understands that.”

That development path fits well with the Stars’ current roster. They have a number of young right-handed defensemen, but Heiskanen, a left shot, could fit in after the contracts of veterans Marc Methot and Dan Hamhuis expire within the next two seasons.

“Now I have to work as hard as I can and play in the NHL as soon as possible,” Heiskanen said. “I think I can do that if everything goes well.”

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July 15

July 19

Blackhawks prospect William Pelletier goes from roller hockey to Rockford
Chris Hine
Chicago Tribune

A hockey player can take many paths to becoming a professional.

Winger William Pelletier took one of the rarer routes possible, one that carried him from Division III hockey to the Rockford IceHogs — with an assist from roller hockey.

“When you’re young, you always dream to play professional hockey,” Pelletier said. “But it’s rare to see someone to go from Division III to the AHL right away.”

Pelletier, one of the young players at this week’s Blackhawks prospect camp, was unsure whether he would be noticed by NHL talent evaluators when he played at Norwich University, a private military school in Northfield, Vt.

But in his spare time, the Quebec native played in a roller-hockey league with Pierre-Cedric Labrie, a former IceHog who told Pelletier he would talk to Rockford general manager Mark Bernard about him.

“He asked if I would like to get a tryout with Rockford,” Pelletier said. “I told him, ‘Why not? It could be a good idea.’

“During my last season during the playoffs, I texted him and said, ‘Hey is it still there if I wanted a tryout with you guys?’”

Bernard said he also heard about Pelletier from former Hawks assistant Mike Kitchen. After Pelletier was named the MVP of the Division III tournament for leading Norwich to the national championship in May, Bernard brought in Pelletier for a tryout.

The 5-foot-7 Pelletier, 24, hoped to land a roster spot in the mid-level East Coast Hockey League. Bernard thought he was trying out Pelletier for a slot on the Indy Fuel, the Hawks’ ECHL affiliate. But when Pelletier took the ice during a Rockford practice, Bernard was impressed.

Rockford shocked Pelletier by offering him an amateur tryout contract.

“I was not supposed to play,” Pelletier said. “I was supposed to practice and see how it goes. After the first practice they asked me if I wanted to be in the lineup the next night and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ Everything worked out pretty well.”

Pelletier made an instant impression with Rockford, scoring three goals with four assists in eight games. He earned a one-year AHL contract and a chance to further prove himself next season.

“Even though he’s smaller in stature, he’s strong. He’s a thick kid,” Bernard said. “He’s hard to knock off the puck. I really liked his battle and compete level last year when he came to Rockford. The thing I like the most is he doesn’t shy away from the busy areas. He goes to the corners. He goes to the front of the net, and he endeared himself to his teammates right away in Rockford.”

And with that, Pelletier cemented his quick, unusual rise from Division III college hockey to the AHL.

“I’m sure there were a lot Division I players shaking their heads going, ‘Wait a minute here.’” Bernard said. “It is rare. There’s a lot of good players that get overlooked for whatever reason who end up in Division III hockey and he came in, took advantage of that opportunity.”

It’s more than he could have hoped for considering where he was not long ago.

“It’s amazing,” Pelletier said. “The Blackhawks are a great organization and it’s a dream come true.”

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Aug 2

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Aug 7

Sharks Re-Sign Goodrow
San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE – San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has re-signed forward Barclay Goodrow (@bgoodrow23) to a two-year contract.

“Barclay played a key role in the success of the Barracuda last season and we feel he took a step forward in his development,” said Sharks Assistant General Manager and San Jose Barracuda General Manager Joe Will. “He took on more of a leadership role with the Barracuda and we look forward to him competing for a spot in the NHL this season.”

Last season, Goodrow, 24, recorded 45 points (25 goals, 20 assists) in 61 games with the San Jose Barracuda, the American Hockey League affiliate of the San Jose Sharks. His 25 goals led the team, and he finished 4th in points for the Barracuda. Additionally, he ranked 4th on the team with a plus-16 rating, and scored four of the team’s 14 shorthanded goals to lead that category as well. He played in all 15 playoff games with the AHL club this postseason, where he collected five goals, five assists, a plus-three rating and 45 shots on goal. He also played three games with the Sharks in 2016-17, registering an assist and three shots on goal.

Goodrow has 125 games of AHL experience with the San Jose Barracuda and the Worcester Sharks. In that time, he has 47 goals, 43 assists and a plus-25 rating.

In 77 career NHL games with the Sharks, Goodrow picked up 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists). In addition, he has an even rating, two game-winning goals, and two shorthanded points.

The six-foot-two, 215-pound forward is a native of Toronto, Ontario. He was originally signed by San Jose as a free agent on March 16, 2014.

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Aug 9

Miro Heiskanen Talks Upcoming Season, First Trip to US
Defending Big D

Aug 13

Thomas Chabot semble prêt à combler les attentes
Eric LeBlanc
RDS

QUÉBEC – Parmi l’imposant bassin de 60 joueurs au Boot Camp de Québec, Thomas Chabot pique la curiosité puisqu’il pourrait disputer sa première saison dans la LNH en 2017-2018 et il détient les atouts pour y parvenir avec fracas.

Le défenseur gaucher de 20 ans poursuit sa préparation estivale en participant à ce rendez-vous et il en profite pour déployer son style intrusif contre des adversaires de haut calibre.

Le moment est idéal pour tester le tout étant donné qu’il sait très bien qu’il attirera l’attention au camp d’entraînement des Sénateurs d’Ottawa. C’est tout simplement normal à la suite de son épatante dernière saison dans la LHJMQ et sa performance au Championnat mondial junior qui lui a valu le titre de joueur par excellence.

« Je vais arriver avec la même mentalité que l’an dernier. Je m’étais présenté au camp d’entraînement en voulant me tailler une place à temps plein. J’ai eu la chance de le faire pour le début de la saison sauf que je n’ai joué qu’un match. Je veux vraiment rentrer dans le club cette année et je souhaite leur forcer la main le plus possible », a expliqué Chabot qui avait affronté les Coyotes de l’Arizona le 18 octobre.

Renvoyé chez les Sea Dogs de Saint John au début novembre, Chabot a redoublé d’ardeur et il a bénéficié d’une aide précieuse pour accomplir la mission qu’il s’était fixée.

« On a souvent douté du fait que j’étais un défenseur bon dans les deux sens de la patinoire. C’était important pour moi de le prouver à tout le monde durant la dernière année. J’ai travaillé très fort avec mon entraîneur des défenseurs, Paul Boutilier », a raconté Chabot en citant cet homme de hockey réputé.

« J’ai passé beaucoup de temps à étudier des vidéos et je sautais souvent sur la patinoire avant la plupart des joueurs… J’ai vu l’occasion qui se présentait avec le Championnat mondial junior, je savais que je serais le défenseur de confiance et j’ai voulu en profiter pour montrer que je pouvais jouer contre les meilleurs joueurs de mon âge. Ça s’est bien passé et j’étais bien satisfait », a relaté le patineur de la Beauce en marge de cet événement qui amasse des fonds pour la Fondation québécoise du cancer.

Pour les partisans qui ont eu la chance de constater son aisance sur la glace au cours des derniers mois, il serait difficile de parier contre les chances de Chabot de mériter un poste régulier avec les Sens. C’est encore plus plausible à la suite de la perte de Marc Methot.

S’il convainc l’entraîneur Guy Boucher et son adjoint Marc Crawford – qui chapeaute les défenseurs – de miser sur lui dès maintenant, Chabot se dit persuadé que sa progression ne dérogera pas de sa tangente actuelle.

« Je pense qu’ils peuvent m’aider beaucoup. En restant avec eux pendant seulement un mois, j’ai appris beaucoup autant sur la patinoire qu’à l’extérieur. C’est certain que je vais me développer encore plus si j’ai la chance de rester avec l’équipe pendant une saison complète », a commenté celui qui a souvent passé 30 minutes ou plus sur la patinoire lors des parties des Sea Dogs la saison passée.

Malgré son évolution évidente, Chabot ne se plaindra pas de la gestion parfois intransigeante de Crawford avec ses protégés.

« Évidemment, c’est différent du junior. Tout le monde doit être exigeant, c’est un travail. C’est comme mon père qui doit s’assurer de bien faire le sien tous les jours quand il va enseigner. Marc m’a beaucoup parlé et il a passé du temps avec moi, je me sentais choyé d’avoir cette chance. En même temps, je sais que rien ne sera facile au niveau professionnel », a évalué Chabot avec maturité.

Informé du décès du vénérable Bryan Murray, Chabot a vanté la passion de cet homme inséparable du hockey. Ce décès vient s’ajouter à la liste de tragédies ayant heurté les Sénateurs comme l’épreuve du cancer subie par la femme de Craig Anderson.

Un défi personnel et collectif pour Ouellet

Chabot espère donc s’établir dans la LNH sans tarder. Un autre défenseur québécois, Xavier Ouellet, n’a pas réussi à emprunter la voie rapide avec les Red Wings de Detroit qui sont réputés pour leur patience avec leurs espoirs.

Après avoir disputé ses 4 premières parties dans la LNH en 2013-2014, Ouellet a dû se contenter de 21 rencontres la saison suivante et seulement 5 en 2015-2016. Sa patience a finalement rapporté lors du plus récent calendrier avec 66 matchs. Xavier Ouellet

Malheureusement pour Ouellet, ça s’est produit alors que les Wings ont été écartés des éliminatoires à la suite d’une impressionnante séquence de 25 participations.

Ce contexte renferme tout de même du positif puisque Ouellet pourra participer à la relance de cette organisation.

« J’ai vraiment hâte que ça commence, j’ai signé un nouveau contrat de deux ans ce qui me donne deux saisons pour continuer à me prouver. Je suis vraiment excité par la nouvelle saison et le nouvel aréna », a déclaré l’athlète de 24 ans.

À son avis, son équipe a surtout souffert d’une carence expliquant cette conclusion décevante.

« Ça va prendre plus de constance, c’est vraiment ce qui a coûté cher la saison dernière », a ciblé l’ancien du Junior de Montréal et de l’Armada de Blainville-Boisbriand.

D’ailleurs, Ouellet entend exercer une influence considérable pour renverser la vapeur.

« Je crois que l’expérience va m’aider à jouer encore mieux. J’arrive au plateau des 100 matchs dans la LNH (96 au compteur) et ça paraît. Tu maîtrises mieux tes repères et tu sais davantage comment gérer tes matchs; je pense que ça fera une grosse différence », a affirmé le gaucher.

Le choix de deuxième ronde en 2011 se dit donc convaincu de pouvoir propulser son jeu de quelques crans. Cette évolution serait la bienvenue, car les fervents des Wings ne risquent pas de tolérer longtemps les printemps trop longs.

« C’est certain que la pression sera présente, mais ce n’est rien de nouveau. La dose sera peut-être un peu supérieure avec ce qui est arrivé l’an passé, mais c’est à nous de revenir en force », a conclu Ouellet qui était un acteur prépondérant de ses clubs dans le junior.

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Aug 14

Aug 20

Maple Leafs’ Leivo on avoiding Vegas: Babcock’s ‘excited to give me another shot’
Lance Hornby
Toronto Sun

TORONTO — For Josh Leivo, there’s a silver lining to not becoming a Golden Knight.

After four seasons of toil, holding on to hope from the fringes of Toronto’s roster, he’s still part of what should be the most competitive Maple Leaf teams in years. While going to the incoming Las Vegas club via the expansion draft might have worked in the long run, he’d be starting from scratch there with many like-minded forwards on their second, third or perhaps last chance as NHLers.

Instead, Leaf coach Mike Babcock told him in their late April exit meeting to keep plugging away this summer, an early signal he’d be protected in the expansion draft. As Leivo’s 24th birthday passed, he was indeed on Toronto’s safe list after many thought he’d be exposed and be the Knights’ selection from the Leafs. Instead, Vegas took sniper Brendan Leipsic of the AHL Marlies.

“You didn’t know what was going to happen at the time, but when they informed me they wanted to keep me, it was wonderful to hear,” Leivo said this week as the Leafs conduct informal summer workouts. “They wanted to develop me and keep me on the roster. I’m very excited they gave me that opportunity. I just want to go out this year and prove myself to them.”

Leivo, however, will once again face some daunting obstacles to working his way off the taxi squad.

Right wingers William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Connor Brown won’t just give up their spots. That trio, all younger than Leivo, as well as veteran fourth line pest control expert Matt Martin, missed a total of only six regular season games last year. The left side is crowded, too.

But Leivo just never goes away, with 10 points in 13 games last year and a combined 18 points in 41 games since his NHL debut in 2013-14. That would put him close to 40 points when projected through a full season, hence the attraction for Vegas or perhaps other teams in future trade talks.

The Innisfil, Ont., native garnered praise — and even some power play duty — from Babcock when he did get ice time. But Leivo’s part-time status also subjected him to some roster machinations.

Vague injuries and a five-game conditioning stint with the Marlies that still saw him unable to play upon return constantly clouded his status in 2016-17. And this year, Kasperi Kapanen, Nikita Soshnikov and other Marlie forwards might further intensify the job hunt when crucial exhibition games roll around next month.

“Young guys are fighting for spots, but I feel it’s like that every year here,” Leivo said. “As you get older, you realize what’s at stake and you want to make the most of the chance. We have a group who built a lot of chemistry last year. Even when I wasn’t playing, they were still great to me and when I got in, I felt like I hadn’t missed a game. Hopefully this season is even better.

“They knew I did well last year and I think Mike was excited to give me another shot.”

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Lyle in OHL spotlight feature
Nugget.ca

They say a dose of disappointment makes one stronger. North Bay Battalion defenceman Brady Lyle has identified with that old adage over the course of the summer, one that included the longest day of his life.

Ranked 53rd among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings ahead of the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, Lyle and his family weighed the options and decided to make the trek to the Windy City. 500 miles, two days and seven rounds later, Lyle, along with a smattering of other disappointed prospects, returned home without hearing their names called.

“It was a choice, I knew it was kind of possible,” he said with a pause. “I wasn’t expecting it to turn out that way, but it happened.”

At a crossroads, Lyle didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the experience, opting rather to use it as a springboard to something bigger as he got busy preparing for his third OHL season in his hometown of North Bay.

“It just adds motivation,” he said. “The people that know me know that I work pretty hard and I’m a driven person. It gives me that extra edge and determination when I think about the whole ordeal. It makes me want to be a better player.”

The 6-foot-1, 196Ib. right-shot defenceman was originally a first round (18th overall) pick of the Battalion in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection out of Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep., a private school in Faribault, Minn. that is best known for developing NHL star Sidney Crosby. Lyle overcame a broken collarbone in the pre-season of his rookie campaign with the Troops before recording 10 points (1-9–10) in 44 games. He made progress this past season, putting up 25 points (4-21–25) in 58 contests.

Though hockey, like anything in life, presents its share of obstacles, there are folks along the way who can identify with the struggle, those who have walked through similar situations in their own lives. Fortunately for Lyle, one such person hangs out just down the hallway at North Bay Memorial Gardens.

“It fuels you, I missed the draft twice and didn’t get picked until I was 19,” said Battalion assistant coach and former Mastercard Memorial Cup champion Adam Dennis. “I hope Brady turns this into the best thing that ever happened to him.

“He’s auditioning for 31 teams now instead of just one.”

Lyle’s deep roots in North Bay have made him a valued member of the team in the community. He enjoys interacting with kids at minor hockey practices in the city and is able to live at home with his family throughout the season. His father Dave owns and operates The Abbey Cards & Gifts, a long-standing business in downtown North Bay.

A smooth-skating, puck-moving defenceman, Lyle grew up admiring OHL players Dylan Staples and Danny Desrochers as a young player in North Bay.

“The Lyle family are big contributors in the community,” noted Dennis. “Brady has come up through the minor hockey system here and the kids really look up to him. He’s really embraced his standing as a role model and I think his hard work and determination sets a great example for younger players.”

North Bay fans, often referred to as the ‘seventh man’, are likely to see more of their hometown product this season as he takes on more responsibility alongside established defenders in Arizona Coyotes prospect Cam Dineen, Swedish sophomore Adam Thilander and a trio of overage possibilities in captain Riley Bruce, Zach Shankar and Jesse Saban.

“I think I’m ready to step into more of a leadership role and provide some more offence from the back end,” he said. “I think we have a few guys frustrated with the way things went last season, whether that’s because of injuries or just the way that we played as a team. We’re not going to stand for that repeating itself, so it’s needless to say we all have higher expectations.”

It should be mentioned that Lyle’s summer wasn’t totally shrouded in disappointment. An invitation to Development Camp with the Anaheim Ducks as a free agent invitee provided a silver lining and something that left quite an impression on him.

“What a great experience,” he reflected. “It was 10-times better than I expected it to be, just seeing their facilities and the way that they treated us. I was really thankful to receive a lot of useful feedback from their player development staff.”

Ironically enough, Lyle’s exit meeting was with Ducks Director of Player Development Todd Marchant, a former 16-year NHL veteran who wasn’t drafted until he was almost 20 years-old.

“It really gave me some perspective,” he noted. “We talked about guys who got passed over but still ended up being successful NHL players because of hard work and determination, guys like Martin St. Louis.

“Whatever happens in the future, I was really inspired by my time in Anaheim, just to get a taste of that environment. It’s definitely left me wanting more.”

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Aug 22

Seguin ready to shift back to center with Stars
Dave McCarthy
NHL.com

TORONTO — Tyler Seguin will get a chance to be the No. 1 center for the Dallas Stars this season, playing the position exclusively after being shifted to wing at times the past few seasons.

It’s something coach Ken Hitchcock, who was hired to replace Lindy Ruff on April 13, stated was his intention, and Seguin is all for it.

“Absolutely, I feel like I’m a natural centerman,” Seguin said at BioSteel Camp on Monday. “The past few years, I’ve kind of flipped back and forth. I don’t get angry when I’m playing the wing, but I definitely get a little more excited when I’m playing center. Through all the ups and downs like every season has, I hope I stay a centerman and I look forward to working with our new coach and getting better at the position.”

Seguin said playing center allows him to be more creative with the puck and generate offense more effectively.

“It enhances my speed first and foremost,” Seguin said. “I find a lot of times when I’m on the wing, I can’t really get my speed going as quickly to start a play. You’re kind of standing still more as you’re going back on offense, so definitely being a centerman, I’m more happy there.”

Seguin had 72 points (26 goals, 46 assists) in 82 games last season, but the Stars failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs after finishing 34-37-11, 15 points out of the first wild card from the Western Conference. Dallas acquired, and then signed, goaltender Ben Bishop in a trade from the Los Angeles Kings, acquired defenseman Marc Methot in a trade from the Vegas Golden Knights, and signed unrestricted free agent forwards Alexander Radulov, Martin Hanzal and Tyler Pitlick.

Seguin said the signing of Radulov, who agreed to a five-year, $31.25 million contract July 3, had him most excited.

“I was really happy to get a goalie, and when we got Hanzal, I thought to myself, ‘That’s the forward we probably need,’ and that was going to be huge,” he said, “but when we topped it off with Radulov, it got me a little giddy. I was definitely excited to see that.”

Although they have not met, Seguin said he has been texting with Radulov, who had 54 points (18 goals, 36 assists) in 76 games for the Montreal Canadiens last season, and is hoping he gets the chance to play with the right wing.

“Absolutely, I do,” Seguin said. “Obviously with him playing in the Eastern Conference, you don’t see him too much. I’ll be honest, I’ve looked at some YouTube clips and stuff, and I can see how good a player he is. He’s so good on the puck, he’s a good playmaker, and he’s a guy who always has good puck-possession numbers. You can see he controls the play, so I’m looking forward to that.”

With the improvements made, Seguin knows the expectations will be for the Stars to return to the playoffs and be among the top teams in the conference. Dallas finished as the No. 1 seed in the conference in 2015-16 after going 50-23-9 (109 points).

“I think the expectations from all of us are going to be high,” he said. “We’ve had these summers with the Stars organization where we’ve made some big moves. It started with my first year (in 2013), there were a lot of big moves that summer. Now with a new coach and new everything, I think this might be the biggest of moves in an offseason. So I don’t know how much more you can do with X’s and O’s; there’s no excuses. It’s in the room now; it’s in our team to put it together starting at training camp.”

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Josh Ho-Sang Q&A: Tavares’ decision, Calder chances, zoos, cartoons
Luke Fox
Sportsnet

TORONTO – Bright, shiny things await Josh Ho-Sang.

After wrapping up Day 1 at BioSteel Camp, rushing up and down the St. Michael’s College ice pad alongside friend Connor McDavid, the New York Islanders’ super rookie is off to take in the solar eclipse with his mom.

“She’s really excited about it,” says the creative right winger, smiling. “I can’t let her down.”

Since Ho-Sang’s well-chronicled training camp late-show in 2015, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone No. 66 has let down. (And, yes, haters, Mario Lemieux approves of Ho-Sang’s sweater number.)

As an AHL call-up in 2016-17, the 2014 first-rounder wasted no time making an impact at the NHL level, collecting 10 points in a 21-game look and positioning himself as the type of offensive threat who could earn Calder consideration this season—especially if defenders are preoccupied with the new guy, Jordan Eberle, ahead of Ho-Sang on the Islanders’ depth chart.

Today, as always, Ho-Sang wears his passion for hockey on the sleeve of his red New York Giants windbreaker, but he doesn’t shy away from topics away from the ice.

His answer to the ambiguity surrounding Isles captain John Tavares’ future in New York, for example, is wiser and more worldly than you might expect from a 21-year-old jock.

“If you care about John Tavares as a person, then it doesn’t really matter where he ends up. It’s about his personal happiness and well-being,” says Ho-Sang, noting Tavares’ public preference to remain an Islander long term. “Whatever decision he makes is for John, and you have to be happy for him.”

Monday we caught up with Ho-Sang for a quick chat about Tavares, the AHL-NHL talent gap, his definition of greatness, and how he’d style his mask were he to play goal.

SPORTSNET.CA: How’s your summer going?
JOSH HO-SANG: It’s been great. Just hanging out, training every day, so it’s been lots of fun.

Training aside, what’s the most fun you’ve had?
I’ve done lots of fun stuff. I went to the zoo. I went to museums. I went camping. I went to New York a couple times. It was a pretty slow summer, mostly training and stuff. I have a big year next year.

The best zoo animal is…?
I think the orangutans. They’re cool beans. I went to the Toronto Zoo and the zoo in New York.

Describe the biggest difference between the AHL and the NHL.
Planes and buses.

That’s it?
That’s it. Obviously people see a big contrast between the AHL and NHL. There is one, but all the guys in the AHL are really, really good. A lot of those guys can play in the NHL. I played against some really good hockey players there. That league attributed to me being able to come into the NHL and being able to produce OK. It helped me hit the ground running up there.

For the first time in three years, there is no generational player in the NHL rookie class. The 2018 Calder Trophy race is seemingly wide open. Is it a goal of yours to be in that conversation?
Yes and no. As an athlete, I believe that individual trophies are nice, but if you’re the best player in the world, your team is winning all the time. If that’s what your striving for, your team is more of a reflection of you. I see it a lot in basketball lately. People want to talk about who the best basketball player is. If you say it’s LeBron James, well, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant won it this year. I’d say those guys are the best. It’s tough in sports to grade what makes a guy exceptional. I think it’s your ability to make the players around you better and help your team go for a run. If your team hasn’t made the playoffs and you change that — like Connor — that’s greatness. His team hadn’t made the playoffs in [10] years and he goes to the team. His first full season, they make the playoffs. That, in my eyes, is greatness. That’s what I’m chasing. I want to win as many Stanley Cups as I can. That’s my focus. If individual trophies come along, it’s nice. But if I can be a winner my whole career, it’s a better life to live.

Your Twitter feed is a stream of inspirational messages. What’s the motivation behind that?
I stopped for a bit because there was a bit of cyber bullying going on my social media.

How so? You got harsh responses to your tweets from fans?
Yeah, just stupid stuff I didn’t want to deal with. I see everything people say on Instagram, their comments. It’s gotten more positive than it was, but when I got sent back from camp, people were really negative. I’m not a fan of negativity in my life. I stopped tweeting for a bit.

It’s nice because people have sort of forgiven me for that and I can pass my messages. As far as the inspiration, I believe as an athlete you have a voice. Whether it’s 100 people or 2,000 people seeing my tweets, every person that reads them takes that information in and they can use that in their own life. You’re gently touching each life that you come across. As an athlete, that’s your duty. You have the ability to voice your opinion and spread a message to, say, 10,000 people in one day. The average person can only talk to, like, four people a day. You have to take advantage of that, and it’s something you’re starting to see athletes do. For me, it’s important for kids. I had a lot of people tell me I couldn’t do stuff when I was younger. It’s important for little kids to know that as much as it’s important to follow the rules, it’s important to break through them too. [smiles]

John Tavares says he’s in “no rush” to sign a contract. As a teammate, how does that make you feel?
I respect what John is doing. He has every right to take his time. He still has a year on his contract. He’s not going anywhere. He’s not disrespecting anyone. He’s taking the length of his contract, and I don’t see a problem with that. I know for fans it’s unsettling because there’s no security. If Johnny’s gonna stay, he’ll stay and be great. If Johnny wants to leave, that’s up to him, and I’m sure he has very good reasons as to why. As an outsider, as a fan, you want to feel attached to the decision, but at the end of the day, if you’re attached to John Tavares the person, whatever he does is for him. You have to be happy for him. I’m really happy to hopefully play a full season with Johnny and learn as much as I can because I don’t know what’s going to happen with him.

What’s the biggest thing you learned about Tavares the person?
He gets it. That’s how I explain John. He does the right thing every day and knows why he’s doing it. He doesn’t question it. John is sick. He’s a good dude to be around because he’s so focused.

Does hockey need more scoring?
Make the nets bigger. It’s not rocket science. They can literally make the nets wider and not make them [deeper]. It’s the same game. If you want more goals, that’s what I’d do. The goalies are really good. That’s reality. The technology side has to give because athletes are just going to keep getting better. There are goalies who aren’t in the NHL that are outrageously good.

If you were a goalie, what would you put on your mask?
There’s some funny stuff out there. The goalies’ freedom of expression is cool. I’d put a bunch of cartoon characters.

You watch a lot of cartoons?
Yeah, they’re so funny.

Like what?
I love old cartoons, new cartoons. I used to love Johnny Bravo, Ren & Stimpy. I love Family Guy, Futurama, American Dad. I love kids’ cartoons, too: SpongeBob, Johnny Test, Danny Phantom… I watch all those shows. Life of a hockey player.

Is that how you kill time travelling, watching cartoons on your tablet?
When I have to. When I travel. I read a lot, too.

What do you read?
All kinds of stuff. Depends on my mood. Sometimes I’m in the mood to learn. Sometimes I’m not at all, so I’ll read stories. I like facts a lot. Weird facts are cool.

Biographies, then?
It depends on the person. I have to be interested. I can’t read up on a subject I don’t care about. I need to like it.

Give me an example.
This past year I read Malcolm X’s biography. That was really good. I read 1,000 Facts on World Geography. It goes into detail about the different mountains and glaciers and all that stuff. Cool stuff.

What was the Islanders’ message to you this summer ahead of what should be your first full NHL season?
Get good.

That’s it?
It’s simple. They want me to come in and be the best. It’s not much more complicated than that. They want me to be a top player in the league, and that’s what I want. So it’s easy.

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Aug 24

Johnson and Savard produce as a pairing
Alison Lukan
Bluejackets.com

Last season saw the pairing of Jack Johnson and David Savard take on a new role on the blue line and it was one in which they flourished. In the process, the two became a big part of how the defensive “engine of the Blue Jackets” is evolving.

“Our back end is as hard to play against as anybody in this league,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “(Johnson and Savard) are heavy, mobile, and strong as bulls.”

What underlies this assessment?

When the 2016-17 season started, Johnson and Savard not only heard head coach John Tortorella’s message that defensemen should join the rush and become part of the team’s offensive efforts, they also saw that they would be changing when they played.

With rookie Zach Werenski and Seth Jones taking over on the two power play units, veterans Johnson and Savard decided their calling was to be as sharp as possible at their defensive game.

“Our role changed from last year and we wanted to play really well defensively,” Savard said. “That’s what we focused on early in the year. That’s what we’re trying to do every night.

“Settling into our defensive play gives us more chance to go on the offense. Because we are playing defensively, we close guys quicker, and we get more chances to go in the offensive zone.”

And the on-ice results showed that the pairing’s efforts produced results.

They became the twosome that the coaches put on the ice to protect a lead and assistant coach Brad Shaw would deploy for more defensive zone starts.

Johnson saw his defensive zone starts increase by just over four instances per 60 minutes according to naturalstattrick.com, and Savard saw his grow by two-and-a-half per 60. Even with the change, both players’ play produced a slight decrease in scoring chances against per 60 when they were on the ice.

Each player also slightly improved in shot attempts against per 60 over the 15-16 season, (Johnson went from 58.65/60 in 15-16 to 56.28 while Savard went from 57.55 in 15-16 to 54.97).

“I have a huge comfort level with them knowing what I’m going to get every time I put them on the ice,” Shaw said. “You can’t say a much better thing about a D pair. To play that consistent game with and without the puck is a really tough thing to do on a nightly basis. They seem to have found a groove individually and as a pair working off one another.”

But showing up defensively wasn’t the only goal for Tortorella’s defense, and Johnson and Savard answered the offensive bell as well. Even in a new role, Savard stayed consistent in five-on-five points scored per 60 from 2015-16 (.8) to 2016-17 (.9) while Jack Johnson saw a jump in point production from .3 points/60 two years ago to .7/60 last year according to firstlinestats.com.

“It was exciting to play for Tortorella because he was encouraging us to get up (and join the offense),” Johnson said. “I haven’t had that many coaches over the years encouraging defensemen to get up there.”

And for Shaw, so much of the pair’s evolution on both sides of the puck ties back to the mindset they had coming in – to be the best defensive pair on the team.

“To make that statement changes how you play,” Shaw said. “You play with less risk, you don’t get on the wrong side of the puck quite as often. When you know you have to provide the example, it changes how you play. You play more positionally.

“It doesn’t take away from how often they’ve done a good job getting up in the play, that’s not what we’re trying to take away from them. They’ve done a great job of blending it. Their reads on when to (play defensively and when to play offensively) have been fantastic.”

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Aug 28

Aug 31