Yes, that’s right, my week in junior hockey, not weekend.
Last week I grappled with a full slate of Canadian Hockey League madness as I helped cover the Top Prospects game, junior hockey’s annual showcase of the best draft-eligible talent, for the Canadian Press in addition to my regular duties.
It all started on Monday night when I went to the teams’ practices and interviewed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels, currently ranked third amongst North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting department.
I was really pleased with my finished profile. “Nugent-Hopkins focused on improving his game” illustrated how impressively modest and grounded this young play-making centre is.
“It’s been an eventful week for Red Deer Rebels star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Just six days ago Nugent-Hopkins was ranked third among draft-eligible North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting department. Days later, he was named captain of Team Orr for the Canadian Hockey League’s Top Prospects game Wednesday night.
The six-foot centre is keeping it all in perspective though and remains humble about the two achievements.” Read the rest at Yahoo! Sports Canada.
On Tuesday morning I went to watch the Next Testing combine where the skaters for the Top Prospects games were put through their paces to measure and compare their skating ability through a series of drills. I didn’t have a piece to work on, I just wanted to see what it was all about and get to take in some of the best young players in the game in person.
I was most impressed with two players during the combine: Daniel Catenacci of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Sven Bartschi of the Portland Winterhawks.
Catenacci blew me away with his speed. I didn’t have a stopwatch or anything with me, but it was clear that he was by far the fastest player on the ice that morning.
Bartschi’s seemingly effortless strides really struck me. He could keep pace with most of his competition, often peeling away from most of them, apparently without breaking a sweat. Incredible.
Wednesday was the main event. I joined my CP colleague Shi Davidi at the Air Canada Centre. He did the game story for wide release while I was responsible for the game’s sidebar and producing the agate file for paginators across Canada.
The morning was spent doing media scrums around head coaches Don Cherry and Doug Gilmour as well as Gilmour’s assistant Wendel Clark.
It was during these free-for-alls that Cherry spoke out about the lack of respect amongst players in the NHL, leading to disastrous head shots like David Steckel’s blindside of Sidney Crosby at the Winter Classic. Of course, it was a hot news item for most of the day, with Shi and I at the centre of the maelstrom.
For my sidebar I wound up doing a notebook on four of the smaller stories within the game that was only distributed to print outlets, including this bit on Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67’s:
“It was the most unheralded player at the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game game that made the biggest impact for Team Cherry on Wednesday night
Left-winger Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67's was the only member on head coach Don Cherry's squad to score in the 7-1 drubbing handed out by Doug Gilmour's Team Orr.
After Team Orr jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead by the game's midway point, Prince put Team Cherry on the board. Although it was his team's only goal of the game, the 18-year-old from Spencerport, N.Y., was glad to make a difference.
‘It's a good feeling,’ Prince said after the game. ‘It doesn't say everything about a player but it’s definitely nice to get a goal.’
When the two rosters of draft-eligible prospects were originally drawn up, Prince was left out despite being second in the Ontario Hockey League's scoring race with 21 goals and 55 assists, three points behind his 67's linemate Tyler Toffoli, who has 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points.
It took a nagging injury to Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers – currently ranked first amongst North American skaters by the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting – to make space for Prince on Team Cherry.
Prince is ranked 35th.
‘I completely believe in fate,’ Prince said. ‘It was definitely fate for me to be here. When I got the news I was very excited.
‘It's an experience I'll never forget.’”
All in all, it was a very busy but productive week. Lots of fun and a great learning experience for me as a journalist. Best of all, I got to see my name in print as I helped break some news, easily the biggest thrill for a reporter.
Friday Jan. 21st 2011
QMJHL: TIGRES NEED SIX ROUNDS TO DOWN HALIFAX IN SHOOTOUT
It took six rounds in the shootout, but the Victoriaville Tigres earned the win on Friday night.
Goaltender David Honzik turned aside three of the six shooters he faced and made 29 saves in regular play as the Tigres out-lasted the Halifax Mooseheads 5-4 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL: MRAZEK, 67'S BLANK SPIRIT
Petr Mrazek stopped all 36 shots he faced and rookie Sean Monahan scored one goal and set up another Friday as the Ottawa 67's put an end to a three-game slide with a 3-0 victory over the Saginaw Spirit in Ontario Hockey League action.
The shutout was Mrazek's third of the OHL season and sixth of his career. It came after he gave up six goals in each of Ottawa's season-high three consecutive defeats last weekend.
WHL: SEGAL EARNS FOURTH SHUTOUT OF YEAR, GIANTS BLANK COUGARS
Mark Segal made 30 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the year to lead the Vancouver Giants to a 3-0 victory over the Prince George Cougars in Western Hockey League action Friday night.
Darren Bestland, Matt Bellerive and Nathan Burns scored for the Giants (23-19-5), while Spencer Bennett recorded an assist to extend his point streak to 10 consecutive games in a Vancouver uniform.
Saturday Jan. 22nd 2011
QMJHL; TITAN SCORE FIVE UNANSWERED TO BEAT MAINEIACS
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan kept their hot streak alive with some clutch play on Saturday night.
Sebastien Trudeau's game-winning goal was one of five unanswered scores as the Titan rallied to a 6-3 victory against the Lewiston Maineiacs Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL: ICEDOGS KEEP LEAGUE'S TOP HOME RECORD WITH WIN
The Hamilton brothers and Ryan Strome insured the Niagara IceDogs continued their home-ice domination Saturday.
Niagara maintained the Ontario Hockey League's top home record with a come-from-behind 5-4 shootout victory over the Sudbury Wolves.
WHL: BRAES SCORES OVERTIME WINNER AS HURRICANES TOP PATS
Cam Braes scored a goal, an assist and the overtime winner to lead the Lethbridge Hurricanes to a 3-2 win over the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League Saturday night.
Landon Oslanski also had a three point night for the Hurricanes (16-22-9) with a goal and two assists.
Sunday Jan. 23rd 2011
QMJHL: SEA DOGS DOUBLE UP RIVAL REMPARTS
The Saint John Sea Dogs dealt a blow to their closest Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rival on Sunday afternoon.
Zack Phillips' power-play goal with seven seconds left in the second period stood as the winner in Saint John's 4-2 triumph over the Quebec Remparts.
OHL: STORM RALLY LATE IN THIRD TO STUN 67'S
Taylor Beck and Cody McNaughton scored 20 seconds apart in the final minute of the third period to lift the Guelph Storm to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Ottawa 67's in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday.
The Storm (21-19-5) trailed 3-1 heading into the third period before Beck scored during a 5-on-3 power play to cut the lead to one.
Unfortunately, my Twitter account has been acting up a little, both online and on my Blackberry. Otherwise, I would have been Tweeting all last week about how excited I was for Sunday’s match between the Ottawa 67’s and Rangers in Kitchener, Ont.
Those two clubs have the best offences in the Ontario Hockey League and rank with the Portland Winterhawks, Moncton Wildcats and Lewiston Maineiacss as some of the most potent attacks in junior hockey today.
The Rangers have league-leading scorer Jason Akeson as their top forward. Unbelievably, this talented winger has gone undrafted the past two years, and went unsigned after a free agent tryout with the Anaheim Ducks.
Akeson’s 12 goals and has set up 34 others so far this season are undoubtedly making general managers across the National Hockey League regret not signing him.
Who’s trailing Akeson in the scoring race? Ryan Martindale of, you guessed it, the 67’s. He’s got 17 markers and 23 assists so far this season.
Martindale’s linemate Tyler Toffoli is leading the league in goals scored with 22. Kitchener’s Gabriel Landeskog is right behind him with 19.
In other words, Sunday’s game promised to have some offensive fireworks.
The game definitely did not disappoint, either.
Toffoli and Shane Prince – fourth in OHL scoring – scored in the shootout as the 67’s edged the Rangers 5-4. Toffoli also scored twice in regulation, Martindale had two assists and Prince had one.
Landeskog had a pair of goals and an assist, while Akeson padded his scoring lead with a goal and an assist.
Games like that are what make hockey great.
Friday, November 19th 2010
QMJHL: MOOSEHEADS KEEP STREAKS GOING WITH WIN OVER ROUYN-NORANDA
The Halifax Mooseheads started one streak and kept another alive Friday night.
Konrad Abeltshauser put away the winner 4:09 into the third period as Halifax shaded the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 3-2 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL: SMITH-PELLY SCORES TWICE AS MAJORS EDGE ICEDOGS
Devante Smith-Pelly's second goal of the game midway into the third period lifted the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors to a 2-1 victory over the Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League Friday night.
The winner came as Smith-Pelly broke in on the right wing, took a pass from centre Casey Cizikas and beat Niagara goaltender Mark Visentin from close range.
WHL: LAMOUREUX'S OT GOAL GIVES GIANTS COMEBACK WIN OVER PATS
Greg Lamoureux's goal 1:58 into overtime gave the Vancouver Giants a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Regina Pats in Western Hockey League action Friday night.
Brendan Gallagher led the Giants (13-8-3) with two goals and an assist and also drew the penalty that set the stage for Lamoureux's winner. Matt MacKay and Nathan Burns also tallied for Vancouver in a wildly entertaining game before a raucous crowd of 11,476 at the Pacific Coliseum.
Saturday, November 20th 2010
QMJHL: LEWISTON DOWN SHAWINIGAN FOR 10TH STRAIGHT VICTORY
The Lewiston Maineiacs continued to roll through their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League competition Saturday.
Olivier Dame-Malka scored in overtime as the Maineiacs edged the Shawinigan Cataractes 2-1 for their 10th straight win. Lewiston sits fourth overall in the QMJHL.
OHL: AGOZZINO SCORES FOUR TIMES AS NIAGARA DOWNS OTTAWA
Captain Andrew Agozzino led his Niagara IceDogs by example Saturday night.
Agozzino scored four times as Niagara dropped the Ottawa 67's 5-3 in Ontario Hockey League action.
WHL: WINTERHAWKS PUT THE FREEZE ON BLAZERS
Nino Niederreiter scored a pair of goals and Taylor Aronson had a goal and two assists to lead the Portland Winterhawks past the Kamloops Blazers 6-4 in Western Hockey League play on Saturday night.
The game turned ugly at the end of the second period with three fights breaking out after the horn had sounded.
Sunday, November 21st 2010
QMJHL: REMPARTS SNAP LEWISTON'S 10 GAME WIN STREAK
The Quebec Remparts knew they needed to beat the Lewiston Maineiacs to hold on to their lead in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's East Division.
Martin Lefebvre opened the scoring for Quebec and added two assists as the Remparts got a crucial 4-2 victory against the rival Maineiacs Sunday afternoon.
OHL: TOFFOLI LEADS 67'S PAST RANGERS
The Ontario Hockey League's most prolific offences were on full display Sunday afternoon.
Shane Prince and Tyler Toffoli scored in the shootout to power the Ottawa 67's past the Kitchener Rangers 5-4 in a game that showcased some of the best forwards in the league.
There were some big match-ups this weekend in the Canadian Hockey League.
The first, and the one I was most excited about, was Saturday night’s main event in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League when the Saint John Sea Dogs and Moncton Wildcats had to go to the shootout to decide who the winner would be.
Saint John prevailed 5-4, with Michael Kirkpatrick leading the way with a goal and two assists. He might not be the biggest name on the Sea Dogs roster, but Kirkpatrick been a consistent scorer all season and as an alternate captain is clearly revered in Saint John’s locker room.
Also, you’ll be happy to note that I refrained from calling this game the Battle of New Brunswick. Cliché dodged!
That same night the Western Hockey League saw an even closer rivalry, as the Saskatoon Blades and Brandon Wheat Kings locked horns. Again, the game went to extra time with Saskatoon edging Brandon 4-3 in overtime.
With the win the Blades moved into first place in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, even though the Wheat Kings have picked up points in their last eight games. And, as predicted in this very space the Calgary Hitmen have moved into second in the Conference.
The other notable game this weekend was also in the WHL, with the Prince George Cougars hosting the Edmonton Oil Kings Friday night. In the battle of the two worst records in the league, Prince George came out on top 4-1, snapping their 13-game losing streak.
Never fear Edmonton hockey fans, the Oil Kings won the rubber match on Saturday, taming the Cougars 5-2.
Sunday was a pretty light day with four games in the Ontario Hockey League and just one in the QMJHL. Most significantly, Adam Comrie kept the Guelph Storm's playoff hopes alive with goals that sparked a 4-3 win over the Ottawa 67's.
Apparently there was some sort of football game that evening that the hockey leagues didn't want to compete against.
Friday Feb. 5 2010
QMJHL – Victoriaville tops Drummondville to jump in standings
The Victoriaville Tigres struck a blow in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's standings Friday night.
Brandon Hynes and Emmanuel Boudreau both had a goal and an assist as the Tigres downed the Drummondville Voltigeurs 5-2 in QMJHL action. (See more...)
OHL - Lindsay’s big night lifts Ottawa to win over Belleville
Cody Lindsay did it at both ends of the ice Friday night.
Lindsay had two goals and an assist as the Ottawa 67's defeated the Belleville Bulls 3-2 in the Ontario Hockey League. (See more...)
WHL – Cougars drop Oil Kings to end 13-game slide
All the Prince George Cougars needed was a visit from the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Prince George snapped a 13-game losing streak Friday with a decisive 4-1 win over Edmonton in Western Hockey League play Friday night. (See more...)
Saturday, Feb. 6 2010
QMJHL - Saint John nips Moncton in shootout
The two best teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League needed the shootout to decide a winner on Saturday night.
Mike Hoffman, Tomas Jurco and Jonathan Huberdeau all scored in the shootout as the Saint John Sea Dogs tamed the Moncton Wildcats 5-4. (See more...)
OHL - McKegg scores twice as Otters eke out win over Spirit
It's been a big week for Greg McKegg.
McKegg scored twice and added an assist as the Erie Otters eked out a 4-3 win over the Saginaw Spirit in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Broncos post emphatic shutout over Rebels
The Swift Current Broncos made a statement with their win Saturday night.
Morgan Clark made 37 saves as the Broncos posted their first shutout of the season, a 6-0 win over the Red Deer Rebels in Western Hockey League action Saturday night. (See more...)
Sunday, Feb. 7 2010
OHL – Comrie scores twice as Guelph keeps playoff hopes alive
Defenceman Adam Comrie stepped up in front of his hometown crowd to keep his Guelph Storm in the playoff picture.
Comrie scored twice to lift Guelph to a 4-3 win over the Ottawa 67's in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday afternoon. (See more...)
Friday Jan. 29, 2010
QMJHL – Retooled Wildcats win 12th game in a row
“The Moncton Wildcats continue to thrive after they retooled at the trade deadline.
Daniel Pettersson had back-to-back power-play goals as Moncton doubled the Acadie-Bathurst Titan 6-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night.” (Read more...)
OHL – Cameron has hat trick as Colts blank Majors
“Bryan Cameron and the Barrie Colts continue to dominate Ontario Hockey League's Central Division.
Bryan Cameron scored three goals and Mavric Parks posted his second shutout of the season as the Barrie Colts triumphed over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 4-0 Friday night.” (Read more...)
WHL – Silvertips down Winterhawks for 13th straight win
“Simply put, the Everett Silvertips haven't lost since 2009.
Zack Dailey scored twice, including the game-winner midway through the third period, as the Everett Silvertips downed the Portland Winterhawks 4-3 in Western Hockey League action Friday night." (Read more...)
Saturday, Jan. 30 2010
QMJHL – Huberdeau has career night, Saint John pounds Val-d’Or
“Jonathan Huberdeau had the biggest game of his junior career Saturday night.
The 16-year-old forward scored three goals and set up two as the Saint John Sea Dogs crushed the Val-d'Or Foreurs 11-0 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.” (Read more...)
OHL – Jenks and McRae lead way as Whalers down Knights
“Captain AJ Jenks and Phil McRae were instrumental Saturday as the Plymouth Whalers continue to roll.
Jenks' goal and two assists led the Whalers to a convincing 6-1 win over the London Knights in Ontario Hockey League play.” (Read more...)
WHL: Hulak has three points as Blades down Broncos
“The Saskatoon Blades and Derek Hulak made it look easy Saturday night.
The Saskatoon Blades, led by a three-point outing from Hulak, skated to a 7-4 win over the Swift Current Broncos in Western Hockey League action.” (Read more...)
Sunday, Jan. 31 2010
QMJHL – Acadie-Bathurst edges Val-d’Or in shootout
“Julien Tremblay and Bryce Milson wanted to see the Acadie-Bathurst Titan's slide come to an end.
Tremblay and Milson scored in the shootout as Acadie-Bathurst edged the Val-d'Or Foreurs 6-5 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Sunday afternoon.” (Read more...)
OHL – Shugg scores twice as Windsor Spitfires down Sarnia
“Justin Shugg helped push the Windsor Spitfires into the post-season Sunday afternoon.
Shugg scored twice as the Windsor Spitfires defeated the Sarnia Sting 4-1 in Ontario Hockey League play.” (Read more...)
The playoff pictures in the Canadian Hockey League really started to take shape last week.
In the Ontario Hockey League the Barrie Colts and Windsor Spitfires both clinched spots. As last year’s Memorial Cup champions the Spitfires have been favourites all year, but they’ve been slowed by injuries and suspensions to key players like Adam Henrique and Zack Kassian. Of course, the fact that their top line played for Team Canada in the World Juniors briefly mellowed their offence as well.
Those aren’t the only teams in the OHL though. The Ottawa 67’s, Plymouth Whalers, London Knights and Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors have looked pretty strong recently and should play their way into the postseason.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is similarly set, with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Moncton Wildcats the early favourites to win the President’s Cup. After Saint John’s historic 22-game win streak, the Sea Dogs have settled into a competitive rhythm. Now it’s Moncton that’s on a tear, winning 12 in a row, trying to play catch up to their consistent Atlantic division rivals.
The Central Division is where the action happens in the QMJHL, with the Victoriaville Tigres and Drummondville Voltigeurs side-by-side at the top of the table. Both are solid teams who’ve won six of their last 10 games, but with Drummondville earning two consecutive wins and Victoriaville dropping three straight, the division might sort itself out soon.
Like the Moncton Wildcats, the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips have been clawing their way to the top of the standings in 2010. In fact, they haven’t lost since 2009 having strung together 14 consecutive wins. However, they’re still trailing the Vancouver Giants and league-best Tri-City Americans in the West Conference standings.
In the East, the Saskatoon Blades, Medicine Hat Tigers and Brandon Wheat Kings have all established themselves as the class of the Conference.
All three will have to keep up the pace though, as the Kootenay Ice have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 and the Calgary Hitmen shutout Tri-City 3-0 on Sunday.