Friday, July 31, 2009

Team Edmonton For Ivan Hlinka Tourney

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It's a banner year for Edmonton and area hockey prospects as Hockey Canada holds the selection camp for the U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament this weekend in Calgary. 6 players from our neck of the woods will attempt to crack the final roster and represent Canada at the event being held in the Czech Republic a couple of weeks from now.

There is only one forward from Edmonton who earned an invite to try out but it's a familiar name. Brendan Ranford is the nephew of former Edmonton Oil netminder Bill Ranford and after his rookie year with the WHL's Kamloops Blazers, the 5'10 forward is definitely a viable option for the U18 club. Ranford scored 13 times as a 16-year-old with the Blazers, one of the weaker teams in the Western Conference last year. The left winger was taken 15th overall in the 2007 Bantam draft by Kamloops and he'll be expected to carry a big offensive workload in 2009-10. Ranford scored 7 points in 6 games for Team Pacific at the U17's last Christmas, second highest point total on the club.

There are a trio of blueliners from E-Town at the camp including the biggest defender who received an invite. Alex "Petro" Petrovic stands 6'4 and weighs 180 lbs (room to fill out) which might him a bit of advantage over the rest of the group. The Red Deer Rebels really liked what they saw through the 66 games that Petrovic played for them last season. He was a 2nd round pick (33rd overall) in 2007 for the Rebels and Petrovic's stock is on the rise as he begins his NHL Draft season for Brent Sutter's WHL club. Petrovic notched just 13 points for Red Deer last season but he had 3 points in 6 games for Team Pacific at the U17s.

Troy Rutkowski had a bit of a break out at the U17s last year as he led Team Pacific in defensive scoring with 7 points. That was a big step up in production from the 15 points he provided Portland with in the WHL. The Winterhawks deserve a ton of credit because they got Rutkowski basically for free; they listed him in 2007 so didn't use a draft pick or get him via trade. The Edmonton kid might not have been on the radar for some people this year but considering his success at the U17 and now this invite to the U18s, Rutkowski will be high on the must-see list for NHL teams heading into 2009-10.

Potentially the marquee Edmontonian at the camp this weekend is Edmonton Oil King defender Mark Pysyk. Touted two springs ago by The Hockey News as a top 10 pick for 2010, Pysyk is still regarded as one of the top WHLers available next June for NHL teams and should be a near lock to make the U18 club this weekend. I spoke with a couple different NHL teams last spring who wondered if Pysyk might even play in the U18s last April because he's that good. There isn't much that the Sherwood Park product can't do and that versatility is going to be hard for Canada to overlook. His endurance is a remarkable aspect of his skill set that enables him to log a ton of ice time. Pysyk scored 3 points with Team Pacific last year and totaled 20 points in 61 games with the Oil Kings.

The last two Edmonton products at the camp are both goalies giving the City of Champions a 50% chance of having representation between the pipes. I'd be stunned if Calvin Pickard isn't Canada's starter but Kent Simpson and newly added Tyler Bunz will both be in the hunt for the back up job.

Simpson, not the Oil Kings colourman of the same name, is the keeper for the Everett Silvertips and was that club's 1st round pick in 2007. He also backstopped Team Pacific to the silver medal last year playing all six games en route to the silver medal finish. With Everett he had a bloated 3.85 GAA and .892 sv% through 28 games and finished with a 8-11-4 record.

Tyler Bunz (right) is a late addition to camp as J.P. Anderson (Mississauga, OHL) has been scratched due to injury. Bunz is a St. Albert native who plays with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers as the back up to Ryan Holfeld. Although he only go in to 22 games and had a 3.46 GAA and .886 sv%, Bunz had a 9-6-1 winning record.

It's tough to predict a final roster at this age group unless you've seen all of the players in action. I haven't so I can't really look up and down the camp roster an start eliminating players. I'll simply say that if Ranford, Pysyk, Rutkowski and Petrovic aren't on Canada's U18 team I will be surprised. All four should have a very good chance of cracking the line up considering their performances at the U17s last year and their rookie seasons in the WHL.

Edmonton can take pride in having these 6 players representing the city at the tryouts and potentially on the world stage. Don't look now but as strong at the '92 class is for Edmonton there are plenty of people who look at the '93 group and feel it's even better so the future definitely looks exciting.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

On the Mark - Part 1

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The roster of our Guest Player Bloggers for the 2009-10 continues to grow. Previously we announced that 2008-09 CHL Rookie of the Year Brett Connolly was on "our team" and he's already pounded out his first entry for 'Pros and Conz'.

Today we're pleased to announce that defenceman Mark Pysyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings has also agreed to work with us throughout this new season as well. The Sherwood Park, AB product is (in our opinion) another sure-fire 1st round pick for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft so we think it will be very interesting to follow along with Mark during the course of the 2009-10 campaign.

For Pysyk the new season begins this weekend as he and the top '92 born players in Canada converge on Calgary to take part in Hockey Canada's U18 Ivan Hlinka try out camp. Today we are pleased to present the first chapter in the ongoing Guest Player Blog "On the Mark" written by Mark Pysyk...

Hey everyone, Mark Pysyk here from the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL a few days before the Ivan Hlinka U18 camp.

I've had a very tough off season working out at Body By Bennett with teammates Michael Burns, T.J. Foster and Kieran Friesen.

Going in to this camp I know a few guys from the Edmonton area (Brendan Ranford, Alex "Petro" Petrovic, and Troy Rutkowski) all fellow members of Team Pacific last year. I also know the others boys that are represented by Newport Sports (Don Meehan) as we met at the draft this year.

Learning from my experiences at the U16 and U17 events, I imagine that this camp will be extremely tough too. Going in to any camp you have to be confident in that you will make the team. But having said that there are 40 guys thinking the same thing. With my draft year coming up there is a lot of pressure that will come the whole year and its no different from this camp.

Everyone plays hockey because it is fun and when things are going good it makes it even more fun. So by working hard day in and day out it results in a lot more fun and becoming a better hockey player.

Making this team would be great for getting better known at the international level and to see where the Canadian boys stack up against the rest of the world. Whether I am on the team or not I hope Canada ends up on top and I'm going to do everything in my power at this camp to be a part of this team. I was very nervous the whole summer about this camp but getting closer to the start I am remembering how I felt this way for all the previous camps and they were all great experiences and a lot of fun. So now, a few days before camp I am looking forward to meeting a lot of new guys and learning a lot from excellent coaches.

#3 Mark Pysyk

Pysyk was Edmonton's top pick in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft and went 3rd overall. Last year the defenceman finished with 5 goals and 20 points in 61 regular season games and also appeared in the World U17 Hockey Challenge with Team Pacific winning a silver medal.

(Photos Courtesy: Edmonton Oil Kings, Andy Devlin, WHL)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oilers/Falcons This n' That

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Last night on TPS Dean brought up an interesting debate topic: Between the Edmonton Oilers and the Springfield Falcons, which club is closer to being a playoff team?

The Falcons finished dead last in the AHL last year but have made a ton of changes to their roster with a number of players not qualified and a handful of free agent signings coming in. The Oilers meanwhile have a new goalie... and that's it. Both teams have a new head coach to start the year.

It's an interesting question for sure and would make for a great discussion. For the record, I said the Oilers and Dean picked the Falcons. I think an argument could still be made for both teams not yet being playoff caliber considering the quality of teams in Springfield's division and that the Oilers haven't improver their team and are (so far) banking on players being "no worse" than they were last year.

Trade Rumors

I'm not a big fan of trade rumors or discussing them but the last couple of days at HF there has been a thread mentioning a "serious discussion between Florida and Edmonton" that would involve a few players from both sides. The names being mentioned include Tom Gilbert, Robert Nilsson and Rob Schremp from Edmonton with Panthers forwards Nathan Horton and Kenndal McArdle (pictured) although what the actual proposed deal might be is somewhat unclear.

Anyway... the person starting the rumor is writing a blog claiming "Inside information from the Oilers office". I have no idea who the creator of said blog is but most posters at HF are already labeling him as a fraud.

The suggested trade caught my attention though because I like Kenndal McArdle and have suggested in the past that he'd be a player I think could find some success in Edmonton. I think chemistry goes a long way and he's great friends with Gilbert Brule - another young player looking to establish himself in the NHL this year.

I spoke with McArdle a couple of times last season for a feature I did on him that was published in The Hockey News. I found him to be a guy with a lot of character and has a personality or quality about him that just makes you want to cheer for him.

So when his name came up in this mysterious rumor blog, I wanted to find out if there was anything to the names or teams being talked about.

Alas... I'm told that there isn't.

Springfield Update

The Falcons have been quiet for a few days since signing Charles Linglet and Jamie Bates but I'm led to believe there might be a couple more players still on the radar. We had Rob Daum on the show last night and he mentioned that he'd like to see another top 6 forward added to the mix and potentially another defenceman, someone who could play an offensive role on the top pairing.

Eric Bogunecki's name has been mentioned by a few people. Contrary to suggestions that a deal might be close, I'm getting the opposite sense in that Edmonton's interest in him quickly evaporated after brief initial talks and that he's not in the picture.

Wyatt Smith is though but the player wants to be patient this summer, keep talking to teams through August and make a decision once he's sure all interested parties have had their say. Edmonton is one of those clubs. Smith played for both San Antonio and Norfolk last year and scored 19 goals and 47 points in 71 games... a decent player but I don't know that he satisfies Daum's desire for a top 6 guy.

Here's another name that has come up: Ajay Baines. He's been a career minor leaguer but he's been described to me as a guy any organization would love to have to help tutor their young prospects because he's a world class individual. He played two years in Hamilton including 2006-07 when the Bulldogs won the Calder Cup as AHL Champions (Zack Stortini was also on the team).

Baines isn't a big player and probably isn't a top 6 guy either but he's is someone with a lot of valuable experience at the AHL level and has the leadership qualities that makes him attractive for the farm. He had 31 points last year through 79 games with Iowa (ANH). He was a captain in Norfolk and Iowa and is shown here with the Calder Cup and a classic playoff beard.

Another player that Edmonton/Springfield has under contract that hasn't gotten any publicity is Kelly Czuy. He's a 6'2 forward from Edmonton who has spent the vast majority of his 4-year pro career playing in the ECHL with Las Vegas. He appeared in 3 games with the Falcons last year as well.

I mentioned last week that I thought tough guy Guillaume Lefebvre, who played 70 games with the Falcons last year, might be resigned by Springfield, however, I have learned that Lefebvre has turned down Edmonton's offer and will not be back in 2009-10.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

WHL Youngster Prospect Game:update

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I've had this idea floating around in my head for a while now. The CHL has a prospect game for NHL draft eligible players. Why doesn' the WHL have one for their young stars.

I asked WHL Commish Ron Robison that question today on the TEAM 1260 morning show. He said I was reading his crystal ball and that something is in the works.

After some digging, I have come to find out that this November in Red Deer the league will be showcasing some of the top 1994 born players from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Albert and B.C. This will include players like 2009 first overall pick Derek Pouliot of Portland, and 3rd overall selection Griffin Reinhart of Edmonton and Matt Dumba chosen 4th by Red Deer. While I think it's cool to showcase some talent that will be in the league next year, unless there is a Television audience watching (maybe the game will be carried on SHAW) then it's a very limited fan base that gets to see it. I'm hoping down the road that a game will be created where bantam draft eligible players are involved, similar to the NHL's top prospects game. That way scouts get to see all the kids at once and WHL fans get to know who their team might draft (again there would need to be some television coverage for this) Right now there are tournaments like this called the Alberta Cup, but as the name suggests, it's only for kids in Wild Rose country. A western Canadian game would be a great move.

Expect an announcment about the "already drafted kids game" from the league soon.

Tune in tonight to The Pipeline Show. We'll speak with Springfield Falcons head coach Rob Daum, Regina Pats forward Jordan Weal, Power Skating Guru Darryl Belfry and USCHO.COM writer Jimmy Connolly about some NCAA events, including a player that doesn't have any elegibility left, for one ridiculous reason. 7-9 PM MST on the TEAM 1260 in the Edmonton area or on line at www.thepipelineshow.com and www.theteam1260.com. Email any questions or thoughts you might have to the ST. ALBERT SOURCE FOR SPORTS inbox, pipeup@thepipelineshow.com.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What's Old is Young Again

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On the heels of recent re-signings of goalie Devan Dubnyk and Colin McDonald, both 1-year deals, the Edmonton Oilers have just announced the return of defenceman Bryan Young to the fold as well.

I should say that the Springfield Falcons have made the announcement, as usual the Oilers haven't gotten around to it quite yet. Here is the release from Springfield.

It should be noted that this is strictly a minor-league deal so it will not count against the 50-contract limit the Oilers have been consistently up against in recent years.

Young was originally a 5th round draft pick back in 2004 and was known throughout the OHL as one of the most feared open ice hitters in the junior loop. That trait has not followed him to the AHL though. I'm told that while he does deliver the occasional body blast to an unsuspecting opponent, those incidents are few and far between.

While he's always been known as a defensive defenceman, it's been described to me that he has struggled at the pro level to adjust to bigger, stronger and faster opponents. "He's always backing up" is how one person in the know put it. Perhaps with another year of experience under his belt that will change and if so, he's a decent signing for the farm although at this point he's a depth guy at best. He's been past on the depth chart by a lot of Oiler prospects and his upside is probably now considered to be "a good career minor leaguer".

Random Signing Notes: Interesting to see that the Vancouver Canucks have signed Kellan Tochkin of the Everett Silvertips to an entry level contract. Tochkin went undrafted in 2009 despite winning the WHL rookie scoring race in 2008-09 with 74 points in 72 games. I was surprised that no one chose him in Montreal last June. Taking a flyer on a guy who may be small and not the fastest guy but can obviously produce... doesn't sound like a bad gamble with a late round pick to me...

According to CapGeek.com the Calgary Flames have signed 3 players to entry level deals including Greg Nemisz of the Windsor Spitfires. This wasn't a player I really liked much in his draft year but I do now after getting to see him play at the Memorial Cup. He's big and can score, at least at the OHL level but I think he'll be a good Flame too. Also getting inked were blueliners T.J. Brodie (4th round 2008) and Keith Seabrook who was originally drafted by Washington and played for the Calgary Hitmen...

Former San Jose 1st round pick Lukas Kaspar has been signed by the Philadelphia Flyers. Kaspar has spent the last 4 seasons in the AHL and has put up decent numbers with a career high 44 points last year in Worcester. He managed to dress for 16 NHL games with the Sharks...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Edmonton product arrested in Grand Forks

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One current and one former UND hockey players were arrested the other day. One hails from Edmonton. You can read a recap here.

I will point out, while it seems these guys were loaded when committing this offence, I think sometimes police on campus over react.

Wednesday Re-Set

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Last night we put on the foil and talked about some real old time hockey with one of the most down to earth hockey celebrities we've had the pleasure of having guest on the show.

The movie Slap Shot is held in a special place for most hockey fans, and most sports fans for that matter. It's a movie that is shown somewhere around a thousand times over the course of a season on various team buses or at parties and most people can rattle of several of the hilarious lines from their favorite scene.

Of course the movie is best remembered for the Hanson Brothers and their antics on and off the ice. It's a Paul Newman flick but I think even he knows that in the scenes they shared, he wasn't the star.

Last night we had the chance to speak with Dave Hanson, author of Slap Shot Original - The Man, The Foil, The Legend.

He played Jack Hanson in the film and has more great stories than we could possible fit in a segment on our show - even two segments, but that's how long we went with him last night.

Want to now how much of the movie was fiction and how much came from actual events? You'll be stunned. What was Newman like? Did they really wear foil in real life? How did the famous dressing room speech scene come together? (see below - language warning!)


It's all here: Part 1 and Part 2.

When you're done listening to the conversation with Dave Hanson I know you'll want to buy the book. You can do that HERE.

Also on the program last night was our old friend John Moore. Newly signed to a pro contract by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Moore now knows that he'll be playing in Kitchener next year instead of at Colorado College. Hear him talk about the draft, the BJ's prospect camp, playing with Teddy Ruth and about becoming a pro hockey player... HERE.

Great news if you were a fan of Moore from the Pipeline, the blog that the player wrote for us during the 2008-09 season: He's agreed to continue it as his career goes tot eh next level playing for the Rangers in the OHL next season.

Our final guest of the night was the GM of the Tri-City Americans Bob Tory. With no coach and several key players off the roster from last year, Tory talked about how he sees his team shaping up for 2009-10.

We also played Bad Ass Trivia, Slap Shot style - how many of these question would YOU have gotten right?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Falcons Add to the Nest

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I missed this one earlier on Tuesday because I was getting ready for our show but, according to the Springfield Falcons website, the Oilers have signed both Charles Linglet and Jamie Bates to new AHL deals.

Here is the official release from the Falcons.

Several weeks ago I told you that the plan for the Falcons this summer revolved around the signing of 3 key AHL players. Whether it was going to be 2 forwards and 1 blueliner or 2 defencemen and one forward, it didn't really matter.

With Dean Arsene added to the backend, Edmonton has delivered a veteran influence for Springfield's young defensive corps. Chris Minard and Charles Linglet (pictured) are offensive threats at the AHL level.

Linglet is coming off of 3 successful AHL seasons that saw him score 31 goals in 2006-07, 24 times in 2007-08 and 7 in 21 games last year with Springfield (on pace for 26).

Details on the contract, length and price, were not available.

Are they done? I'm not sure but personally I would still like to see Edmonton land Alex Giroux to really give the Falcons a two-line punch that would be hard to match at the AHL level. I believe that tough guy Guillaume Lefebvre might still find his way back to the Falcons as well.

Top 5 Tuesday: TPS Invitational Moments

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Last week The Pipeline Show crew (Millard, Flaming and The Sports Doctor, Taylor Medak) hit the road and went to Jasper. Also along for the ride were some of Millard's buddies (who I am pleased to say are now my buddies too) and of course nepotism at its best meant a couple of our siblings were around as well.

In all there were 8 golfers; the TPS crew and: Prince George Cougars Assistant GM Wade Klippenstein... PGTV sports icon Allan Bristowe... Shawn Blustein of J&J Wholesale Auto... My older brother Kevin Flaming from DLM Consulting and last but certainly not least... Warrant Officer Derek Millard who is stationed here at CFB Edmonton.

It was a diverse group of golfers - a few guys who play a lot, some hardly at all and a few that fall somewhere in between. In all, we played 72 holes of golf inside of a 36 hour period at the famed Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course - two rounds each day separated by a fabulous stay in the Outlook Cabin.

Here now are 5 memories from the The 2009 TPS Invitational Golf Classic...

5. Out of Bounds???

Listen, everyone knows there is some wagering done on the golf course and this outing was no different. In our final round of the trip, our group of players was down to 7 as Bristowe had to bolt back to P.G. for work. We decided to split the remaining 7 into a trio of teams for a quicker round of "best ball". The rivalry between the Bluestein/Millard and the Klippenstein/Millard pair was evident - Dean needed a clutch drive on the 12th hole to push the pot and came through but it was the last bit of good news for he and Klipper.

As Derek and Shawn sat back and enjoyed watching Wade and Dean's downward spiral towards poverty, Klippenstein and Millard kept up their mantra of: "Double or Nothing?"

"A gentleman would at least give us a chance to win our money back" said Millard as he tried to convince his older brother and Blustein to allow them another kick at the can. The winning duo were only too pleased to give Dean and Wade more rope with which they could hang themselves.

Cue the 18th hole - a downhill dog-leg to the left that tempts long hitters to cut the corner to the green at the risk of several lakeside cabins.

With Derek's power drive securing he and his partner in fine position, the pressure was on for Dean and Klip to respond. Dean's drive was not unlike a routine pop-fly, an easy out at Skydome and potentially the final nail in their wagering coffin. However, Klippenstein had been wielding a big driver all day and only needed to connect one more time to keep them in contention.

As The WHL exec watched his ball sail over the treed corner and towards certain disaster among the cars, campers and kids to the left, all hope seemed lost. So the duo decided to hit a provisional ball which ended up sitting perfectly in the middle of the fairway, the lie you would assume they would play from but... you'd be wrong.

Above is the view from near the green where the rest of us waited many long and painful minutes as the team debated playing the provisional or Klippenstein's original drive which, as it turned out, was simply buried in pine cones and tree shrapnel instead of someone's windshield. (Take note of what side of the fence they're on).

Somehow Millard found a way to not only get out of the extreme rough and onto the green but he planted it well within birdie territory of the hole to boot. Suffice to say the end result was another push and so the damage to their wallets didn't get any worse. A hell of a shot on the final hole of the trip.

4. Trophy Presentation

It was decided early on that the overall winner of the trip would be the guy who had the lowest score in any single round. Bristowe, The Sports Doctor and I brought up the rear while the other 5 guys appeared to be in contention for the coveted top prize. Blustein scored three consecutive rounds of 89, the mark of consistency (otherwise known as a lack of improvement). Klippenstein's best loop was 87 Followed by the brothers Millard with scores of 86 (Dean) and 85 (Derek).

The best round of the trip belonged to Kevin who came in with a 40-41-81 after the first go around. As impressive a score as that is, it should be noted that Kevin not only overcame the same gene pool as me but that it was only his second time out this year. An 81 at JPL is pretty darn good!

As the event came to a close and we prepared for the journey back to Edmonton, some guys hit the pro shop for souvenir hats while others sought out the men's lockeroom to jettison some excess cargo before the 3.5-hour ride home. It was there that we found a rather official looking trophy on display and decided to have an impromptu ceremony to crown the winner of the 1st Pipeline Show Invitational.

That would be me on the left presenting the trophy to my "big" brother Kevin.

3. The 13-Strokes Golf Academy

As anyone on this trip will attest to, I'm not a great golfer. I do OK... every second drive is acceptable, chipping is decent, putting usually pretty good. I shot a 49 on the front nine and I was happy. I followed that up with a 51 on the back for an even 100... my best round.

Dean on the other hand is what I would call a very good golfer. He can spank the ball out there, his approach shots are accurate and his putting is pretty precise.

But even the best of golfers can have an off hole... as his scorecard revealed during day 1. Here is his recap of that memorable half an hour spent on hole #10:

1-Topped one 10 feet off the tee into some long grass.
2-Took unplayable (one penalty stroke) as I knew I couldn’t get it out of the grass and over the pond in front of us. However I thought I would be able to tee it up again. I couldn’t. First decision making mistake.
3-Hit driver off the deck, into the water. One stroke penalty
5.Hit 5 wood, pushed it into the woods on the left.
6-Was told by Al Bristowe (my longtime trusted friend) that he found my Callaway. Chipped it out onto the fairway.
8-Realized it wasn’t my ball. 2-stroke penalty. 2nd decision making mistake, should have made sure it was my ball.
9-Was still about 310 out. Hit 5 wood. Landed about 100 out.
10-Sand Wedge misses green to the right, near but not in bunker.
11-Chip on passed hole to about 10 feet.
12-Came up 2 inches short on first putt.
13-tap in for 13.

Yes folks... a 13. Shades of Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy himself. But to his credit, Deano dusted himself off and went on to have a strong back nine. I also have to tip my hat to him for being a man about it and filling out his card correctly - Honesty is always the best policy... even when it's downright embarrassing. Still, the 13 on Wednesday made the 11 he scored on Day 2 look almost respectable!

2. A&W

Now this particular item doesn't actually occur on the golf course but it came about at the end of the trip and definitely is a memory I won't soon forget.

We stopped in Hinton, AB to grab a bite to eat and it was decided that we'd hit up a fast food joint so we could just eat and run. The 7 Edmonton-bound golfers were split in two vehicles with Dean and Klippenstein in a car and the rest of us in a 12-passenger van (courtesy J&J Wholesale Auto). The guys piled out of the van and went inside the local A&W restaurant while Klipper and Deano decided to beat us out via the drive thru.

However, their fast lane theory wasn't panning out thanks to the person wearing the headset...

"Can you repeat that please?"

"I'm sorry but we've run out of cheese for the cheeseburgers, is that OK?"

Finally Klipper, nearing the end of his rope, said: "OK, I'm going to start over and I'm going to say this really slowly..."

Little did Klip or Dean know that inside the A&W, Blustein had convinced one of the employees to let him on the headset and he was the guy taking their order and screwing them around. Those of us inside the restaurant, including the real employees, were killing ourselves until Shawn finally let them off the hook by walking out the door to the drive-thru to reveal the truth.

1. JPL Hospitality

The trip was a major success for several reasons but the biggest was definitely because of how we were treated by all of the people who work at JPL that helped to make our visit a memorable one.

Now I'm just speaking for myself here when I say this because I know that most of the guys with me on the trip have been to a lot of top courses and so they might have been expecting the treatment we got. For me though it was a new experience and here's how it went:

We rolled up in the van and were greeted by a couple of guys who promptly unloaded our clubs for us and put them on our carts. We put on our shoes, grabbed a couple clubs and our complimentary bucket of balls and hit the range for a warm up. As our tee off time approached we walked back up to our carts where we were greeted by Courtney, the lovely and pleasant hostess who kept all the groups heading out at the right time.

The course itself was in outstanding condition. The fairways were smooth and soft like a carpet (or so I'm told, I didn't find one until the afternoon). The greens were consistently tough but fair and the pin placements were often challenging.

Thankfully for me (in the cart above) and for Taylor (The Sports Doctor), it's a pretty wide course for the most part. Both of us have artfully assimilated our banana slices into our game so we were able to arc our drives well out of bounds before seeing them safely drop onto the short grass.

The weather was fantastic, 23C and 27C, with just a touch of light showers on day two. Of course the scenery is as amazing as you could possibly ask for - the Rocky Mountains provide a backdrop that makes even the worst tee shot look beautiful... for a minute.

Beverage girls Erica and Jen were never to busy to shoot the shit and kept their snickering to an inaudible level when I hammered two consecutive drives into the ladies tee box on hole #3.

At the end of the round you wheel back to the club house where it's almost a scene from NASCAR. You pull up, a couple employees meet you, park the cart and immediately begin cleaning your clubs. Not a big deal for some guys but my clubs (a set I got from Canadian Tire about a dozen years ago) had never been cleaned before. I play an average of 3 rounds per summer and the heads of my sticks looked like I'd used them more for backyard gardening than for smacking golf balls. Still, these guys not only cleaned them but they scrubbed them, perhaps sandblasted them, polished them and returned them to me looking better than the day I originally purchased them.

At the end of Day 1 we retired to our accommodations - the Outlook Cabin (above), a rustic yet luxuriously comfortable lodge with more than enough room for all of us. The Millards cooked a late night supper on the BBQ and we all took in a herd of Elk that wondered into our backyard. A postcard view at every turn, great company, frosty beverages and the best shower I've ever had - I can't possibly recommend the Outlook Cabin any higher.

Day 2 began the same way as Day 1; a friendly greeting at the course where the free overnight storage of our clubs meant no hassle for us that morning.

At one point on day two, like an idiot I left my wedge laying next to a green only to discover the blunder a couple of holes later. JPL has a "Players Assistant" that speeds around the course and he gladly sped back and found my iron and returned it to me. Wonderful service! He even had time to snap a group photo for us so that everyone would be in it. (Wasn't my camera though so I don't have it).

Everyone on the trip agreed that it was a great time and both Dean and I have decided that somehow, it was but the first of a series of TPS Invitationals we'll be doing from now on.

We've mentioned it before but in case you missed it, the JPL has an absolutely fantastic deal on this summer that is open to anyone, not just superstar TV guys like Millard and Bristowe or big wheels like Klippenstein and Blustein.

$300 gets you unlimited golf and a night's stay. UNLIMITED golf. Bristowe, being a non-Alberta resident, would normally have to pay $225 to play JPL but with this remarkable deal he played $1000 worth of golf + had unreal accommodations for only $300.

If you're a golfer, serious or otherwise, do yourself a favor and put the Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course on your MUST-PLAY list this year and tell them that The Pipeline Show sent you. You won't regret it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Coaches To Consider: Calgary & Tri City

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Calgary and Tri City have coaching positions still available. The 7th and 8th that have come open this year. Swift Current, Prince George, Everett, Chilliwack, Regina and Lethbridge filled their spots.

So who's up for the final 2 spots? Here's a few names to consider.

The Calgary Hitmen might be zoning in on John Van Boxmeer. The one time first round pick of the Montreal Canadiens didn't have the greatest playing career but has been a head coach several times since retiring. He was the bench boss for the Rochester Americans of the AHL as well as the Long Beach Ice Dogs. He as the assistant with Buffalo and LA in the NHL, and was recently coaching in Switzerland. He reportedly suffered a heart attack in 2008 but word is recovered fully and might be a target for Hitmen G.M. Kelly Kisio to replace Dave Lowry who joined the Flames as an assistant.

Tri City lost Don Nachbaur to the AHL's Binghamton Senators and I'm told G.M. Bob Tory wants to fill Nachbaur's shoes very quickly. In Nachbaur's 6 seasons the Americans went to the playoffs each year and won 2 division titles so whoever replaces him will have a streak to keep up. Tory will have no shortage of interested candidates. Here are the names I'm hearing floating around the coaches waiting room. Mike Williamson spent 13 seasons with the Portland Winterhawks, the last 8 as the head coach. He was let go in 2007 and launched a civil law suit against the Hawks for breach of contract. I'm not sure if that plays into him getting a future job or now.

John Becanic put up a .500 record in 2 seasons with Everett before being let go this year and being replaced by Craig Hartsburg, Becanic like most coaches is hoping to get back in the game as soon as possible.

Drew Schoneck is hoping to swap one Tri City for another. He's currently the head coach and G.M. for the Tri City Storm of the USHL, but a return to the Americans is probably what he's really looking for. Schoneck was an assistant with the Am's in 2001 and I'm told his wife is from the area, making it an even more attractive option. Schoneck was the head coach with Prince George, but apparently wasn't happy in the city.

Greg Gatto is a wildcard, but the first former player to coach Lethbridge in the CIS.

Another one now from the school ranks, but south of the border now. John Hill has spent the last 4 years as an Assistant to Don Lucia with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Before that he was the head coach in Alaska with the Sea Wolves. In fact Hill has spent his entire career behind the bench with NCAA schools, but might be ready to take on junior hockey up north.

Finally, Mike Vandenberghe's name is starting to pop up when I've talked to people. And the former coach of the Notre Dame Hounds might have an interesting bargaining chip. Vandenberghe coached Jaden Schwartz in Wilcox and Tri City has been trying to convince Schwartz to join the Americans rather than the Colorado College Tigers of the NCAA, where he's committed for the 2010 season. Schwartz lit up the SJHL with 76 points in 46 games this year and was very good for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge in Camrose last year. If Vandenberge could deliver Schwartz to Tri City it might be worth a coaching position.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday Re-Set

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The Pipeline Show is taking a 2-day golf trip to Jasper starting at 5:00 AM on Wednesday, about 4 hours from now so... this will be brief.

Last night on the program we started things off by discussing several hot topics including young David Musil and the situation that was created when he and his family moved back to Canada. We also talked to A.J. Jacubec about that same subject at the end of the show. You can hear our opening segment and that interview with A.J.

Next up was an interview with an old buddy of Millards who just so happens to be a scout with the Nashville Predators - Rick Knickle. Knickle talked about the Preds and their strategies when it comes to scouting and drafting, what he values in a player, some examples of players he's zeroed in on and also touched on players currently in the system. You can hear that Nashville update here.

The WHL's Prince George Cougars have a new coach in Dean Clark, new uniforms and a new outlook on life as they prepare for the 2009-10 season. Wade Klippenstein is the Assistant GM for the Cougars and he walked us through the changes and explained how the team and the community have a renewed sense of hope. Here is the link to the Cougars update.

The final guest on the program is an always popular one with Oiler fans; Rob Schremp. With coaching changes at all levels of the Edmonton system it really is a clean slate for a lot of players, the least of which being Schremp. The former 1st round pick answered a lot of questions from fans who wanted to know everything from off season training, why he doesn't shoot more to possibly playing in Europe. You can be sure he's not sitting around relaxing this summer like in the photo from a London Knights softball game (see above). Hear the Schremp interview here.

Of course we played Bad Ass Trivia as well, this week's questions seemed to have a theme but the callers couldn't quite figure it out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

5 To Watch For In The AHL

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Last week Guy threw out some names who might be WHL rookie of the year candidates. Today I have 5 players to watch for in the AHL who might vy for the top freshman award.

1. Michael Backlund-forward-Calgary Flames
The Swede was all over the map last year, playing for his home country, then staying in Canada after the World Junior Championship. Backlund, drafted 24th by the Flames in 2007, played one game with the big club before joining the Kelowna Rockets for their Memorial Cup run. Is Backlund ready for the NHL? I don't think so, but he's certainly ready to excel with Abbotsford of the AHL.

2. Thomas Hickey-Defence-LA Kings
Hickey was pencilled in on the shut down pairing with Colton Teubert at the WJC in Ottawa, but the pair struggled and the role fell to Keith Aulie and Tyler Myers. Despite that, Hickey is ready to say goodbye to the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds and join the perennial successful Manchester Monarchs. Hickey suited up for 7 games when the T-birds season wrapped up last year and netted 7 points. This after putting up 51 points in 57 games including 15 goals with Seattle. The Kings shocked everyone when they snagged Hickey 4th overall (ahead of Karl Alzner) in 2007, but some time in the AHL should get him ready to join the already impressive blueline in LA. Expect Hickey to see some action in the NHL next year.

3. Logan Couture-Forward-San Jose
4 years in the OHL is enough for the 9th overall pick of 2007. Couture averaged more than a point per game during his junior career including scoring 39 goals and 87 points in 62 games for Ottawa last year. I'm not sure why this guy has never been a player for Hockey Canada, but I think he'll make a good pro. After some seasoning with Worcester of the AHL that is.

4. Ryan McDonagh-Defence-New York Rangers
Will the Rangers as Mcdonagh to leave Wisconsin after 2 years and turn pro? That's what I'm banking on with him on this list. The blueliner was involved in the trade that send Scott Gomez to Montreal and New York might want to get his pro career started. With Bobby Sanguinetti likely graduating to the big club this year there will be an opening on the blueline with the farm.

5. Angelo Esposito-Forward-Atlanta
An injury derailed what was a pretty good season for Esposito. After a good first half with Montreal and a decent WJC Esposito was shut down in the 2nd half, ending up with 42 points in 35 games. He played one AHL the year before in Chicago. Atlanta's farm club is full of AHL veterans that would be a nice help in Esposito's development. That is if he doesn't blow the Trashers socks off in training camp and make the team.


Also watch out for a few other players like Keith Aulie in Abbotsford as it's not likely the Brandon Wheat King will get to participate in the Memorial Cup. Jonathan Blum was the top blueliner in the WHL and should start rising up the rankings in Nashvilles organization. How about Riley Nash? The Oilers prospect is pretty sure he's heading back to Cornell, but a lot could change between now and then. Physically he's probably ready for the AHL and I think it's better to struggle for the first half and succeed in the 2nd half of the AHL then have a good full season in college.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Seen Arsene?"

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Don't expect billboards to start popping up around Edmonton but the Oilers have signed another AHL veteran to help bolster their AHL roster in Springfield. Defenceman Dean Arsene, a 6'2 and 210 lb native of Abbotsford BC, has 8 years of pro experience under his belt and has played 426 pro games.

I mentioned Arsene's name last week as someone I believed the Oilers were considering and tonight a fan over at HFBoards.com noticed that Arsene's name has in fact turned up at Capgeek.com as being on Edmonton's payroll. According to the handy cap-related site, it's a 1-year deal worth $500K. With today's rather late formal revelation of their Chris Minard and Matt Nickerson signings, I suppose you can expect a formal announcement from the Oilers later this week/month.

So fans will be asking two things: Who is Dean Arsene and will he impact the Oilers at all?

Arsene entered the scene as a member of the Regina Pats in the WHL. He played a year and a half with the Pats before being dealt to the Edmonton Ice in 1997-98. The big blueliner stuck with the Ice through their move to Kootenay and he ended up playing three and a half years in Cranbrook before turning pro.

Through his WHL career it is clear that you shouldn't expect any offence from Arsene as he ended with all of 8 goals through five seasons.

His pro career started in the ECHL with the Charlotte Checkers where he played 63 games. Arsene moved up a level with the Hartford Wolfpack the next season dressing for 50 games in the AHL. Back to the ECHL the next year, Arsene was back and forth between ECHL Reading and Hershey in the AHL.

The Hershey Bears have been Arsene's home since 2003-04 as he has played 5 and a half years for Washington's farm club helping them win two Calder Cups including the one picked up this past June.

Here are some of the names that Washington has had Arsene around on their farm to help groom for the NHL: Karl Alzner, Mike Green, Josh Godfrey, John Carlson, Sami Lepisto and Jeff Schultz. Clearly Arsene isn't going to show those types of players how to play an offensive style but what he was able to do was show guys how to come to the rink prepared to play a pro game, how to live and train away from the arena and the other ropes that young prospects need to be shown so they can develop properly.

As seen in the picture at the top, Arsene has been a captain at the AHL level and would be a reasonable candidate to secede Tim Sestito for the 'C' this coming year. The other photo displays another aspect of Arsene's game that will come in handy for Springfield - he's averaged about 150 PIM a season over his pro career.

This is a good signing for the Oilers, for the Springfield Falcons and most importantly, for the blueline prospects Edmonton owns that will be looking to Arsene for leadership and guidance.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Going, Going....

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The message at the end of the 2008-09 season was clear: "It is a priority to make the Springfield Falcons better via free agency". We're ten days into the feeding frenzy and so far the Oilers have only signed one impact AHL player while the list of available players gets rapidly smaller every day.

Here's a list of the players from the Falcons' roster last season who are currently not part of the team: Tim Sestito (traded to NJ for a conditional pick - a 7th if he plays in 25 NHL games for the Devils), Guillaume Lefebvre (UFA), Tyler Spurgeon (not qualified), Stephane Goulet (not qualified), Charles Linglet (UFA), Shane Willis (UFA), Hans Benson (UFA), Bryan Young (not qualified), Mathieu Roy (UFA), Mike Gabinet (UFA), Sebastien Bisaillon and Danny Sabourin (UFA). That's 12 players of various levels of talent off the roster.

The list of RFA players is also notable: Gilbert Brule (pencilled in for NHL duty), Ryan Potulny, Ryan Stone, Rob Schremp, Devan Dubnyk, Colin McDonald and Liam Reddox. That's another 7 players.

After two years of struggling in the minors, there is a real possibility that Slava Trukhno may choose to stay in Europe. He is still a player the Oilers want to have in Springfield as they believe he may turn the corner under the tutelage of Rob Daum. That said, the last indication I got was that it wasn't a guarantee that the Russian/Dane would return because the phrase "we expect him to come back" was used.

All of the RFA players are expected to be back with the possible exception of Schremp who needs to clear waivers and likely hopes that won't happen. He could also opt to head to Europe for a bigger pay day and a higher-level playing opportunity but my understanding is that his preference is to wait and see if another NHL club plucks him off waivers. Schremp (seen above sitting with Jeff Tambellini at the 2008 AHL All-Star game) recorded just 7 goals last year.

My hunch is that Bryan Young will end up returning on a minor league deal and that the door may not be completely closed for Tyler Spurgeon to do the same thing.

As of Friday July 10th, Edmonton has managed to land two free agents who will make their mark in the minors - one by scoring, the other by scarring.

Chris Minard was an AHL All-Star last year as he racked up 34 goals and 57 points in 54 games. He's not old enough to take up a AHL Veteran roster spot (260 pro games) but he's definitely an impact player and one that I know head coach Rob Daum is very pleased to have in the fold.

"He played extremely well for Wilkes-Barre last year and he was around for [Pittsburgh's] Stanley Cup run," Assistant GM Kevin Prendergast told me, "What he does is score. If he can get his skating up another notch more I think he could actually be a potential call up for us."

Minard is a 6'1, 200 lb left winger although he spent some time at center during his OHL career in Owen Sound, Oshawa and Toronto.

The other newcomer is of far less significance but with his 6'4 and 235 lb frame, Matt Nickerson (left) is expected to provide the Falcons with heavyweight toughness. He'll never be mistaken for a skill player but I'm told he can line up as a forward or a defenceman and that after two seasons in Finland he should at least be able to get around a North American rink as a skater.

Johan Motin, Alex Plante and Milan Kytnar are expected to slide into the line up in Springfield, the two defenders essentially filling the holes left by Roy and Gabinet/Bisaillon/Young. But so far... that's it. 12 players gone from the roster and only 2 free agents and 3 rookies coming in to replace them. I know the organization is still actively shopping but if they can't land some fish into the boat soon, those vacancies are going to end up being filled by ECHL players.

Assuming all of the RFAs do return, the forward lines might look something like this:

Minard - Stone - Potulny
Trukhno - X - Schremp
X - O'Marra - McDonald
Lerg - Paukovich - Kytnar

I know that Edmonton would like to get Charles Linglet back under contract. He had 16 points in 21 games with the Falcons last year and could easily slip onto the second line LW spot, possibly forcing Schremp (if he's back) to the middle with Trukhno on his off-wing.

However, the rest of the forward positions are still needing to be filled and while I know the Oilers are negotiating with a few free agents, top caliber AHL players are being snapped up by the rest of the league:

- Graham Mink gone to Florida/Rochester.
- Darren Haydar, Brett Skinner, Brian Willsie, David Jones and Matt Hendricks are all now with Colorado/Lake Erie.
- Carolina/Albany signed Steve Goertzen.
- Dany Sabourin and Drew Fata are now with Providence.
- Jason Krog is back with Atlanta/Chicago along with goalies Drew MacIntyre and Peter Mannino.
- Calgary/Abbotsford landed Jason Jaffrey.

There are good players available for the taking but there are a couple of hurdles in Edmonton's way; a self-imposed budget for the minor league team and the lofty asking price of those talented players.

Alex Giroux (left) led the AHL in scoring last year and is looking to cash in on that with a 1-way contract which would guarantee him in the neighborhood of $500K to play in the minors. He scored 60 goals last year and would definitely take an average team and vault them into excellent status. But paying $500K to a player on the farm, like Mathieu Roy last year, is not something Edmonton wants to do.

Ryan Vesce is a 2-time AHL All-Star and is definitely someone who is high on the list for teams looking to bolster their farm club. However he's after a 2-year deal with a 1-way contract in the second year. He might get it from someone but I find it hard to believe that it would be the Oilers. Vesce is 5'8 and I can't see the big club calling up players that size when their NHL roster has already been deemed too small by the new GM. However, on the farm he might very well be Springfield's captain, that's how highly some in the organization feel about him.

According to NHLPA.com (since removed), Chris Minard is going to be paid $550K by the Oilers this year - I'm not positive but I assume that is a 2-way deal. assuming that's the same ballpark that Giroux and Vesce want to play in (and rightfully so) then I get the sense that it's too rich for Edmonton.

Which I honestly don't get.

AHL contracts do not count against the NHL salary cap right? Is a million bucks too much to ask for those two players who, when added to the mix already in Springfield, would practically guarantee a playoff spot for the Falcons? Isn't having your prospects on the farm surrounded by winners exactly the type of development the organization should be striving for? Isn't that a smart way of spending your money?

I'm told the Oilers are currently sitting at 45 NHL contracts; would not vastly improving the Falcons by signing those two impact players, even if it bumped the contract count to 47, be worth it in the long run?

Obviously if they could get guys like Linglet, Vesce (pictured) and Giroux under minor league contracts that would be the perfect scenario. However, while Edmonton waits for the player demands to drop, the other 28 AHL teams continue to add and the risk increases that the Falcons will miss out completely.

Springfield should be better - a full season of Ryan Stone, Chris Minard and Ryan Potulny might be as good a line as there is in the league. They have the potential to add the above free agent trio to the mix and provide Springfield with a true powerhouse AHL line up, something their fans have not watched in recent memory.

How much better does this forward group look than the one I listed above:

Minard - Giroux - Vesce
Linglet - Stone - Potulny
Trukhno - O'Marra - McDonald
Lerg - Paukovich - Kytnar
x-Schremp gone on waivers

The blueline is again looking very young and could benefit greatly from the addition of an AHL veteran. Jake Taylor is the senior player right now and behind him are Taylor Chorney, Theo Peckham, Cody Wild, Matt Nickerson plus rookies Alex Plante and Johan Motin. Jordan Benfeld may still be allotted for Stockton.

I fully expect Edmonton to add a vet to the mix and won't be surprised if they try and raid one of this year's AHL finalists to do it. Manitoba had Zack Fitzgerald, a defensive defenceman with some size and a +13 rating who is now a UFA. Hershey, the Calder Cup winners, had a young blueline partially led by Dean Arsene (pictured), a big and experienced defenceman that would provide sound leadership for the Falcons. [Edited to remove Staffan Kronwall mention who has already been signed.]

In goal it's going to be Devan Dubnyk's show but as I mentioned before, Aaron Sorochan might be a player to watch at camp in the fall. The former U of A Golden Bear has an opportunity to earn a pro contract and might just end up playing behind Dubnyk in Springfield. He won't be the only free agent goalie at camp though as I expect an un-drafted WHL grad to also be invited in former Portland Winterhawks netminder Kurtis Mucha.

The bottom line is that the Falcons can be much better this year and the only thing right now standing in the way might be... the financial bottom line. The Oilers can either fill their AHL roster holes with expensive impact players that will make a big difference on the standings and in the development of their top prospects or, they can fill the holes with cheaper borderline AHL/ECHL players that will keep Springfield buried in mediocrity.

I've never met or spoken with Darryl Katz before but something tells me he doesn't settle for 'mediocre'.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday Re-Set

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If you missed The Pipeline Show last night, well let me be your guide as I lead you through what you missed...

Dean and I started the night off by talking about the free agent crop that still waits to be signed at the American Hockey League level. As the Springfield Falcons hope to ice a stronger team, the free agent list is rapidly thinning out and Edmonton's farm club so far isn't any better than it was a year ago. Why? We talked a bit about that and through out some names of guys we think would fit the bill. (Dean and Guy HERE)

TPS made its on-air debut back on February 13th, 2006 and one of planned guests that night was Kyle Chipchura. For whatever reason, that planned interview fell apart but we finally got around to giving him another call and the Alberta product updated us on his summer. Montreal can be an intimidating market for Habs players and Chipchura described it from the perspective of a young guy trying to crack the roster. (Kyle Chipchura HERE)

Obviously with Oilers prospect camp underway in Sherwood Park we spent much of the evening with that in the spotlight. Earlier in the day we spoke with Johan Motin, William Quist, Olivier Roy and Toni Rajala. (Prospect Camp)

We also had extended interviews with a pair of new Oiler prospects in Kyle Bigos and Troy Hesketh - two defencemen that originally caught Edmonton fans off guard at the draft but are starting to change minds as people get to know more about them. (Kyle Bigos and Troy Hesketh interviews)

NEXT WEEK: Our annual show that examines and compares the NCAA and CHL paths to the NHL. Is one really better than the other? We'll speak with a Canadian who is currently playing for a premier NCAA program, a former WHL player who just wrapped up his CIS career and is ready to turn pro, a local media voice who is very staunch in his stance plus another guest who will offer up his/her thoughts on the subject. It should be another beauty show.

Swift Decisions?

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One of my WHL sources passed this along to me last night while we were on the air during The Pipeline Show. I mentioned it on the air and thought I would jot it down here as well.

Word is Swift Current is close to filling it's vacant Head Coach/G.M. position after Dean Chynoweth took as assistant coaching job with the New York Islanders. Speedy creek is apparently down to 2 scenarios. One would have former Oilers forward Mark Lamb coming in and pulling double duty. Lamb was most recently in the Dallas Stars organization, but I can't find his name anywhere on the Stars website so he might have a been a casualty of the new regime. Speaking of Dallas, nice to see former Red Deer Rebel Jeff Woywitka sign there for 2 years. There were nights when Woywitka's skating reminded me of Ray Bourque. Then again there were nights when his decision making made me think of Homer Simpson.

The Other scenario that Swift I'm told is looking at is moving Sheldon Ferguson up from Assistant G.M. to the main position with John Becanic as the bench boss. Becanic was last a head coach with Everett until being let go last April. He was the 'tips head coach for 2 years and was with the team for a total of 6.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hockey Canada to the NHL

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Hockey Canada has long been a training ground for the NHL when it comes to support and coaching staffs. Some bench bosses hone their skills with the organization, while others (Pat Quinn) rejuvenate their careers. It's also been a jumping off point for those in the video world. A number of editing geniuses are now employed by NHL teams, and not just as guys who cut and paste with precision the good and bad from games. Here are some examples of past Hockey Canada video men who have gone onto NHL gigs:

Ray Bennett-After his time with Hockey Canada, Bennett joined the LA Kings with Andy Murray at the helm. Murray was once the head coach of our National program. Bennett is now an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues, where Andy Murray is the head coach.

Rob Cookson-After cutting up Canadian clips Cookson took a similar job with the Philadelphia Flyers. In 2005 he was the video master for Brent Sutter's Gold Medal winning WJC team, and now he's part of Sutter's staff with the Calgary Flames.

Ryan Jankowski-No man is an Island, but after his stint with the Maple Leafers, Jankowski is now an Islander. In fact he's the Assistant G.M. Jankowski was a scout with the Islanders before his post.

Which brings me to why I'm writing this. The Oilers have yet to replace Brian Ross as their video coach. Monday they dipped into Hockey Canada for their goaltending coach, and I have a hunch they might do the same for their last vacant position on the staff. Ben Cooper is the current frame by frame man in the Calgary HC office. He was the Video guru for Canada's U-18 and World Junior teams, coached by.....you guessed it Pat Quinn. It seems like a logical move for Quinn to bring in a guy he's familiar with and who he's had success with. In the world of technology we live in, a good video coach can be pretty important to a bench boss.

Top 5 Tuesday: WHL Rookie Forwards

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I know what you're thinking: Rookie predictions for 2009-10 already!?!? Well I say... WHY NOT?

Sure WHL training camps don't even open for another 6 weeks or so but I'm really looking forward to the new season. Maybe because after two years of the Oil Kings under my nose, I'm feeling like I've got a pretty good grasp on the WHL scene. Unlike Dean, I grew up well out of WHL country in NE Alberta so I didn't get to experience the league first hand until the revival of the local team.

That said, 2009-10 looks like a terrific year for rookies, especially in respect to Edmonton-area kids. Remember that the 2008 WHL Bantam draft saw 8 local boys selected in the first round so there will definitely be lots of stories for Edmonton's junior hockey media horde to focus in on. (And by Horde I mean the 4 or 5 of us that regularly attend Oil Kings games).

With that in mind, here are my top 5 WHL rookie forwards for 2009-10. And I just wanted to add that this could easily have been a top-10 list, there are several players who could have been here - plus I didn't even look at the incoming Euro group led by Toni Rajala (Brandon).

5. Klarc Wilson (RW) - Brandon Wheat Kings
Edmonton, AB
Height: 5'11 Weight: 197 lbs
Drafted: 10th overall 2008

The Edmonton product made his WHL debut here in the City of Champions on January 28th as he joined the Wheaties for a road game against the Oil Kings. Wilson is described as a power forward in the making and as a 15-year-old he was already thicker than many in the WHL. He'll be part of a really strong Brandon club that has every intention of winning the Memorial Cup on home ice without skating in through the back door as hosts - on a team that will boast two top-10 1st round picks (Schenn and Glennie) plus Toni Rajala and whatever else Kelly McCrimmon can add to the mix, Brandon will be a force. And Wilson should be a contributor to that success.

4. Shane McColgan (C) - Kelowna Rockets
Manhatten Beach, CA USA
Height: 5'11 Weight: 170 lbs
Drafted: 13th overall 2008

Another guy who made his in Alberta, McColgan dressed for road games in Red Deer and Edmonton (first WHL goal) right before Christmas before playing twice in Kelowna in January. The diminutive Californian was with the team during the playoffs and the Memorial Cup as well so he's well versed in what it takes to win in the WHL. He'll be one of the guys expected to start filling the void left by Jamie Benn and Colin Long but it might be a little early to expect McColgan to score 40 goals and 80 points.

3. Ty Rattie (LW) - Portland Winterhawks
Airdrie, AB
Height: 6'0 Weight: 167 lbs
Drafted: 2nd overall 2008

He was an offensive dynamo on a loaded Airdrie Xtreme club during his draft year and the new-look Winterhawks would love to see some of that firepower injected into their line up this year. Rattie appeared in 10 games with Portland last year but only recorded a single point - a goal against Seattle. The Xtreme had a few players who practically lapped the field in scoring during the 2007-08 season including Rattie. There was some suggestion that his numbers were inflated from playing on a highly offensive team so he might be on a mission this year to prove a lot of critics wrong.

2. Michael St. Croix (C) - Edmonton Oil Kings
Winnipeg, MB
Height: 5'11 Weight: 165 lbs
Drafted: 4th overall 2008

Speaking of offensive dynamos... the Oil Kings should be a playoff team this year but if they get strong performances from their 2007 and 2008 drafted players like St. Croix, they could legitimately be a top 5 team in the Eastern Conference. St. Croix led his league in Manitoba in scoring and was the youngest player on Team West and the World U-17s in BC last Christmas. The forward scored and picked up an assist during his two-game stint with the Oil Kings last year. He's got loads of talent and will get the ice time in Edmonton to show it off. A potential rookie scoring title contender.

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C) - Red Deer Rebels
Burnaby, BC
Height: 6'0 Weight: 155 lbs
Drafted: 1st overall 2008

If anyone is a favorite to win the rookie scoring race next year it would have to be Nugent-Hopkins who scored 6 points in 5 games with the Rebels which included a 4-game scoring streak. Landon Ferraro told us in March that he thinks Nugent-Hopkins is the real deal but that he hopes Red Deer fans show patience and not heap major expectations on the shoulders of a 16-year-old. I've spoken with several media people who cover the CHL or have interests in the WHL specifically and to a tee they all agree; Nugent-Hopkins has everything it takes to be a star in the league.

Honorable Mentions: Like I said, there could have been a few and even this list was narrowed down some by only going with forwards. How about Brent Benson who will play for the Saskatoon Blades next year? He had a 4-game taste last season and could be a big player sooner as opposed to later for Lorne Molleken and company.

Another Oil King to watch for is Dylan Wruck. He's a year older than the gang listed above but he played an extra season in Saskatchewan, won the league scoring race and is poised to step into a big offensive role with Edmonton. He's not a big player but Jordan Weal and Brandon Kozun are proof that at the junior level, size isn't as big a factor as talent.

(Photos Courtesy: The Hockey News, Hockey Now, Portland Winterhawks)