Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Deadline Day

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Remember that list of free agent hopefuls the Edmonton Oilers brought in to take part at their rookie camp? I told you that there was a small but exclusive window of opportunity for the NHL club to sign any of those players to prevent their rights from reverting back to free agent status. Well, today is the day.

I've already gone on record with my opinion that Edmonton should make use of the chance to sign Kelowna's Stepan Novotny. For the sake of interest I thought I'd check in with how the rest of that list of invitees has been performing thus far in the junior season.

Goalies

Kris Lazaruk - As far as I know he has yet to find a team to play for this season but he's too old to play junior any longer so it's probably a ECHL gig at best now for him.

Kurtis Mucha - Returned to a much-improved Portland squad, he'll either be a hotly sought after commodity for a WHL contender or a key piece in the Winterhawks return to respectability. Either way, as an overager I think he can be singed at any time by any other team now... but I could be wrong (I'll check but if you know, leave it in the comments section.)

Torrie Jung - In the same boat as Mucha, Jung is back with the Edmonton Oil Kings and is already off to a flying start after 4 games. He has a 2.21 GAA and a fantastic .937 save percentage. He's faced an average of 33 shots a night so it's not like he's been sleep walking his way through so far.

Defence

R.J. Anderson & Jesse Dudas - Both players moved on to AHL training camp with Springfield but failed to crack the roster. I have not heard if they have hooked up with anyone else.

Dmitri Kostromitin - He played with Montreal last year but is with Rouyn-Noranda this season (along with Oiler prospect Philippe Cornet). After 5 QMJHL games the 6'3 Russian has 6 points.

Dalton Prout - One of the guys who actually made it through to main camp, Prout has since returned to Barrie in the OHL. Not surprisingly, the defensive defenceman has yet to register a point after three games.

Adrian Van de Mosselaer - Back with the Oil Kings and has yet to record a point after 4 outings.

Forwards

Oil Kings Michael Burns and Brett Breitkreuz are back with the WHL club. Burns is pointless but Breitkreuz has collected 3 assists in 4 games. Jeff Lee failed to earn a AHL contract in Springfield camp and has moved on to UNB to begin his CIS career.

Derek Hulak and Burke Gallimore got off to a terrific start in Saskatoon; After 4 games, captain Hulak has 5 points while local boy Gallimore has 6 points. Oiler prospect Milan Kytnar is pointless since his return to the WHL.

Stepan Novotny - He scored 5 points on opening night in a 6-5 shootout loss to Vancouver but then failed to hit the score sheet in Kelowna's next outing. He's back on track now though and has 9 points in 4 games, 1 point behind the league's scoring leader.

Jordan Skellett - Another guy off to a hot start is the Saginaw Spirit forward who has notched 8 points in 4 contests. The 5'11, 203 lbs winger has 7 assists.

So a few of the invitees are out of the gates very well. The Oilers made it clear to me that they probably wouldn't be signing any of these players though because of how many contracts they were carrying at the time. Of course since then, Rob Schremp has come off the books and freed up a spot. Liam Reddox is currently on waivers...

I still hold to my belief that the Edmonton Oilers would be wise to try and sign Stepan Novotny. Not doing so won't me they can't draft him next summer but it does mean that they won't be the only team in the running for him. Yes he went un-drafted this year but if he can continue on his current pace, he'll not only get selected but he'll be snapped up before the weekend is half over.

I ask you: what's better asset management... drafting Novotny in the 4th round of the 2010 Draft or signing him now and using that same pick on someone else?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday: Calder Candidates

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Tonight on the show we'll be discussing who our favorite Calder Trophy candidates are. Joining us will be Hockey Night in Canada's Jeff Marek.

Here now are 5+ rookies I think you should watch.

5. Symeon Varlamov-Washington Capitals/Jonas Gustuvsson-Toronto Maple Leafs
This one is a toss up for me, because it depends on who gets the most playing time. The Caps are giving Jose Theodore a chance to regain the #1 job, even though it was the Russian Varlamov who led Washington in the playoffs after Theodore struggled. Meanwhile 'The Monster' in Toronto has Vesa Toskala to deal with, and if Toskala has more injury or inconsistancy problems, Gustuvsson could steal the #1 job. He's played more than 102 games over the past 2 years and looked very good in the pre season.

4. Alex Pietrangelo-St. Louis Blues
Pietrangelo was among a great group of blueliners at the 2008 NHL draft. He was drafted behind Drew Doughty and Zach Bogosian and just ahead of Luke Schenn whom the Leafs took 5th overall. Last season he played 8 games with St. Louis before being sent back to Niagra of the OHL where he was an offensive force from the blueline with 29 points in 36 games. A future PP QB Pietrangelo has all the tools and his 6.03 build gives him an even bigger advantage. He'll learn from Barret Jackman, Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson in St. Louis and it wont' be long before he takes his place as a top 2 rearguard.

3. Colin Wilson-Nasvhille Predators
A tweaked groin has the predators being cautious with Wilson, and it may require a stint in Milwaukee to start the year, but once he gets to the NHL look out. The fitness fanatic who is 6.01 and tips the scales at about 215 pounds, would just as soon run over you as go around, and he can do both. Wilson helped Boston University win a NCAA Frozen Four championship last year, when he racked up 55 points in 43 games while adding 53 penalty minutes. He also played for the U.S. at the World Hockey Championship after his season at BU wrapped up. The son of former NHLer Carey Wilson has terrific hockey sense and while he'll likely be more of a set up man, he has a very good shot. He's not as big as Jason Arnott yet, but he will soon be taking the torch from the current Preds power forward.

2. John Tavares-New York Islanders
Mike Bossy and Dale Hawerchuk are the guys Tavares is being compared to. The man nicknamed 'Ducky' lit the lamp 45 times and added 58 assists in 80 games with the Jets in 1981-1982. As for Bossy, he didn't have as many points, but did snipe 53 times, the start of his 9 straight 50+ goal seasons. I don't think Tavares will come anywhere near 50, but he has a nose for the net judging by his almost goal per game pace in junior and with Doug Weight feeding him the puck could skate his way to the Calder, even though most think skating is the weakest part of his game.

1. Nikita Filatov-Columbus Blue Jackets
For me, Filatov was the most skilled player chosen in the 2008 NHL entry draft. He was stuck behind a Canadian forward and a wack of exceptional defenceman and that's the reason he went 6th overall. Filatov notched a hatty in his first NHL with the Jackets, and scored 4 goals in 8 NHL games. He was pretty good in the AHL with Syracuse as well putting up 16 goals, adding 16 assists in 39 games. Columbus has some pretty good offensive weapons with Rick Nash, Derrik Brassard and Jacub Voracek. If Filatov can slide in on the second line somewhere he could do some real damage.

Also here are some others to keep an eye on, as remember nobody was talking about Steve Mason, Krist Versteeg or Bobby Ryan as favorites last year.

Victor Hedman-Tampa Bay Lightning. For some reason my brain was cramping when I did the list the first time and he wasn't on it. I don't think he'll win the Calder but should have a nice rookie season, especially with Mattias Ohlund helping him along.

Evander Kane-Atlanta. The 4th overall pick in 2009 scored 48 goals with Vancouver of the WHL last year and has reportedly looked good in Trashers camp.

Artem Anisimov-New York Rangers. We were talking about this guy last April, and you can read about it here. The Russian had 6 points in 6 pre season games, including a couple of dazzling goals.

Sergei Shirokov-Vancouver. Another Russian who hardly anyone outside of Vancouver was talking about before the pre season. With Pavel Demitra injured to start the year, the 23 year old will get a shot, and is just the dark horse who could win the race.

Dmitri Kulkov-Florida Panthers. Slick skating blueliner, might be able to off set some of the loss felt from Jay Bouwmeester leaving town.

Who's on your list that's not on mine?

Schremp on TPS Tonight

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Rob Schremp's tenure with the Oilers is officially over. And both parties agree that it's the best solution. I just spoke with Schremp who is excited for his new opportunity, not only to play, but to skate with some young talent on the Island. NY has to keep him on their roster after picking him up, if they tried to send him to the minors, the Oilers would have first crack at him. Schremp will be a guest on The Pipeline Show tonight, we're just not sure of the time, but the show airs from 7-9 PM MST. If you're in the Edmonton area it's the TEAM 1260. If not you can listen online at www.thepipelineshow.com. Feel free to send an email to pipeup@theteam1260.com and we might read it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Contest Time!!!

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The start of the season means two things for TPS, season previews and contests. We'll be talking about both on Tuesday night as we discuss our Calder Trophy candidates for the upcoming season, preview the USHL and NCAA seasons as well as profile Plymouth Whalers forward Tyler Seguin who should be a top prospect for the 2010 draft.

It also means time is running out for you to enter the two contests we have running right now.

Our opening night roster contest ends when puck drops for the Oilers on Saturday night. To win you have to predict who the 23 players on the Oilers rosters will be. Keep in mind you don't have to predict who's in the line up Saturday, but just give us 23 names who are on the roster. Also remember players on injured reserve don't count. And don't think you're that smart by waiting until all the players are assigned and the Oilers have announced their roster publicly, because the tie breaker is whoever entered first. So here's how you play...email your 23 man opening night roster to pipeup@thepipelineshow.com.

As for our second contest, it closes at 5 PM MST Thursday night, which is when the 2009-2010 season begins. To enter The Pipeline Show Hockey Pool click here and you will find all the details.

Both are free to enter and prizes will be available for winners of both contests. However if you're a media member you don't not qualify for the prizes, there is a separate pool that you can join, where the prize is PRIDE!!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Schremp Watch Begins

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The Oilers provide plane tickets for 5 players on Sunday, and placed Theo Peckham on injured reserve, just after beating the Canucks 5-4 at Rexall Place to wrap up the pre season.

Edmonton returned Jordan Eberle to Regina, while Devan Dubnyk, Taylor Chorney, Kip Brennan and Rob Schremp were assigned to Springfield. Schremp is the only player who must clear waivers to reach the farm.

Will a team like the Islanders take a chance on his offensive skills? Or how about Minnesota, head coach Todd Richards coached Schremp when the forward put up 53 points in 69 games with Wilkes-Barre. Based on his pre season you would likely say 'no', as other than against Tampa in Winnipeg Schremp didn't really stand out, but a guy like Richards knows his potential, and Minnesota is trying to play a more offensive style this year. Or is it more believable that he'll get through the waiver process - other teams will be doing the same thing with their own players - and start the year with the Falcons. Will he be the first call up? With Rob Daum he may get off to a fast start, but there are players ahead of him, still with the team that will make their way to Springfield (if they get through waivers) when the Oilers are healthy. Or will be play out his days as an Oiler in Springfield
and then look to sign elsewhere next season.

As for Eberle this is the right move for the Oilers and that's why most media members predicted it. He can dominate in Regina (until they trade him to a contender at the deadline) and help Canada try to win it's 6th straight gold medal at the World Junior Championhip being played in Regina and Saskatoon this year. I wouldn't have been against him getting even a game during the regular season, and if the numbers weren't stacked against him he probably would have. But that might mean losing a player, remember the Oilers picked up Steve Macintyre through the process last year.

The Oilers still have 17 forwards battling for 14 spots with notables such as Gilbert Brule, Ryan Stone, JF Jacques and Liam Reddox hoping to stick with the Oilers out of training camp for the first time in their careers.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Farm Report Sept 25

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Like we did all last year, TPS will try and update Oilers fans every Friday on the players in the system who are not on the NHL roster. We'll spend this time to check in with the Springfield Falcons, the Stockton Thunder and add some tidbits on the prospects still playing junior, NCAA or in Europe.

Obviously there isn't a whole heck of a lot to talk about just yet but here are some brief things to take note of.

- The Springfield Falcons dropped their first exhibition game by a 3-2 score. The Providence Bruins built up a 3-goal lead and the Falcons nearly completed a comeback but fell short of the finish line. The top line for Springfield in the game featured Adam Henrich, brother of former Oilers 1st round pick Michael Henrich. Riding shotgun on that line is minor league journeyman Bryan Lundbohm and former Alberta Golden Bears star Dylan Stanley.

Back in March I threw out the idea that with Rob Daum behind the bench, maybe a few former UofA players might get a look on the farm and low and behold, there are a couple down there right now. Stanley notched a goal and an assist against Providence.

- The Falcons cut 8 players from their camp and are currently at 30 skaters and 4 goalies. Obviously they'll get a few more bodies once the Oilers make another round of reassignments but the AHL club is trying to get down in their numbers as they prepare for opening night on October 3rd. Springfield takes on Worcester tonight and then hook up with Providence again on Saturday.

- Former Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Tim Kunes was a free agent invite to Falcons camp. The defensive defenceman played the last four years with the Boston College Eagles but was not signed by the 'Canes and is now a UFA. He was a player on the radar for the Oilers during the 2005 draft where he eventually was selected by Carolina in the 5th round. Kunes was one of the players dropped from Springfield's camp yesterday.

- At the junior level, Milan Kytnar is expected to make his 2009-10 WHL debut tonight as the Saskatoon Blades host the Edmonton Oil Kings. Speaking of the Blades, it's interesting to note that the two players Edmonton invited to rookie camp are off to another great start; Burke Gallimore has 3 goals and 5 points while captain Derek Hulak has 4 points, both have +4 ratings. Saskatoon has played two games so far.

- Philippe Cornet told me at rookie camp that he's really trying to have a strong start this season so he'll get that invite to Canada's WJC camp in December. So far so good - he's got 6 points in 3 games with his new club Rouyn-Noranda.

- Netminder Olivier Roy is unbeaten in regulation time so far. It's only 3 games and he has just one win but Roy's dropped a pair of games in overtime/shootout including a marathon 11-shooter session with Moncton. Roy's GAA isn't great at 3.16 but his .914 save percentage is a big jump up from his previous numbers.

- Finnish forward Toni Rajala is now skating in Brandon but is not expected to be game ready for a couple of weeks. Rajala left Edmonton with the Oilers as they flew to Winnipeg for their exhibition game against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

- One college note as it was announced today that Jeff Petry has been chosen by teammates to be one of the co-captains at Michigan State. Petry is entering his junior (and probably final) season at MSU and is clearly a guy looking to rebound from a tough year where he was overused by head coach Rick Comley. During the summer I spoke with Petry about last year and he was quite candid with his thoughts; you can hear that conversation in this segment from TPS.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Omark Rumor Update

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A rumor has begun making the rounds on the message boards lately that Oilers prospect Linus Omark is disgruntled with his situation in the KHL and is looking to bolt to the NHL.

A poster going by the name of "Silent Night" over at HFBoards.com posted a link to this Swedish article in regards to Omark. "Silent Night" then proclaimed "Omark on his way from Russia already" which has some Oiler fans getting excited at the thought of the talented Swede coming to Edmonton this season.

In the Swedish article there is a quote attributed to Edmonton President Kevin Lowe in which the exec apparently outlines that the NHL club is ready and willing to bring Omark in but that the player would have to sort out a release with his KHL club, Dynamo Moscow.

Rather than relying on internet translation sites for clarification I contacted Aftonbladet and asked the writer of the article to tell me what Lowe said, if the agent has gone on the record with a comment and whether Omark has said outright that he wants to leave Russia for Edmonton this year. Here is what I was told:

According to the Russian newspaper Sport-Express, Lowe said:
"We stay in contact with Omark's agent and we keep an eye on his performances in Russia. We know that everything hasn’t worked out perfectly. If he wants to give it a shot here in Edmonton, we’re going to give him that opportunity but first he has to reach an agreement with Dynamo."
In regards to the agent:
We talked to Omark's agent (Patrik Aronsson), and he denied that Omark wants to get out of Russia. "They (Omark and Johan Harju) are going to stay in Russia and keep playing and they will not leave during this season."
So you'll have to decide how much credibility you give to what an agent says but on the surface It doesn't sound like Edmonton fans should expect to see Linus Omark in an Oiler uniform during 2009-10. Even if he did come over tomorrow, wouldn't it be more realistic to see the diminutive Swede begin the year in the AHL?

I also tried to contact the Oilers for a comment in regards to this today but sources I was able to reach (travel day) said they had not heard anything from Omark's agent in regards to any desire to leave Dynamo for Edmonton this year.

I will update again if I learn anything more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beach Traded.... AGAIN.

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It's going to be a very long season for Lethbridge Hurricane fans. The club that has lost a ton of talent from last year decided to deal away one of the few offensive pieces they had remaining on their roster. Kyle Beach is on the move again and headed back to the US Division where he will pull on the sweater of the Spokane Chiefs.

Here are the details from Spokane.

Beach had 66 points in 54 games last year split between Everett and Lethbridge and now joins a team he once considered THE ENEMY. The rivalry between Spokane and Everett is certainly well documented and Beach was a central figure in that dispute when he wore green.



Some of the players from that clip are no longer be there, like Chris Bruton, but Mitch Wahl is. You have to wonder how this move will go over with the Chiefs and whether or not it will affect the chemistry in the room. Dean and I have been supporters of Beach over the last few years but I can tell you quite honestly that judging by conversations I have had with people throughout the WHL... we're in the minority. Beach isn't the most well-liked guy out there and so I can foresee some issues this year in Spokane.

Definitely a powder keg scenario but... will it blow?

Wednesday Reset - TPS S05E04

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September has always been preview month for us and for the last few weeks we've been breaking down the CHL. Every week we try and introduce listeners to another prospect that is eligible for the next NHL draft and we did that again yesterday. Lastly, over the last few episodes we've taken a closer look at the Canadian NHL teams and their training camps and on Tuesday we ticked another team off the list.

In case you're wondering about the title... that would be The Pipeline Show Season 5, Episode 4.

We began the program talking about Oiler camp and which young players we've been impressed with or disappointed in and interestingly enough, Dean and I chose different players in both categories.

Dean and I also announced the start of a couple new contests for the year - our annual Name the Opening Night Roster contest as well as the yearly Pipeline Show Hockey Pool. For details on the pool, just click on the link and you'll be taken to the site's contest page where you can see the instructions and the groups of players to start building your own team.

The Opening Night Roster contest is pretty straight forward: email us the 23 names you believe will be with the Oilers on opening night. We don't care who the healthy scratches are or what the line combos are either - just the 23 names who are with the team when game #1 gets underway on Saturday October 3rd. But you don't want to wait to enter... as always, the tie breaker goes to the earliest entry so get your 23-man list in to us today. Email us at pipeup@thepipelineshow.com

Segment two saw us head out East and welcome Adam Proteau of The Hockey News back tot he program. Adam tore the lid off of Toronto Maple Leafs camp and gave us a breakdown of who will, who won't and who might make the team out of camp. We also talked about Phil Kessel and what that trade means to the Leafs, a club supposedly in a rebuild that willingly gave up significant building blocks to acquire a single player. Nazem Kadri played a central role in our discussion in regards to his balancing his career with his religious priorities. You can hear Adam Proteau's Maple Leafs preview HERE.

Our 2010 eligible prospect this week is already considered a top-10 pick. Brandon Gormley is a blueliner with the Moncton Wildcats and joined us to talk about the outlook for the season in the Q as well as his experience at the Ivan Hlinka tournament wearing the Maple Leaf for Canada. Gormley comments on Russian forward Kirill Kabanov and goalie Louis Domingue - both teammates in Moncton, as well as Mark Pysyk all of whom are eligible this June for the draft. Hear what Brandon Gormley had to say HERE.

Over the last couple of weeks we've previewed the OHL and the QMJHL so this week we turned our attention to the Western Hockey League. To give us a rundown on the Eastern Conference we tapped the shoulder of Cam Moon, the voice of the Red Deer Rebels and analyst for Shaw TV. Covering the Western Conference for us is Allan Bristowe from PGTV in Prince George. You can hear Part 1 and Part 2 of our WHL previews by clicking on the links.

We also played an interesting round of Bad Ass Trivia during which a "frustrated" Bob Stauffer called in to show up the list of failed callers that came before him. Unfortuantely for Bob... he proved he wasn't quite as Bad Ass as he'd hoped. Our AJHL Alumni Player of the Week and Game of the Week were also announced earlier in that segment.

NEXT WEEK: We will preview the USHL as well as one of the 6 NCAA Conferences as hockey south of the border gets going in early October. we'll also meet another top prospect for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and more!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday: WHL Rookie Imports

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OK... so I started making my list and before long I had gotten way past 5 notable Euros playing in the WHL, this could easily have been a top 10 list. I've decided to narrow the group to only those Euros who are making their WHL debut this year so that's why guys like Milan Kytnar, Stepan Novotny and Tomas Vincour are not going to be mentioned here.

My list is an interesting cross section of nationalities with one obvious exclusion - Russia. In my opinion this lends even more credibility to my idea to change the annual 6-game CHL/Russia series into a CHL/World series but that's an argument I've made before.

Here are my top five WHL import rookies for 2009-10.

5. Alexander Urbom (SWE)

Urbom is a 6'4, 216 lb Blueliner from Sweden that is expected to play for the Brandon Wheat Kings this year. I say expected because I believe that he is still taking part in his NHL training camp with the New Jersey Devils. The Devils selected Urbom in the 3rd round this past June after a season in the SEL with Djurgardens. His profile at eliteprospects.com reads:
A big and strong player. Urbom is more of a stay-at-home defenseman that likes to play physical and usually has good timing in his hits. Positioning is good. Leads the team with his solid play in the defensive zone. Contributed offensively to some extent in the Swedish juniors, but is likely to become more of a shut-down guy. Offensive smarts and technical skills are fairly average.
4. Sergei Drozd (BEL)

I first saw Drozd play last Fall during the World Junior A Challenge in Camrose when he represented Belarus and went under the first name of "Siarhei". He's an average sized forward but in that tournament he showed a lot of skill and passion. He was, in my opinion, the best player on the Belorussian squad. Drozd ended the tournament with 9 points in 5 games, finishing second in overall scoring behind eventual tourney MVP Mike Cichy (MTL).

Drozd went unselected during the 2009 NHL Draft despite playing 11 games in the KHL with Minsk. He has joined the Tri-City Americans this season and picked up two points in his first outing over the weekend.

3. John Persson (SWE)

The Red Deer Rebels were pleasantly surprised during the preseason by their Swedish import as he put up terrific numbers. After Finnish defender Tommi Kivisto started hot but faded last year, I think there is tempered optimism in Red Deer that Persson can be an impact player for the Rebels this season. He's listed at 6'2 and 190 lbs so size isn't going to be an issue for him but as always there will be concern in regards to being able to last for a full North American season.

Red Deer head coach Jesse Wallin described the Swede early in training camp by saying:

"He's a big guy, he skates pretty well, and he's got good hands for a big man. So far, so good. He looked good this afternoon, and got adjusted to the game in North America. He mentioned the size of the ice a couple of times, thats a little different for him. He's looked good so far."

2. Toni Rajala (FIN)

He was one of the real wildcards during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and he's already being considered one of the steals after Edmonton selected him in the 4th round. The tiny Finnish forward will get a late start thanks to a summer knee injury that has kept him on the sidelines during both WHL and NHL camps. A healthy Rajala has the potential to be a dominant junior player as he set a new scoring record at the World U18 tournament last spring in Fargo, ND.

I saw Rajala in attendance at the Oil Kings home opener on the weekend and Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal is reporting that he will finally head to Brandon on Friday. Eliteprospects.com has this to say:
A good skater that accelerates well. Rajala has good puck skills and is a creative player. He has a scorer's touch and puts up points on regular basis. On the downside, he needs to bulk up and become stronger.
1. Nino Niederreiter (SWI)

Switzerland has been slowly growing as a hockey nation and has made NHL inroads wtih goaltenders and blueliners but forwards are still a work in progress. Nino Niederreiter hopes to be somewhat of a pioneer in that regard as he brings his game to North America with the Portland Winterhawks.

The talented forward put up 34 points in 30 games last year playing for Davos in a U20 league. The scoring success has followed him early this season as the Swiss product collected 3 points in Portland's opener against Seattle on the weekend. Niederreiter should be a lock for that country's entry into the 2010 WJC in Saskatoon and thanks to his WHL choice this year, he should be accustomed to playing here and will be poised for a successful tournament.

The Winterhawks picked Niederreiter 2nd overall in the CHL Import Draft and although that's an event based more on deals with agents than it is a selection of the best players, thus far the Swiss kid appears to be covering the bet.

Mucha Headed back to Portland

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The Pipeline Show has learned that Oiler hopeful Kurtis Mucha has been, or will soon be, sent back to the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.

Dean Millard tells me that the as yet unannounced move will be made official very soon and that Mucha will rejoin his WHL squad in time for their next game this Friday in Tri-City.

Mucha was a free agent invite to Oilers rookie camp, earned an extended look at main camp and now hopes to be signed by Edmonton. The Oilers have an exclusive window to negotiate a deal with the goalie which expires on Sept 30th.

This leaves the Oilers with a trio of goalies remaining in camp. Free agent Aaron Sorochan was quietly sent to Springfield over the weekend.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hitmen Ruin Oil Kings Home Opener

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The Edmonton Oil Kings did not start off the 2009-10 season the way they had hoped but instead suffered a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Hitmen.

The Oil Kings actually took it to the visitors throughout the first period and certainly looked like a team that was ready to take the league by storm. On the other side of the coin, the Hitmen were awful in the opening 20 minutes; horrible in their own end, virtually no offensive chances and they looked very sluggish.

Edmonton got things started with a goal 4:01 into the game when a pass was redirected behind Martin Jones (LA) and into the Calgary net. Tomas Vincour (DAL) got credit for the goal even though is intended cross-crease pass to Dylan Wruck was tipped in by a sliding Brandon Kozun (LA).

The Oil Kings top line of Vincour (RW), Brent Raedeke (C) and Wruck (LW) was terrific in the opening frame and provided the team with most of their best scoring chances on the night.

Ben Wilson evened the score for Calgary in the second period and that's how it would stay until the final six minutes of the game.

The Hitmen took their first lead of the night when sudden sniper Tyler Fiddler scored his fourth goal in two nights - he only notched three all last year. The lead was short lived though as Brent Raedeke (DET) suprised Jones with a long wrist shot that beat him high on the glove side. However, the tie didn't last long either and was broken by Ian Schultz (STL) who scored a weak one on Torrie Jung.

Schultz's eventual game winner was only followed by an empty netter from Kozun.

The host side held the lead in shots on net for most of the game. The tally was 12-5 in the first period and then 10-8 for Calgary in the second. In the end the two clubs both recorded 25 shots on goal.

It got a little bit scary for the Hitmen in the third period when not one, not two but three players went down to serious looking injury and all within the span of about a minute. forward MacKenzie Royer was beaned in the face by a teammate's clearing shot... from about 5 feet away. The Ian Schultz was helped off the ice after being low-bridged by Adrian Van de Mosselaer. Finally Cody Gross took a point blast in a tender spot while standing in front of the net.

The injuries seemed to have a positive effect on the Hitmen who rallied to take the win, Schultz scoring after returning from his own minor injury.

After the game I spoke with new Hitmen Head Coach Mike Williamson (now 2-0) as well as Ian Schultz. You can hear those post game interviews by clicking on their names in the sentence above.

On the home side, I also chatted with head coach Steve Pleau, netminder Torrie Jung, forward Brent Raedeke and new captain Rhett Rachinski. You can hear all of those post game comments by clicking on their respective names as well.

As I told both coach Pleau and Torrie Jung afterwards, I wonder if the goalie is a bit rusty. Jung never played a single pre-season game for the Oil Kings because he was waiting for rookie camp with the Edmonton Oilers. Yet he also didn't dress for a game with the NHL club so the regular season opener was Jung's first game of the year. He played very well but would definitely like that 3rd goal back - a shot that beat him through the 5-hole. Both Coach Pleau and Jung answered that question.

Edmonton's next game is a road game in Kootenay to play the Ice on September 23rd. Calgary returns to action on next Friday in Medicine Hat against the Tigers.

Royal Tidbits: 20-year-old Garret Thiessen has found work with the Prince George Cougars and not with the BCHL club in the same town. In exchange for the veteran blueliner, the Oil Kings will get a very late draft pick - like a 12th or 13th. Last draft Edmonton stopped making picks in the 10th round so this is basically a deal just so that a good kid can join a club that needs him, at least for a while...

Rhett Rachinski
was named the team captain on Friday. #22 Tomas Vincour, #9 Brent Raedeke and #29 Brett Breitkreuz were all given Alternate Captain 'A's...

Not a real surprise but Keegan Lowe has opted to wear the same number 4 that his father wore as an Edmonton Oiler defenceman during his NHL career...

during the TEAM 1260 pregame show with A.J. Jakubec and Kent Simpson, I went on record prediciting a 5th place Eastern Conference finish for Edmonton (a bit pie-in-the-sky), Torrie Jung as team MVP and that T.J. Foster was my breakout player of the year with 20 goals...

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

Panthers-Oilers Post Game, Jacques, Stone Shine

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While Mike Comrie and Patrick O'Sullivan were the two best players on the ice for Edmonton, a couple of youngsters were pretty good as well in a 4-0 pre season win Friday.

It didn't take J.F. Jacques long to steam roll a Panther, then as he stepped out of the box after serving a slashing penalty, he dropped Christian Backman like a rock in a river with a hard shoulder check. Backman was barely on the ice when Jacques looked around to see who would be on his dance card, and sure enough Adam Keefe came strolling in, dropping the mitts for a second time in the period.

The man nicknamed 'Crazy Train' during his days in the QMJHL did fairly well in the scrap that I would call a draw. In the middle frame with Edmonton up 3-0 etched his name on the scoresheet again, this time by putting away a very nice O'Sullivan pass to the slot, he went high in a hurry, one timing the shot to the top left corner. Jacques played pretty well last year down the stretch after returning from a back injury, he scored once and picked up 9 penalty minutes over a 7 game stretch, but more importantly was involved in the play physically. That's the way he was Friday, dishing out more than the 5 hits he was credited with. I really think Jacques can be a difference maker for the Oilers this year, if he continues to throw his weight around. Slot him in with Dustin Penner or Zach Stortini with Gilbert Brule in the middle and you have a very effective energy line that allows Brule to be an excellent agitator. You can here his post game comments, starting with how he got off to a good start in the game by clicking here.

Ryan Stone was pretty noticeable Friday night as well. Stone made a terrific pass to defenceman Taylor Chorney who jumped into the play during the 2nd period. The former UND Fighting Sioux rearguard finished nicely, zipping it top shelf on Tomas Vokoun. Stone picked up a second assist on Patrick O'Sullivan's 2nd period goal as well. The one time Brandon Wheat King was plus 2 in over 17 minutes of ice time, which included 5:07 on the power play. This is the second straight game where Stone looked comfortable on a line with O'Sullivan and Mike Comrie, and while like in Calgary the opponent wasn't exactly full of NHL calibre players, he's making an impact on the coaching staff. To me Ryan Stone could turn out to be an Ethan Moreau type player. They have similar size, Stone 6'2 199 lbs, Moreau 6'2 220 lbs. Stone's best year in junior was his last with Brandon where he notched 99 points and 127 PIM (he broke the 100 plus PIM mark in all 4 years with the Wheat Kings) while Moreau put up similar numbers with Niagra where best campaign was 98 points and 100 PIM. After the game I spoke to Stone about his play so far, as well as Moreau about Stone playing a similar style as the Oilers captain. You can hear those conversations here.

So what did the head coach think tonight? Pat Quinn talks about Taylor Chorney, J.F. Jacques, Ryan Stone and more here.

As for the Panthers, like Calgary did the other night they didn't dress a ton of NHL calibre players. Vokoun, Brian McCabe, Corey Stillman, Steve Reinprecht, Jordan Leopold, Martin Skoula and Michael Frolik were the notable names. A better line up than Calgary, but not by much. I spoke with Frolik, who as a rookie last year scored 45 points in 79 games for the Cats. You can catch the conversation with the 10th overall selection from 2006 by clicking here.

As I mentioned earlier, I think Ryan Stone has Ethan Moreau potential. Does he have Moreau's speed? No, but that can be improved. While we're comparing prospects to current pros, Colin McDonald might have some Fernando Pisani in him. McDonald is learning how to be an effective checking forward, and like Pisani has a very accurate shot so he can chip in somewhat with some offence. Both Stone and McDonald were drafted in 2003, but because he spent 4 full years at Providence College, McDonald is only entering his 3rd year of pro, while Stone is about to start his 5th ...whether it's in Edmonton or Springfield is debatable right now. McDonald will need atleast another year in the AHL, but if they keep developing, the pair could replace Moreau and Pisani as 2/3 of the Oilers checking line in the near future.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dear Oilers: Sign Novotny

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The WHL season officially got underway on Thursday night as the Vancouver Giants outlasted the defending champion Kelowna Rockets 6-5 in overtime. The story of the night was the fact that Czech import Stepan Novotny contributed on every Kelowna goal finishing with 4 lamp lighters and an assist.

Novotny scored the first two goals of the WHL season and put the Rockets ahead by a pair by mid-point of period one. He also tallied the final marker in regulation time that got the Rockets into overtime and a single point in the standings. Despite six goals for the Giants, Novotny ended the contest with a +3 rating.

Oiler fans might recall that Novotny attended rookie camp but failed to extend his stay in Edmonton for main camp even though he impressed with his obvious skills during the week.

The fact that he was sent back to Kelowna and didn't stay on like Kurtis Mucha, Dalton Prout and Jesse Dudas likely means he's not in the mix for a contract. The Oilers have until September 30th to change their minds though and I'm going to go on record by saying I really think they should take advantage of thier exclusive window and do it.

He's far from a complete player but Novotny's clearly got skills that a lot of junior players do not have. He's shifty and tricky with the puck, has vision and creativity and has well above average speed. That said, he's also very raw and is lacking defensively, needs to be more aggressive one-on-one but that's why he went undrafted.

Last month I quoted Stu MacGregor in my rookie camp preview when he said this about Novotny:
"Really skilled player," MacGregor began, "This guy is an extremely skilled hockey player. He showed some inconsistency but when he's got the throttle on and he's got it going, he's a very very hard guy to keep up to. He can make reads or shoot the puck while on the move, great hockey sense and a quick release. He has to learn to use his size and compete more in the harder areas but that's what we're hoping to see."
Novotny had 41 points in 65 games as a 18-year-old rookie last year.

In my opinion, the Oilers have a chance to basically draft a 18-year-old (turns 19 this Monday) without using a draft pick. Is he a sure thing? Absolutely not... neither is anyone you take in the 7th round which, in my mind, s pretty much what this would be like. The only difference is that this 7th rounder goes back to junior with a contract in his pocket.

The only downside to the idea is the fact that it would be a contract against the 50-limit and the Oilers are not wanting to mess around with that again. However, should a player or two happen to get plucked off of waivers as the team attempts to slip them through to the farm after being cut... then the door for Novotny opens slightly again.

Edmonton is looking ahead to next summer though and is conscious of how many players they'll have turning pro. They want to get Linus Omark, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Anton Lander and Teemu Hartikainen (see comments) over to North America. Chris Vande Velde will be done his four years of college and, assuming the team would want a big strong centerman who can win faceoffs, he will need to be signed by August 15th, 2010. Riley Nash and Jeff Petry... probably guys who are more likely to leave school than return for a senior year.

So is there room to sign Novotny now considering the players they hope to add to the pro mix next year? Debatable for sure and the answer today is probably "No"... but things can change drastically between now and June 30th.

At this point, is Slava Trukhno a better bet than Novotny? Is Ryan O'Marra? Both of those players are entering the final year of their entry level deal. Could Novotny take the place of one of them next season while either or both look to Europe? How about Liam Reddox. Or Bryan Lerg?

There might not be room today but there's room next year. My question is whether or not there will be room by September 30th. If there is... sign him. If not, Edmonton will have to take their chances at the 2010 draft as their exclusive opportunity to claim him will have long expired.

Skill and talent are worth the small risk.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Camrose closing in on 2011 Royal Bank Cup

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The Pipeline Show has learned that the Camrose Kodiaks are the likely hosts for the 2011 Royal Bank Cup. Dauphin, Manitoba is hosting the event this year, and it was scheduled for PEI in 2 years time, but word is the tournament won't make it out east and there is a 99 per cent chance the Kodiaks will take over.

It's a no brainer for the city to welcome the best Junior A teams from across the country. The Edgeworth centre is a state of the art facility featuring the 2500 seat Encana arena. It's the home the almost always successful Kodiaks who have one national championship and 3 second place finishes at the event. They should make excellent hosts as long as head coach Boris Rybalka is behind the bench.

This will mark the second big junior tournament in 3 years for the city as last year the World Junior A took place in the Alberta city. By the way, check out the Kodiaks website here, they do a great job of recognizing some of their great past players.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday: Oil Kings To Watch

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The Edmonton Oil Kings have quietly made some more cuts as they prepare for the start of the 2009-10 season this Saturday against the Calgary Hitmen. There has been no official release from the team but The Pipeline Show has learned that the team has gotten down to the three 20-year-olds that they will begin the year with and have also sent a couple other players out of camp.

I'm told that defenceman Drew Nichol has won the final overage roster spot and that the team has sent fellow blueliner Garret Thiesen back to the BCHL where he will play with the Prince George Spruce Kings.

Netminder Laurent Brossoit has also been cut from camp but I was not able to ascertain where he will actually end up yet - the team maybe looking for a new home for him as we speak. The 16-year-old had a good camp but his WHL career will really begin next season after 20-year-old Torrie Jung has played out his eligibility.

With Jesse Pearson still a scratch due to concussion symptoms carried over from last season, the Oil Kings are down to 7 defencemen. Mark Pysyk, Tyler Hlookoff, , Adrian Van de Mosselaer, Henrik Tervonen, Braeden Laroque, Drew Nichol and 16-year-old rookie Keegan Lowe.

With Colton Stephenson also sidelined with concussion symptoms and 15-year-old Mitchell Moroz too young to stick, the Oil Kings are also down to 14 forwards to start the season with.

Here now are my own personal Top 5 Oil Kings of interest in 2009-10:

5. Keegan Lowe - Defence

Yes... he is the son of the Oilers president, the same NHL team that falls under the ownership umbrella of Darryl Katz. However, throw your preconceived notions of nepotism aside - this Lowe is here because he's earned his place on the roster all on his own. It's kind of fitting that during the exhibition schedule the team wore jerseys without name bars because no one I have spoken with (WHL scouts, team sources, etc) has even slightly suggested that Keegan Lowe is getting any sort of preferential treatment because of his last name.

Personally, he makes my list of interesting layers to watch simply because I haven't gotten to see him play yet. Aside from 10 minutes or so in St. Albert against Medicine Hat before he bruised a shoulder, Lowe has been scratched whenever I've been in attendance.

Will be be an impact player at 16? Probably not. There is no reason to expect right now that he'll be anything more than a 6-7th guy for the Oil Kings this year unless injuries come into play. But that fact that he bumped some guys with WHL experience off the roster has definitely peaked my interest.

4. Brett Breitkreuz - Forward

A few moments before the first Oil Kings game I saw this pre-season, I had a conversation with GM Bob Green where I asked the inevitable question: "Who has impressed you so far in camp?" He told me that Brett Breitkreuz had clearly dedicated himself over the summer because he had reported to camp looking like a completely different player.

To some degree I took his comment with a bit of salt - of course the GM is going to pump up one of his key guys this year. Give credit where its due, Breitkreuz has delivered.

He earned an invite to Oilers rookie camp and opened some eyes with the NHL club and is now really and honestly on their radar as a player to follow this year. What may have begun as a token gesture to the Oil Kings, and I think it was actually more than that but you never know, Breitkreuz has taken and capitalized on. A strong season this year as an overage player could lead to another audition with the Oilers, or another NHL club, down the road.

3. Michael St. Croix - Forward

Obviously this is one of the key guys who will help determine the amount of success the Oil Kings enjoy this year. He's only 16 but Michael St. Croix could very well be one of the top rookie scorers in the league. Top line? Second line? Maybe the latter to start with but it will be up to him to see if he can carve out a bigger role for himself as the year goes on.

I don't know who his linemates will be (I'll tell you if I get the expected call/email/text from A.J. Jakubec) but you know he's going to put up some points this year. He's not NHL Draft eligible until 2011 but there will be scouts watching him this year in order to get an early feel for him. He'll have the World U17s like he did last year so the team will have to live without him for a couple of weeks.

2. Dylan Wruck - Forward

Another new face to the team but coming in as a 17-year-old should be a bit of an advantage for the diminutive forward. Wruck is an offensive dynamo that always seems to be on the score sheet every time I hear the summary from an exhibition game this fall.

He's playing with a lot of confidence, which is exactly why Green, Randy Hansch and Steve Pleau sent him back to the Beardy's Blackhawks last year. He dominated the league and now joins the 'Dub club knowing nothing but how to win and produce a ton of points.

I think that it will be very interesting to see who actually finishes the season with more points - Wruck or St. Croix. At this point I might throw my money behind Wruck

1. Mark Pysyk - Defence

This one really should have been obvious. He'll be the first Edmonton Oil King chosen in the 1st round of the NHL Entry Draft, the only question right now is how high he'll go. Recently I've been told that after the way he played in the Ivan Hlinka tournament, Hockey Canada might invite him to the December WJC camp if he gets off to the start they think he will. I'll believe it when I see it but hearing that rumor from someone in the know but with no vested interest in the Oil Kings was very interesting.

I first met Pysyk in the TEAM 1260 golf tournament back in 2007. He was in my foursome and, no word of a lie, was our designated ringer - the kid could spank the golf ball a mile and straight as an arrow. He comes across as a bt of an introvert although maybe that's just around media types. On the ice he's a workhorse that never seems to tire. Green once told me that Pysyk doesn't come off the ice because he's tired, he only comes off because his 45 or 55 seconds are up.

Pysyk is an exceptional talent but like a lot of high caliber blueliners, he doesn't always standout because he's so efficient that he doesn't have to make a lot of flashy, highlight real plays. Positionally strong, a terrific skater, crisp and accurate passer, unquestionably high hockey IQ and a quality individual. He's the real deal.

Honorable Mentions: I got done my list and laughed out loud wen I noticed that two of the team's bigger names aren't even in my top 5 right now. Torrie Jung and Tomas Vincour are probably MVP candidates for the team this year but I left them off of this particular list simply because we know so much about them already.

If Jung is only as good as he was last year then the Oil Kings are going to be in great shape. If, as a goalie with another year under his belt, Jung is somehow better than last season then Edmonton could legitimately be a team that strikes fear into other clubs in the Eastern Conference.

As for Vincour, reports out of Dallas have included a quote from GM Joe Nieuwendyk who called the Czech forward one of the most pleasant surprises from their prospect tournament in Traverse City. Health will be a question mark. He's battled shoulder problems on both sides but if he can stay in the line up this year, he could set new franchise records for points.

Season #3 gets underway on Saturday when the Calgary Hitmen visit Rexall Place.

Photos courtesy: Edmonton Oil Kings and Andy Devlin

Monday, September 14, 2009

R.I.P. Derek Sutton

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News today that actor Patrick Swayze has lost his battle with Pancreatic cancer. He was 57. Swayze starred in many movies, and ironically I was quoting a line from his movie 'Roadhouse' at Oilers training camp today, where bar owner Frank Tilghman says to Dalton (Swayze 'I thought you'd be bigger'.

For a group of Brandon, Manitoba teenagers who realized they would never play junior hockey, Derek Sutton was a bigger than life character in Youngblood. Ok, that's going a bit far, but Youngblood was a cult flick for us growing up. Swayze played Hamilton Mustangs captain (he was 34 years old when the movie came out, but played a 21 year old) Derek Sutton who along with Dean Youngblood (Rob Lowe) helped win a Memorial Cup against the hated Karl Racki and the Thunder Bay Bombers.

The closest Youngblood will ever get to the Academy is if a guy named Oscar worked on the film, but it still has some great scenes. Tea with Miss McGill, every junior hockey players dream. Cynthia Gibb....well you know what I'm talking about. Of course there's the bonding session in the bar where the Mustangs get Dean Youngblood plastered on Tequila (a scene me and my buddies re-enacted with horrifying results one evening) and of course....ding ding, paging Dr. Sutton.

The hockey action was laughable, the acting average but the entertainment was priceless...for us atleast. I love it so much I own a Hamilton Mustangs jersey and t shirt (www.madbrothers.com) and Guy and I used to do Youngblood trivia last year. It is easily the best junior hockey movie ever made.

To close, here are some of Swayze's more memorable quotes from the movie.

"To the game and getting out of this hick town! Thank God there is a sport for middle-sized white boys."

Sutton:Try to stay on side.
Youngblood:Pass the puck.
Sutton:Don't tell me to pass the puck.
Hanna (ref):You love birds want to settle this later, I gotta game to ref.
Sutton:Blows ref a kiss

"I made 91 goals before you got here."

"a round of tequila...coli moni de cahoni....woo hoo."

"Go hump your st. Bernard scum nuts"


Sadly Swayze becomes the second member of the cast from Younglood to pass away this year, as Peter Zezel also died because of complications from a rare blood disorder.