Showing posts with label Saskatoon Blades. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saskatoon Blades. Show all posts

Saturday, August 18, 2012

One To Watch: Washington Capitals

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More NHL success has meant a draining of the prospect pool for the Caps as their youth has graduated to the big club. When I was writing for Hockey's Future half a decade ago, it seemed like the Caps were always near the top of the prospect rankings and it was for good reason. 

Guys like Nicklas Backstrom, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Michal Neuvirth and a host of others have all made that transition over the last few years. 

In the system now are newer names like Tom Wilson, Filip Forsberg, Stanislav Galiev and Patrick Wey. Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov looks like a star in the making but fans are having to be super patient waiting for him to come over from Russia.    

My first choice for this series was Norweigian goalie Steffen Soberg who bailed on the Swift Current Broncos during training camp last year and went back to his homeland. I'm pretty sure he played pro in Norway so I get why he went back but judging by his numbers you have to wonder if it was the right choice; He only played 17 games and was pumped in net to the tune of a 3.86 GAA.

I finally decided that although I'd written a lot about him in the past, there was one guy I could ignore from the Capitals stable of prospects because it should be a huge year for him.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Makarov to Play for Russia at U20 WJC

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Russia is holding a preliminary WJC camp in Novogorsk beginning December 7th but will also add players to the final team who are currently skating in the CHL. Last week scribe Mike Morreale posted the camp list which you can find here. You can be sure that players like Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko will be added to the team when they arrive in Calgary on December 18th.

One other player you can add will be a goaltender playing in the WHL. The Pipeline Show has learned that Saskatoon Blades netminder Andrey Makarov has already been named to the team.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wheat Kings Shuffle The Deck...Twice

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My inbox buzzed twice in less then two hours today with 2 separate deals that Brandon Wheat Kings G.M. Kelly McCrimmon pulled off. He added stability to the crease and some firepower up front.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Saskatoon to Host 2013 Memorial Cup

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Just announced by the WHL, the Saskatoon Blades have beaten out bids from Red Deer and Kelowna and have been granted host status for the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Morning Special - July 16th

This morning on TPS we spoke with 5 guests and pushed our charity auction total to over $5000 as we raised more funds to help the victims of the fire and flooding in Slave Lake. It was the third opportunity for fans and listeners to get in on the action, to help out some folks in need and to come out of it with some pretty neat stuff.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Regina To Chilliwack Rumours Very Premature

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A report surfaced this weekend - citing an anonymous source - that the Regina Pats could be on the move to Chilliwack and replacing the Bruins who will end up in Victoria next year. The tale gets even wilder when it says the Manitoba Moose would take up shop in Regina when the NHL returns to Winnipeg.

We spoke to a credible source on this today and here's what Regina Pats President Brent Parker told us...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Saskatoon Put On Ice

Saskatoon may be the #2 ranked team in Canada but it's the Kootenay Ice moving on to the WHL's Eastern Conference finals after completing the sweep of the Blades on Wednesday night. A 4-point effort from Matt Fraser (DAL) led Kootenay to a 5-2 victory at home putting an end to the season for the team many expected to represent the WHL in Mississauga.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blades Get Their Man

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It's no longer rumor; the Saskatoon Blades have acquired the 2011 World Junior Championship MVP from the Brandon Wheat Kings for the hefty cost of four 1st and two 2nd round picks.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Schenn decision soon?

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On Monday, Hockey Canada released the invite list for it's training camp starting December 10th. 39 players made the list with hopes that a couple of NHL guys will be made available. The two guys being talked about the most are Tyler Seguin in Boston and Brayden Schenn with LA. The decision on Seguin will likely be a last minute one and will be based on their salary cap situation when Marc Savard returns.

As for Schenn word is the Kings will be letting Hockey Canada know this week If he'll be made available for training camp. The 5th overall pick from 2009 just came back from a 2 week conditioning stint in Manchester and has two more games in the NHL before a year of his entry level deal kicks in.

LA could loan Schenn to the World Juniors and call him back up or send him back to Brandon. Returning him to Brandon would likely only happen if they knew he would be traded to a contender. The 2 most likely destinations are Portland and Schenn's home town of Saskatoon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Little House in Prince George-Cougars Grab Inglis

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The rebuild in Prince George continues as today the Cougars acquired Charles Inglis from Saskatoon. The Blades get back a second round bantam pick in 2011.

Inglis hasn't exactly lit it up in his two WHL seasons with just 30 goals in 137 games, however he did notch 19 last season in his draft year. Inglis wasn't selected but will attend the training camp of the Phoenix Coyotes shortly. The Winnipeg product has amassed penalty minute totals of 85 and 62 respectively.

Cougars G.M Dallas Thompson had this to say about his new forward.

“Charles is a talented player and we look forward to having Charles in our line-up. He plays with grit and adds scoring depth for our forwards.”

Inglis might get a chance to skate alongside Brett Connolly, drafted 6th overall by Tampa last season.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Final Bantam Draft Rankings & Things I heard during WHL Awards today.

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(photo courtesy WHL.CA)
The Western Hockey League honoured it's current stars today and tomorrow will draft it's future ones. For a full rundown of who won what click here. I'll get to our final bantam draft rankings in just a bit but first some tidbits I picked up in conversations today.

After the World Junior Championship TPS was ripped by anonymous posters because we insisted that Travis Hamonic was only dealt to Brandon because he was injured. According to a G.M. with intimate knowledge of the deal today, Brandon tried like crazy to get Hamonic before the WJC but the Warriors didn't want to deal him, especially after a blow out loss to the Wheat Kings, they told the Wheat Kings they needed Hamonic in order to make the playoffs. After the injury the talks resumed and a deal was done. But if the injury didn't happen, Hamonic would have remained a Warrior and when you consider how close they came to upsetting Calgary in the first round it makes you wonder what would have happened with the talented Dman in the line up.

Speaking of Brandon according to another G.M. they were one of several teams in the running for Jordan Eberle. Apparentley Pats G.M. Brent Parker was looking for 2 picks and 2 players and while the Wheat Kings made a good run at Eberle, word is Saskatoon came the closest.

As for the bantam draft I don't expect Prince George to trade their first overall pick but I'm not really sure what the Oil Kings will do. I thought for a while they would take one of defenceman Josh Morrissey or forward Morgan Klimchuk out of Calgary but I heard from a few people that they aren't high on taking another defenceman and Klimchuk likely won't be a forward they will be taking. Could they trade down? One G.M. who will draft in the top 5 told me he's willing to do that as you might be able to get a similar player at 10 or 11 as you can at 4 or 5.

While the Cougars aren't likely trading the first overall bantam pick, their first overall European pick could be on the block. Edmonton has the 4th overall pick and getting 2 Euro picks in the top 4 I'm told is something that the Kings are investigating.

One more before the bantam draft pick. If the Cougars select Alex Forsberg, as most expect they will, are they looking at asking the WHL to let him play as a 15 year old? He tore up the Saskatchewan AAA Midget League this year and some scouts have told me they think he could play right now. That would immediately unite the Forsberg brothers in PG.

Now onto our top 22 rankings. A list we've compiled after talking to several scouts throughtout the year.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Coming Down the Coaching Pipeline

There are always a handful of coaching changes during the NHL off-season and this year will be no different. It's almost like a rite of summer and if the last couple years can be used as any prediction tool, there might be some new faces behind NHL benches at the start of 2009-10.

John Anderson took over the helm of the Atlanta Thrashers after running their AHL farm team. Unfortunately for Anderson, he hasn't had the instant success that Bruce Boudreau has enjoyed in Washington after he followed the same AHL career path. The Islanders also looked to the AHL for their head coach last summer and plucked Scott Gordon from the Providence Bruins.

Last fall two NHL teams went poaching in the CHL for their new coaches and had different results. The Ottawa Senators opted for a do-over a few months after giving the gig to Soo Greyhounds coach Craig Hartsburg. On the other end of the scale, the Florida Panthers are happier than could have been expect with the way Peter DeBoer has made the transition from the Kitchener Rangers to the NHL.

So with examples like that in mind, here are a few names to consider from the CHL and the AHL as being realistic targets for new coaching positions at the NHL level in 2009-10.

CHL Candidates

Once upon a time one person suggested that Red Deer Rebels owner, president, GM, coach and head usher Brent Sutter might make a good choice for a NHL job. The response might have been something along the lines of "He's got everything he wants in Red Deer, he doesn't need the NHL."

Fast forward two years later and Mr. Sutter is not only leading the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup playoffs but he still holds his positions in Red Deer except on the bench. It can work which is why some suggest that Dale Hunter's time in the NHL is overdue.

Dale Hunter - London Knights (OHL)

The London Knights have been a juggernaut in the OHL for the past decade and Hunter has had a winning record every year since his first in 2001-02. In fact, take a look at Dale Hunter's numbers as a coach and you'll wonder how someone hasn't talked him out of the OHL already.

The Hunters have been criticized for being geared more towards simply winning a Memorial Cup than winning a Memorial Cup while developing future NHL players but the Knights have produced a bunch of notable players who have had success at the pro level. Corey Perry is the poster boy but David Bolland in Chicago, Dennis Wideman with the Bruins, and Sergei Kostitsyn were all members of Hunter-led Knights teams as well.

Lorne Molleken - Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

He's already got experience on the bench at the NHL and AHL levels including a stretch as the Oilers farm coach. Molleken has done a remarkable job in Saskatoon with a team many pre-season pundits considered to be a non-playoff squad. He hasn't always had a heck of a lot to work with in 'Toontown' but he coached Mike Green (WSH) in his final WHL year, has helped Braden Holtby become one of the best goalies in the WHL and looks to be doing wonders for Stefan Elliot as well. Not to mention that Molleken might be the WHL Coach of the Year, he'd be a worthy candidate on anyone's list.

Willie Desjardins - Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)

He's won a pair of league titles, taken the Tigers to two Memorial Cups, was on the bench with Canada at the 2009 World Juniors and still might not get enough recognition for his development abilities. Cam Barker, Joffrey Lupul, Clarke McCarthur, Darren Helm, Matt Keetley, Kris Russell and now Tyler Ennis - it's an extensive list of players that Desjardins has helped earn pro contracts.

His winning percentage isn't much behind Hunter's and his club isn't thought of one that will back up the truck in order to land players via trade. He's had to make do with what the team has given him via the WHL draft, which has always been a strong point for the Tigers, but Desjardins is a proven coach who can get the most out of what he's got.

Kelly Kisio & Dave Lowry - Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

They're the #1 ranked team in the CHL for a reason. Kelly Kisio has built a seemingly unstoppable team that has swept through the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 8 straight games. When Kisio moved from behind the bench to concentrate on the GM job many thought the Hitmen would enter a bit of a rebuild.

That obviously hasn't happened because Dave Lowry has stepped has taken the solid roster that was left him and formed it into a unit that is more than a Memorial Cup contender but an outright favorite. Lowry is only in his rookie year as a head coach but it's his fourth year on the Hitmen bench. Is it really far fetched to think either Kisio or Lowry would make someone's short list?

Other CHL candidates could include someone like Stan Butler of the Brampton Battalion. He's the only coach Brampton has had since they joined the OHL. Butler has helped groom Raffi Torres, Rusty Klesla, Wojtek Wolski and now young dynamos like Matt Duchene and Cody Hodgson. He's also got a background with Hockey Canada.

What about GM/coach people like Belleville's George Burnett and Sudbury's Mike Foligno who both wear two hats for their respective OHL teams? As far as that goes, how long will it take before Quebec Remparts owner Patrick Roy takes a page from Brent Sutter and returns to the NHL? Kelly McCrimmon's Brandon Wheat Kings are hosting the Memorial Cup next year so I'd be surprised if 2009-10 would be a year he'd leave... but Millard suggested him as a reasonable candidate so here he is.

Pro Candidates

Kevin Dineen - Portland Pirates (AHL)

The former Hartford Whalers star forward is one of a number of former players who have stepped behind the bench. It also seems to be part of the Dineen genetic code as Kevin's brothers Gord and Gary are also in the trade, all of them following in the footsteps of their father Bill Dineen.

Kevin Dineen's bio page at the Pirate's website is very informative and helped propel the former sniper from an honorable mention on my list to one of headliners. Not only was he a terrific player but he's enjoying a lot of success now as a coach, traits that should get him respect from all sides of the career coach/player coach debate.

This season the Portland Pirates are affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres (Nate Gerbe, Tim Kennedy) after years under the umbrella of the Anaheim Ducks (Bobby Ryan, Andrew Ebbett, Brendan Mikkelson). Even with a completely new line up sitting at his feet, Dineen still has Portland poised for the postseason - and that should be considered a huge success. It's also interesting that with the change over from Anaheim to Buffalo, the Sabres chose to keep Dineen on with the team; that's a sign right there that they recognized his abilities as a coach.

Scott Arniel - Manitoba Moose (AHL)

This is a name that has been brought up a few times this year including earlier today by Jonathan Willis at Oilers Nation. Arniel should be near the top of the shortlist for a lot of teams, including Edmonton, because of his track record behind the bench since ending his lengthy playing career. He's this year's AHL Coach of the Year as he's guided the Moose to the top of the AHL's North Division.

Arniel played many years in the NHL, mostly witht he Buffalo Sabres and the Winnipeg Jets. He's now got 8 years of coaching experience, the last three as a head coach, and appears proven in terms of getting the most out of his team. The Vancouver Canucks have brought in a few players who Arniel can take a lot of credit for getting NHL ready including Jannik Hansen, Jason Jaffrey, Mason Raymond and Rick Rypien.

A couple other AHL coaches who might be considered 'on the rise' include Lane Lambert of the Milwaukee Admirals and the Hartford Wolf Pack's Ken Gernander. Both are former players who have been head coaches for only a few years but both have thier clubs sitting on top of their respective AHL Divisions. Hamilton Bulldogs coach Don Lever should be in line for a promotion after spending the last four years in the minors with a Calder Cup to show for it.

Geoff Ward - Boston Bruins (NHL)

Here's a coach I think might be of interest to other NHL teams because he's got head coach experience and he's currently part of a Stanley Cup contending staff in Boston.

Claude Julien had him on his AHL staff in Hamilton and requested Geoff Ward from the Oilers once he moved to Boston so you know he's respected. Ward didn't have much success with the Toronto and Edmonton Road Runners but in the team's last year of split affiliation with Montreal in Hamilton, he coached the club to the Calder Cup finals. Jarret Stoll, Tomas Plekanec, Michael Ryder, Kyle Brodziak and Brad Winchester were early pro pupils under Ward's care.

As part of Boston's coaching staff, Ward has helped Claude Julien turn the Bruins around from also-rans to a team that leads the NHL Eastern Conference standings.

Claude Noel - Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)

Claude Noel was a longtime minor league coach before Scott Howson and Ken Hitchchock stole him from the Milwaukee Admirals a couple seasons ago. As head coach in Milwaukee, Noel had been to the finals in two of his four seasons winning one AHL title in the process and never having a winning percentage below .600. Like the three pro coaches listed above, Noel has also won a Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as AHL Coach of the Year.

In Columbus, Noel is working alongside one of the best coaches in the game and it would be hard to believe that being around Ken Hitchcock on a daily basis could do anything but help an already high quality coach become even better.

NHL Shoppers

The Ottawa Senators saw enough from little known Cory Clouston to have recently removed the 'interim' tag from his job title proving that not all teams look to recycle unemployed NHL coaches.

Who will the Montreal Canadiens take on next year to replace Guy Carbonneau? Is that where Don Lever ends up or is Kirk Muller being groomed for that role already?

Is Dave Tippet's job secure in Dallas? What about Barry Trotz in Nashville, or Randy Carlyle in Anaheim? It seems like a fore gone conclusion for Craig MacTavish and the Edmonton Oilers but what about the Colorado Avalanche? Is Rick Tocchet safe in Tampa Bay?

Several coaching jobs could be available this summer and if so, there also looks like there is no shortage of quality coaches who could step up to claim one of them.

(Photos Courtesy: TSN, The Hockey News, The Manitoba Moose, The Medicine Hat Tigers, The American Hockey League, The Edmonton Road Runners, The New Jersey Devils)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Send them Back for Memorial Cup runs


Here's an open letter to a few NHL teams, namely the New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild. The Islanders are battling it out for John Tavares to play with Kyle Okposso and Josh Bailey and the trio could be deadly for years to come. But this year Garth Snow should send Bailey back to Windsor. I'm not aware of a rule that says a player can't be returned to junior after the trade deadline (if I'm wrong let me know) Bailey would get the chance to go deep into the playoffs and possibly the Memorial Cup with the CHL's #1 team. I think the Minnesota Wild should do the same with Colton Gillies, but in Doug Risebrough's defence, the Wild is in a playoff chase right now. The Saskatoon Blades could seriously use his muscle and presence, especially after the Calgary Hitmen tooned them in the other night on Rogers Sportsnet. The Hitmen now lead the Blades by 20 points in the WHL's Eastern conference and right now look like the favorites to represent the WHL at the Memorial Cup in Rimouski. There might be others who should be sent back to junior if their clubs are looking like they could make a run.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oil Kings Tooned In, and who do the Oil call up?

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Just back from the Blades/Oil Kings game, and for the second straight night Edmonton's downfall was the 3rd period. Calgary scored 5 unanswered Tuesday night for a 6-2 win, while tonight it was Saskatoon putting up 5 in the final frame as the Blades cut up the OK kids 7-1. The only consolation for Edmonton is that Calgary and Saskatoon are the top 2 teams in the Eastern Conference and are both ranked nationally.

The story in tonight's game was the Blades outshooting, outscoring, and out special teaming the home side. The shots were 12-1 Saskatoon after the first, and 31-20 overall. Saskatoon scored 3 times on the power play and notched 2 more while Edmonton had the man advantage. Torrie Jung, after getting his team to the dressing room in the first intermission with zero's on the board had an off night as the game wore on, but maybe it's a night off that he needs. He's started every game but 5 since joining the team in October. Edmonton drops to 10th in the East, but still tied points wise with Regina and Prince Albert for the 8th and final playoff spot. Saskatoon remains alone in 2nd place, 10 points back of Calgary and now 8 up on Brandon.

Scouting Report: I went to this one hoping to see several players from the Saskatoon Blades, some drafted some eligible this year, and one for next year.

Goaltender Braden Holtby was a 4th round pick of the Washington Capitals last year, and his life story could be titled "flying under the radar" The pipeman was a 9th round pick in the bantam draft and didn't get a lot of hype heading into last year's draft, but has been excellent for Saskatoon this year. Holtby has good size at 6'1" and 200 lbs and was solid enough tonight on the few times that Edmonton tested him. Things could have been different at one point in the game, as after Oil King home captain Brendan Dowd beat Holtby with a screened long shot the shots were just 12-4. However his calm demeanor kept the goaltender and his team in the game as Edmonton was shut out on a 2 man advantage for 1:35 shortly after they got on the board. (Dean & Guy interviewed Holtby after the game, listen HERE).

Slovakian forward Milan Kytnar is an Oilers draft pick from 2007, but wasn't really noticeable tonight save for a couple of penalty minutes.

There were a number of local products to watch for in this one, and I'll start with the youngest. 15 year old D-man Duncan Siemens was called up from his AAA midget team in Sherwood Park tonight. It was Siemen's second game with the Blades, after skating with them in January. The 6'3" 192 lbs didn't really look out of place other than the full cage he was required to wear because of his age. Siemens' fresh off the AAA midget league's all star game, picked up his first WHL point on a power play blast that was tipped in by Walter Wintoneak in the 2nd period. Siemens also picked up a penalty, was +2, pinched a few times and took the body as well. While he did get caught on one pinch, his smooth skating ability allowed him to get back in the play before it hurt his team. Siemens isn't draft eligible until 2011, and ironically was the 2nd straight Sherwood Park bluelinder to be taken 3rd overall in the bantam draft when the Blades grabbed him last year. His good friend and opponent on this night, Mark Pysyk was drafted 3rd overall the year before by Edmonton. In 2011, Siemens has the potential to be a top 15 pick if his development keeps going at it`s current pace. (Postgame interview with Siemens HERE)

Burke Gallimore had a pretty big cheering section tonight, and while the Edmonton product didn`t get his name on the scoresheet he did create a few scoring chances. Saskatoon head coach Lorne Molleken told Guy and myself that the former Canadian Athletic Club AAA midget skater is the purest scorer the Blades have. His 21 goals and the same amount of assists in 54 games has the 6`0`` 200 pound RW ranke 106th in the January ISS report for the 2009 NHL draft. (Postgame with Gallimore HERE)

Travis Toomey is a 6`5`` 200 pound Centreman for the Blades who was passed over in last year`s NHL draft. His 2 goal, 1 assist, +2 night against the Kings though might have some of the scouts in attendance rethinking him. Toomey (pictured below) is from Leduc and had just 12 goals and 12 helpers in 72 games last year. He`s been limited to just 34 games this year due to injuries but has 15 goals and 10 assists when in the line up, including a pair of shorthanded goals. He scored one of his shorties tonight ripping one short side on Torrie Jung, to me it was the back breaker for the Oil Kings. (Postgame with Toomey HERE)

I was also impressed with 16 year old Josh Nicholls. The centreman is 6`2`` and 170 pounds and growing. He picked the pocket of Oil King rookie Kieran Friesen in the 3rd and notched his 8th goal of the season. The 2nd round bantam pick of the Blades in 2007 also set up another on this night giving him 22 points in 48 games. The youngster had 3 points in 6 games for Team Pacific at the World Under 17 championship this year. Nicholls seemed to find open ice and forced Torrie Jung to make some solid stops, and will be one guy I`ll be keeping my eyes on as the 2010 draft approaches.

After the game The Pipeline Show spoke with Blades head coach Lorne Molleken about the big win and also got scouting reports on several of the players listed above. (Listen Here)

Top 10 snub: The CHL`s national rankings came out today and I was pretty shocked not to see Spokane on the list. Windsor is still the top dog, while Calgary, Vancouver and Saskatoon are the only WHL teams on the list.

Who do the Oilers Call up? With Lubomir Visnovsky on the shelf with a dislocated shoulder you would think the team call somebody up for their impending stretch drive. Should that blueliner be Theo Peckham who leads all D-men in Springfield in socring with 19 points. Or is it Mathieu Roy`s turn to get another big league shot. My vote would be for rookie Taylor Chorney to get a crack with the big club. Sure Chorney has a big minus number at -21 but he`s the closest thing the Oilers have on the farm to what they lost when Visnovsky went down, although Roy does have a big shot. As for Chorney, sometimes players like him are better at the NHL level than the AHL as the game is faster and Chorney`s game is a skating one.

(All photos courtesy the Saskatoon Blades)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Kytnar Reborn in Saskatoon

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Oiler prospect Milan Kytnar has taken his game to a new level after an off-season trade sent him from Kelowna to Saskatoon.

The import from Topolcany Slovakia has jumped from a third line checking role with the Rockets to playing top line minutes with the Blades and thus far in the early WHL season, Kytnar is proving to be up to the challenge. After Friday's 5-2 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings I asked the 19-year-old center how he's taken to his new team.

"I really like it, they treat me good so I feel great," he stated.

When it comes right down to it, getting handed a much bigger role with the Blades has made the trade work for Kytnar.

"It's a big difference between this season and last season," he echoed, "I get a lot of ice time, a lot of chances and it's up to me now to keep going and to prove to everybody that I deserve of the ice time."

In Kelowna, a much deeper team than most in the WHL including this year's edition of the Blades, Kytnar was asked to be a shutdown player which he did well. He ended the 2007-08 campaign with 9 goals and 22 points after starting the year slowly, making that adjustment to life in North America. Already this year the 6'1, 180 lbs middle man has 7 points in 9 games so he's well on his way to establishing a career season.

There were some whispers in WHL circles prior to the trade that Kytnar might not have returned to the league but of Friday he made it clear that was not the case. With his new found role, Kytnar is pumped to be able to show Edmonton scouts that he's more than a defensive player.

"Every time you score a goal or have a chance to score it's really exciting," he smiled (Kytnar lit the lamp once against the Oil Kings of Friday night). "When a team or a coach gives you those chances to score you have to get it score to prove that they weren't wrong about you."

Accoridng to head coach Lorne Molleken, the fact that Kytnar has been able to help fill the offensive void made even worse by the absence of Colton Gillies (MIN), has not been a shock.

"He hasn't been a suprise at all, we knew exactly what we were getting when we traded for him and there is no one that works harder on our hockey club than Milan Kytnar." said Molleken.

"If you watch him closely in the tight areas he does some amazing things with the puck," the coach added, "He's playing with [Derek] Hulak and [Burke] Gallimore, two of our more offensively gifted guys and they have to be ready because he can make plays in between feet or over sticks... he's a really intellignet player and we think that he'll be a dominant player for us as the year progresses."

Asked how Kytnar (seen here battling with Oil Kings defenceman Mark Pysyk) has fit in with his new teammates, Molleken insisted that the transition has been seamless.

"He's been outstanding," praised the coach, "His approach to the game of hockey is one like a professional with the way he prepares and the way he works. He's done a tremendous job in our locker room. Sometimes with these young Europeans it's a feeling out process but getting him from Kelowna he already knows what it's about to succeed at this level."

Saskatoon netminder Braden Holtby offered up his own positive scouting report on Kytnar.

"Both of our European guys speak fluently and that makes it so much easier," said Holtby, "I'm sure the Oilers are happy that he's on the 1st line! He's a complete forward; he playes the defensive zone well and he can put pucks in the net. Right now that line with Hulak and Gallimore are clicking, our most consistent line right now and he's doing well."

The fact that Saskatoon is in the WHL's Eastern Conference making him a bit more visible for the Oiler brass isn't lost on Kytnar although he admitted to some jitters on Friday.

"I tried to be calm before the game but I thik I started to get nervous in the second period when I took two penalties," he laughed, "After that I came back and calmed down in the intermission and was ready to play hard."

Many so called experts, myself included, disscounted Saskatoon's playoff chances before the season but with strong goaltending from Braden Holtby (WSH) and 16-year-old Curtis Hamilton and 2009 eligible Burke Gallimore, the Blades look like they are for real.

"When somebody talks like that about a team, when you're on the team, it really kicks you along and gets you going," said Kytnar when I told him about my preseason slight of his new team, "We just have to keep working hard and there's a really big chance of us making the playoffs and I really think we will."

Who am I to suggest that he's wrong?

(photos courtesy Saskatoon Blades website)