Friday, November 30, 2007

Radulov's #22 goes to the rafters of the Colisee

Wednesday was a very special evening for the Quebec Remparts and Alexander Radulov as his number 22 was raised to the rafters of the Pepsi Colisee in Quebec City. The entire house was packed with adoring fans chanting “Radu, Radu” all evening as Alex has achieved legendary like status in his adopted home. The Remparts put on an NHL level production which featured speeches by NHL Hall of Fame Remparts coach, Patrick Roy, a spectacular video celebration of Radulov’s scoring highlights as well as outstanding testimonials by his teammates, coaches, and owner Jacques Tanguay.

The ceremony also featured a video board presentation of Radulov putting on his Remparts 22 jersey once more and proceeding from the dressing room on to the ice to a standing ovation followed by special words from Alex thanking the entire Remparts community and fans for two great seasons capped by the 2006 Memorial Cup Championship. In that season, Radulov captured the CHL and QMJHL Player of the Year, Memorial Cup MVP while tallying 61 goals, 91 assists and 152 points in 62 games. Alex's number 22 joins those of Guy Lafleur and Simon Gagne in the Colisee rafters.

Wednesday, 11/28/07

Pred misses practice for good reason

Staff Writer

Predators forward Alexander Radulov was not with his teammates in practice this morning nor was he on the team charter flying to Ottawa this afternoon.

Instead the young Russian was with one of his former teams, the Quebec Remparts, who were to retire his jersey tonight.

“Very few people get to see their jersey go up in the rafters,” Predators Coach Barry Trotz said. Radulov, who was to rejoin the Predators for Thursday’s game against the Senators, put together two stellar seasons for the Remparts.

In 2005-06 he had one of the most prolific seasons in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League history with 61 goals and 152 points in just 62 games.

He was league MVP, Memorial Cup MVP and Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year.Trotz said he couldn’t remember a time in his coaching career when one of his players had his jersey retired.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sarnia's Tomi Karhunen earns OHL Player of the Week Award

Congratulations to Tomi Karhunen for being named this week's OHL Player of the Week! This is Tomi's first year playing Junior and he has not disappointed. Karhunen has started 20 of 23 games this year for Sarnia; his 13 wins (11-2 in his last 13 starts) are third in the league while his .913 save percentage is tied for 7th. Karhunen is eligible for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and has had many NHL scouts buzzing.

In attending November 11th's Sarnia-Kingston game, I spoke to numerous people in the crowd, who were all incredibly happy with Tomi's play. One fan referred to an October 26th game vs. Saginaw, one of his four 40-save games, in which Tomi "stole" the game with 43 saves. Others mentioned to me that Sarnia had been starving for good goaltending for quite some time and that next to Steven Stamkos, Karhunen was largely responsible for Sarnia's recent rise in the standings.

Sarnia's Karhunen named Boston Pizza OHL Player of the Week
Created: Nov 19, 2007

The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Sarnia Sting goaltender Tomi Karhunen is the Boston Pizza OHL Player of the Week for the week ending Sunday November 18 after backing the Sting to three road wins last week with a 1.33 goals against average and .953 save percentage.

Karhunen started the week with 24 saves in a 5-3 win over the Peterborough Petes on Thursday. He followed up with a 35-shutout performance and was named second star in Sarnia’s 6-0 win over the Kingston Frontenacs on Sunday and wrapped up the road trip with 22 saves in a first star performance that gave Sarnia a 3-1 win over the Ottawa 67’s on Sunday.

The 19-year-old native of Joensuu, Finland improved his season record to 13-7-0-0 with a 2.85 goals against average and .913 save percentage and two shutouts in 20 games. He is the first goaltender to win the OHL Boston Pizza Player of the Week award this season.

2007-08 Boston Pizza OHL Players of the Week

September 23 - John Tavares, Oshawa Generals

September 30 - Alex Pietrangelo, Niagara IceDogs

October 7 - Dustin Jeffrey, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

October 14 - John Tavares, Oshawa Generals

October 21 - Nick Spaling, Kitchener Rangers

October 28 - Yannick Weber, Kitchener Rangers

November 5 - Brett MacLean, Oshawa Generals

November 12 – Bobby Sanguinetti, Brampton Battalion

November 19 – Tomi Karhunen, Sarnia Sting

Ottawa prospect Kaspars Daugavins' hat trick propels Mississauga to victory

Ottawa Senators 2006 Draft pick Kaspars Daugavins has really hit his stride for Mississauga in recent weeks. Kaspars, a native of Riga, Latvia, has tallied 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) over the past 3 games and now has 14 goals and 14 assists in 21 games for the Majors. Daugavins is coming off a solid 2006-07 campaign with the Majors in which he averaged nearly one point per game. Kaspars was the third overall pick by the Majors in the 2006 CHL Import Draft. Following the end of the Majors' 2006-07 season, Kaspars was rewarded by Binghamton with an AHL tryout contract, during which he scored 2 goals in 11 games. At just 19 years of age, Kaspars already has a strong amount of experience playing at the international level as he played for the Latvian National Team at the 2006 World Championships when he was 17. Kaspars is the Ottawa organization's 8th-rated prospect, according to Hockey's Future, but Ottawa will be patient with Daugavins' development given the plethora talent in their organization already.

Fri Nov 16, 10:50 PM ET

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Kaspars Daugavins scored three times and added an assist to give the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Saginaw Spirit in Ontario Hockey League action Friday night.

Daugavins went to work after the Spirit built up a 2-0 first-period lead, by scoring a pair of power-play goals in the second and then netted the winner late in the third on a breakaway while the Majors (8-11-1-0) were killing a penalty.

The three goals raised Daugavins' total to 14 on the season.

Captain Jesse Messier had the other goal for the Majors, with Daugavins drawing an assist. The goal had originally been credited to Daugavins but was later changed to Messier.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Leetch among 4 winners of Lester Patrick Award

On Wednesday, Brian Leetch added yet another trophy to his mantel. In addition, to previously receiving the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year (’89), two Norris Trophies (’92, ’97), Conn Smythe Trophy (’94), World Cup (’96), and the Stanley Cup (’94), Leetch was honored as a 2007 recipient of the Lester Patrick Award, which recognizes outstanding service to hockey in the United States. Brian was honored along with broadcaster and writer Stan Fischler, Rangers and NHL PR director, John Halligan, and US Olympian Cammi Granato.

Growing up in the shadow of the Miracle on Ice in 1980, Brian spoke about that team’s inspiration to him as a young player; he also recalled his opportunity to play under visionary American coaches Herb Brooks and Bob Johnson as being instrumental in his career.

Reaching the pinnacle of success in international competition as well as the NHL, Leetch has served as a role model for virtually every American player who has succeeded him; it is indeed a rare breed to have his fierce competitiveness on the ice and modesty off the ice. These traits make him quite simply the greatest American player in hockey history.

The emcee of the event was former Patrick winner Mike Emrick and also in attendance were fellow previous winners Gary Bettman, Lou Lamoriello, John Davidson, Lou Vairo, Rod Gilbert, Art Berglund, Walter Bush, Ron DiGregorio, Lou Nanne and former New York Rangers Adam Graves and Mark Messier.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Kovalchuk nets consecutive hat tricks

Ilya Kovalchuk made headlines this week by scoring three goals in consecutive games against Ottawa and Tampa Bay. Ilya holds the Trashers' franchise record for hat tricks with 9. Ilya is doing what all top snipers do, scoring goals in bunches. Ilya is now tied for the NHL lead in goals (12) with Henrik Zetterberg and today was named the NHL's first star of the week. However, Kovalchuk is not only being praised for his recent scoring streak, but he is also being recognized as Atlanta's leader in all facets of the game, according to's Darren Eliot.

Kovalchuk unleashed
Maturity and a new coach spark a goal barrage

Monday November 5, 2007 1:36PM; Updated: Monday November 5, 2007 1:36PM

Many people are going to jump to the conclusion that Ilya Kovalchuk's amazing run of goal-scoring -- nine in seven games -- is a direct result of the Atlanta Thrashers removing head coach Bob Hartley after the team's 0-6 start. Well, that assessment might be right for the wrong reasons.

You see, the coach and the prodigy co-existed for four-and-a-half seasons. Hartley brought needed structure and consistency to both a young franchise and a young player with star potential. But once it was clear that Kovalchuk had absorbed the lessons of accountability, his offensive verve wasn't quite the same. His kinetic dashes down the left wing -- once filled with the promise of brilliance -- became tempered, or even worse, predictable.

And that is the biggest difference with Kovalchuk's play right now. He has always competed and cared. Giving all he has each shift has always been part of his game. But as the former coach continued to layer structure and static plays upon Kovalchuk, Hartley unwittingly eroded his best player's greatest gift -- an artist's ability to create something out of nothing.

To do so, Kovalchuk must have the puck on his stick, forcing others to react to his freelance vision. That isn't straight-forward because every offensive foray is a unique experience as Kovy dangles and baits would-be defenders, either to get in position to rip a rising rocket of a wrist shot or, as is often the case, zip a perfectly placed laser pass to a wide open teammate. Being ready is tricky, with the puck coming at off-beat times, from angles not too often seen, and always in situations that are difficult to foresee -- for defenders and linemates. After all, there are very few artists. Even among the artistically inclined, there are differences in approach and execution.

For Kovalchuk, understanding the imporance of teammates and how all the different parts fit together came from having Scott Mellanby as captain as well as during the short time that Keith Tkachuk was a Thrasher last spring. Those two veterans seemed to have a profound effect on Kovalchuk's outlook in terms of remembering what he does well as a player and embracing it as it relates to the team. There are always things one can do to be a good teammate without losing one's sense of self.

As a result, Kovalchuk has been the Thrashers' best player from the first puck drop of the season. He's stood up for teammates in scrums, never talked about himself in interviews -- only giving the team perspective -- and cited the physical contributions of Eric Boulton and Chris Thorburn as catalysts when asked about the team's third period comeback from a 5-0 deficit in Ottawa last Thrusday when Kovalchuk scored his first hat trick in Atlanta's 6-4 defeat. Two nights later, he smoked the Lightning for three more in a 6-4 win. Oh, and by the way,

Kovalchuk has willed his team back from the 0-6 abyss that could have gotten much worse as the Thrashers headed out on the road for seven straight, a trip that began Oct. 20. They won four of the seven.

All of this signals the next step in Kovalchuk's maturity and is independent of who happenes to be behind the bench. To that end, there is no correlation between Hartley's exit and Kovalchuk's heroics. What is different is that GM and interim head coach Don Waddell met with Kovalchuk and told him that he'd get minutes in situations where he could be a difference-maker. In other words, Waddell challenged Kovalchuk to be himself. That's not an approach that had been taken before.

Kovalchuk isn't the Thrashers' captain, but make no mistake, this is his team now. And the artist's signature stroke is back.