Canadiens first round pick might ditch Harvard

1-leblanc.jpgWhile the Stanley Cup finals move along, the Montreal Canadiens are preparing for the future by conducting a development camp for some of their top prospects, one of whom has a lot of drama surrounding him. 2009 first round pick Louis Leblanc had an outstanding year at Harvard University and while the Crimson did not fare so well as a team, the rumors about Leblanc possibly leaving Harvard are circling.

All the signs indicate that Leblanc, the Canadiens’ No. 1 draft choice last June, is leaving Harvard University after one year. Phil Lecavalier, the older brother of Vincent, and Boston-based Montrealer Kent Hughes have been serving as Leblanc’s family advisers, but there are reports that Pat Brisson has assumed that role and he is in negotiations with the Canadiens regarding Leblanc’s future.

For a quick primer, a “family adviser” is similar to an agent only that the “family adviser” isn’t paid for his work and only sees money once the player becomes a professional. The NCAA rules strongly prohibit athletes hiring agents and it means being kicked off your team should you hire one. In the case of Pat Brisson, he’s got at least one big-name client he works for by the name of Sidney Crosby. Perhaps you’ve heard a bit about him.

These kinds of things happen all the time with players leaving NCAA teams to join Canadian major-junior programs, it just happens that in this case, Leblanc is a Habs draft pick and he’s leaving freaking Harvard. It’s not as if Harvard is a major hockey school here. Their fan support is lacking and they haven’t resembled a powerhouse in ages. That said, it’s still Harvard the academic institution and Leblanc is getting what amounts to a free ride to go to one of the best universities in the world. So why would Leblanc potentially give that up? If you guessed “money” your answer could be right.

Leblanc’s options, should he ditch out on Harvard, are simple:

  • He can either join the major-junior team that drafted him. In this case, it’s Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
  • He can make a run at joining the Habs’ AHL team in Hamilton.

As for what Leblanc is going to do, he remained very political in his answers.

“As of now, I’m signed to go to Harvard and that’s what I’m getting ready for and I’m excited,” said Leblanc. “But if I find something better, then I’ll do it. Harvard’s the better fit right now. I get to do my schooling at the best university in the world. My coach (Ted Donato, Harvard Class of 1991) played 13 years in the NHL and I think it’s the best combination.”

“I’ll discuss (any change), firstly with myself, I’ll think about it,” said Leblanc. “And I’ll talk with people who don’t have an agenda to follow, (people who) don’t own a team. I’ll make a decision with people who like me and want the best for me.”

I wonder if Louis is majoring in political science at Harvard, because based on that he’s ready to take graduate level courses.

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    Ekman-Larsson suffers lower-body injury vs. Sharks, will be re-evaluated today

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    The Arizona Coyotes lost to the San Jose Sharks in preseason action Saturday. What will matter more is the status of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

    According to reports, Ekman-Larsson suffered a lower-body injury during overtime and had to be helped off the ice.

    “He will get re-evaluated tomorrow — lower body,” said head coach Rick Tocchet, per Arizona Sports. “See what happens tomorrow. I don’t think he will practice tomorrow.”

    At 26 years of age, Ekman-Larsson is a huge piece of a rebuilding Coyotes team and, based on previous comments from general manager John Chayka, is expected to be heavily relied upon on the blue line this season.

    It’s also expected that he will be named the new Coyotes captain, taking over the leadership role from Shane Doan.

    Rangers’ Desjardins faces hearing for ‘dirty’ hit on Miles Wood

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    Just hours after delivering a two-game preseason suspension to Tom Wilson, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issued a statement on Twitter, this time saying Andrew Desjardins will have a hearing.

    That hearing is scheduled to take place Monday. Desjardins received a match penalty for an illegal hit to the head of New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood during Saturday’s preseason game between the Devils and Rangers.

    The incident occurred before the midway point of the first period.

    Wood was slow to get back to his feet, but did eventually return to the game. The hit resulted in a melee in front of the Rangers net, with John Moore also getting called for roughing.

    Devils hold open tryouts for emergency goalies

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    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Steven Porzio’s father was a New York Rangers fan, but he always rooted for the New Jersey Devils. A goaltender himself, Porzio was struck by Martin Brodeur, and he dreamed of replacing the NHL’s career wins leader when his days at the Prudential Center were done.

    Porzio is now 27 years old and working in information technology, and he’s given up hope of replacing Brodeur.

    He still might suit up for the Devils on their home rink, though.

    Porzio and 14 others tried out Saturday to become the Devils’ emergency goaltender for this season. They were run through drills by former New Jersey goalie Scott Clemmensen at the Prudential Center, faced shots from players in the minor league system and even used a dressing room next door to the Devils’ home locker room.

    Read more: Kings hope to find emergency goalie candidates with open tryouts

    “You walk through the locker room area and see all the team photos, the little replica Stanley Cups,” Porzio said. “That gives you chills a little bit.”

    This wasn’t exactly fantasy camp, though. Clemmensen pushed the prospective netminders – mostly former college or junior players – through rigorous tests to evaluate their skating and puckhandling.

    “Put them through a legitimate goalie clinic today, which I don’t know if they were expecting,” said Sarah Baicker, the Devils’ director of content and communications, who helped coordinate the tryouts. “A couple guys looked like they’re going to sleep really well tonight.”

    The tryouts are in response to a new league rule for this season, which mandates that teams have an emergency goalie present for all home games ready to fill in for either team. Last year, a number of clubs required backups on short notice, including when the Chicago Blackhawks called on Philadelphia-area youth hockey coach Eric Semborski for a game against the Flyers because Corey Crawford needed an emergency appendectomy.

    New Jersey plans to pick a winner by the end of the week, and that goalie will need to be at all 41 Devils home games this season, plus the playoffs. New Jersey might pick more than one player to split up the schedule, though it hasn’t decided yet if the emergency goalies will be paid.

    The 15 netminders at the rink Saturday were selected from a pool of nearly 400 applicants, some of whom were targeted by the team.

    “The skill level was pretty good, and that’s what we’re looking for today,” said Clemmensen, now the goaltending development coach for the organization.

    Among the final group was 43-year-old Anthony Felice, a hockey coach at Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York, who has been an emergency backup for the Devils’ minor league teams in Lowell and Trenton. Injuries have slowed the former junior player, but he’s healthy enough now to seek “a chance to do it one more time.”

    “To come out here and be in the big building was a lot of fun,” he said.

    Not all the participants were Devils fans, either. Matt Palella, a 23-year-old who played at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, just moved to the area from Chicago for a job in Manhattan a few weeks ago. He got word of the tryout and put in his name, not sure what he’d get from the experience.

    “I was expecting, `Go in the corner, figure it out,”‘ he said. Instead, he was surprised by how well New Jersey treated him and the others. “It was top-notch.”

    Palella blew out his knee late in his college career, and this was just his second time skating since the injury.

    “I’m not hurt,” he said. “That’s all I care about. Walking away in one piece.”

     

    Jankowski ‘continues to impress’ at Flames camp

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    Mark Jankowski made his Calgary Flames debut last season. It appears he’s making quite a case to at least start the new campaign in the National Hockey League.

    On Friday, he notched his third goal of the preseason, helping the Flames to a 4-2 victory over the Coyotes. Make that three goals in three exhibition games for Jankowski, Calgary’s first-round pick from the 2012 NHL Draft.

    Once considered an “off-the-board” pick in that opening round, the 6-foot-4 center has developed into a very intriguing prospect, particularly after an impressive 2016-17 season down in Stockton, scoring 27 goals and 56 points in 64 AHL games. He appeared in one NHL game last season, and is leaving an impression during this year’s training camp, too.

    Read more: Looking to make the leap — Mark Jankowski

    “The confidence thing, right? These young players grow more confident as it goes,” head coach Glen Gulutzan said of the 23-year-old Jankowski following last night’s game.

    “I thought he played well tonight. I thought he was better tonight than he was against Vancouver (on Wednesday) and he just continues to impress everybody.”

    Calgary has three more preseason games remaining on their schedule, which could provide more of an opportunity for Jankowski to prove himself to the Flames coaching staff ahead of the regular season.

    “I’m just trying to get better every day and keep on showing the coaching staff and management what I can bring to this team,” Jankowski told reporters.

    “As camp goes on and it gets thinner and thinner, I just have to keep on doing that and get in some preseason games against almost full NHL lineups. That’s when you can really show your stuff, show you can play at this level and have an impact.”