Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams hopes to shake the injury bug

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justinwilliamsinjury.jpgYou know what they say: age is just a number.

Yet, in the realm of sports, you can seem old even if you’re not yet 30. Take a look at Patrice Bergeron, a 24-year-old player who seemingly experienced a career’s worth of highs and lows already.

Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams is only 28 years old, yet he’s had a very bumpy nine-season NHL career.

He began his career as a young forward in the Philadelphia Flyers system but never really met his potential until he became a member of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes. In a peak 2005-06 season, Williams scored an impressive 31 goals and 76 points in the regular season while adding 18 points in 25 playoff games. His mixture of grit, great skating and scoring panache were a fantastic fit in Carolina, but injuries curtailed that success. He’s shown flashes of that 05-06 brilliance in L.A. – after all, for a very brief period of time he joined Ryan Smyth and Anze Kopitar as one of the most underrated lines in the NHL – but hasn’t been able to fight off the injury bug.

The Northlumberland News shares his hopeful journey toward reasonable health.

Justin Williams is hoping that bad things really do come in threes.

Cobourg’s NHL star has had a rough go since he won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. In three of the ensuing seasons, he has suffered debilitating injuries that kept him out of action for long stretches of time. He missed 43 games during the 2007-08 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and returned just in time for the playoffs, only to be sidelined again with a back injury. The next season he missed games thanks to injuries to his Achilles tendon as well as a broken hand and last season he missed 28 more games with a broken leg.

“I’ve had a tough three years,” said Williams during his trip home to Cobourg last week. “It was tougher mentally than it was physically. You need to have faith in yourself, and know that this isn’t going to break you.”

He’s been one of the NHL’s most fragile players, but if he could actually manage to avoid breaking/straining/tearing something, Williams could be a real asset.

In fact, if the team bows out of the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, a healthy Williams could soothe some of what ails them. Not all by any means – he’s only hit the 30 goal mark twice in his career and hasn’t even hit 30 goals total the last three seasons – but he’s they type of player who slips under the radar.

He’s played 49, 44 and 37 games the last three seasons. This is the last year of his five-year contract, so if there ever were a season for him to get his health together, 2010-11 would be that campaign. He hasn’t had much, if any luck, with his body the last few years but a good bill of health would be a plus for the Kings and Williams alike.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

Blue Jackets sign Boston University product Somerby to entry-level deal

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The Columbus Blue Jackets made a deal Monday, signing defenseman Doyle Somerby.

Originally selected by the New York Islanders, 125th overall in 2012, Somerby played his last four seasons with Boston University. Now 23 years old, Somerby decided to keep his options open following his senior year and test the free agent market last week, prior to inking a two-year entry-level contract with Columbus.

“It almost doesn’t make sense not to talk to everybody,” Somerby’s agent Brett Peterson told the Boston Globe.

“You’re drafted when you’re 17½ with no say who picks you. If you choose to complete your college career, you have that right. That’s just the way the market is. They have a lot of defensive prospects in New York. So that’s how we landed at this.”

And now he’s landed with the Blue Jackets organization, which had a franchise record 2016-17 season and boasts a crop of good, young players, the most notable on the blue line being Seth Jones and Zach Werenski.

Somerby scored five goals and 13 points as a junior at Boston University, marking his most productive collegiate campaign. At 6-foot-5 tall and 223 pounds, he brings size on the blue line but has been regarded as more of a stay-at-home defenseman, and reliable in his own end.

“He’s so difficult to get around,” Boston University associate head coach Steve Greeley told The Daily Free Press. “Below the dots, he’s always pushing … He plays physical, he plays hard and he’s a kid that’s really tough to play against.”

Looking to make the leap: Josh Ho-Sang

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This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

The New York Islanders made something of a gamble when they selected Josh Ho-Sang with the 28th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and now that bet could start to pay off handsomely.

Even before Ho-Sang was drafted he was attracting quite a bit of attention. He had the tools to be a big offensive threat, but there were concerns about his attitude.

“I don’t think it’s from unfair labels, it’s from stuff that I’ve done,” he told the Windsor Star back in June 2014. He later added, “I’ve just not done certain things the proper way. That’s just all part of maturity, so if that’s going to hurt me in the draft, that’s something that I’m accepting of, because that’s all me. It’s something that’s a part of growing up.”

Those statements of acknowledgment can be seen as encouraging, but the warning signs continued as he showed up late for the first day of training camp in 2015 and the Islanders addressed it by immediately returning him to the OHL. Fortunately since then there has been more encouraging news about Ho-Sang.

He went pro in 2016-17 and had an strong season in both the AHL and NHL. With the Islanders he scored four goals and 10 points in 21 contests while getting a solid 16:27 minutes per game. That left an impression on Islanders coach Doug Weight.

“Josh was great,” Weight said. “We were getting feedback from [Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson] about his attitude down there, and he was playing hard, learning the system and played with some passion. I think he showed that when he came up.”

Ho-Sang’s spot on the Islanders still isn’t guaranteed, but he’s put himself in a position where it’s very plausible that he’ll be part of the team’s opening game roster. If he plays well he could end up being a significant presence on the club throughout the season.

All the while he might be making the case that the Islanders’ gamble has turned into a steal.

Beauchemin signs on for third stint with Ducks (Updated)

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Francois Beauchemin will once again be playing for the Anaheim Ducks, according to TVA Sports and Renaud Lavoie.

Updated: The Ducks have since confirmed a one-year deal for Beauchemin.

The contract reportedly comes with a base salary of $1 million and the potential to earn roughly $500,000 more in performance bonuses.

This would be Beauchemin’s third stint with the team. He played with Anaheim for parts of four campaigns from 2005-06 through 2008-09. Along the way he averaged a staggering 30:33 minutes per game in the playoffs during the Ducks’ 2007 championship run. His second stint with the club spanned parts of five seasons from 2010-11 through 2014-15. As was the case during his previous run, Beauchemin was a workhorse and in the 2013 lockout shortened season he also finished fourth in the Norris Trophy vote.

Beauchemin spent the last two seasons with Colorado. Although he’s 37-years-old now, Beauchemin has only missed one game over the last two seasons and still averaged 21:31 minutes in 2016-17.

Despite that, Colorado decided to buy him out this summer, which freed up a protected list spot for the expansion draft and created an opening for the club’s younger defensemen as the Avalanche focus on rebuilding.

Given that defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen might start the season on the sidelines, adding another blueliner capable of serving in a top-four role like Beauchemin has the potential to be a big boost for the Ducks.

Gaborik unlikely to be ready for start of training camp

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Marian Gaborik‘s recovery from a non-surgical procedure to address his “chronic” knee issue will likely bleed into training camp.

“He’s progressing pretty well from the summer,” Kings GM Rob Blake told LA Kings Insider. “He still has some difficulty with some of the lifts and the strength. We’re probably not sure if we’ll see him in training camp right away, but again, he’s a guy that trains at a very high level and he’s made a commitment to stay in L.A. after he got married, get the rehab back on course. We’re hopeful he can get back to the level that he started last season and the World Cup at.”

Gaborik has been an elite scorer at times during his career, but injuries have been a recurring issue for him. Over the past four seasons he’s played in 220 of a possible 328 contests and he’s been limited to 43 points in 110 games over the last two campaigns.

That’s particularly worrying given that the 35-year-old forward still has four seasons left on his seven-year contract worth roughly $34 million. At the same time a bounce back campaign out of Gaborik would go a long way towards addressing the offensive woes Los Angeles endured in 2016-17.