Fan grabbed by Vancouver’s Rick Rypien speaks, instantly loses everyone’s support

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You all knew this would be coming eventually, but the Minnesota Wild fan who was grabbed by Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien last night has spoken out about being the focus of the irate player’s attention. If you missed it from last night, Rypien went into the stands to grab a fan who was mock applauding him as he headed to the locker room during the second period of Vancouver’s 6-2 loss to the Wild in Minnesota.

Today, Wild beat reporter Michael Russo was able to get a hold of the fan, 28 year-old James Engquist, to ask him about what happened last night and what, if anything, they plan to do legally-speaking. Suffice to say, a lot of fans are not going to enjoy Engquist’s line of reasoning on matters.

“This is a crazy incident. I’ve seen a lot of hockey in my day, and I’ve never seen someone actually come into the stands and assault a fan,” said Engquist.

Engquist said he is “definitely seeking legal representation. … I was assaulted, that’s just the bottom line.”

Engquist said he didn’t receive an apology from the league, Rypien or the Canucks. He said he hasn’t heard anything from the Wild.

Now, I don’t want to say that Engquist doesn’t have a case to be made here, he does. Opting to pursue it, however, comes off really ugly for the regular fan that saw what went down. By the book “assault” is the correct term, by what you see on camera, however, and by the view of the court of public opinion the fan had his jersey grabbed while team officials grabbed Rypien and Engquist’s brother pulled him back from the fracas.

Filing a law suit on the matter, however, swings the opinion from being strongly against Rypien for crossing the boundary between players and fans to being against Engquist for seemingly ridiculous litigation. Engquist and his brother were moved to different seats along the glass after the incident occurred, giving them a slight upgrade on their seats behind the Canucks bench. Looking to cash in on what was ultimately a scary matter smacks of greed.

All of a sudden, Rick Rypien doesn’t look like the only one behaving badly here. The Wild and Canucks could both help to step in a diffuse the situation by playing the game a bit nicer PR-wise with Engquist and bend over a little backwards for the guy, but ultimately, Engquist going the route of filing a law suit reflects very poorly upon him.

Unfortunately for everyone, this matter isn’t over yet. Rypien is scheduled to meet with NHL officials in New York City on Friday to discuss what his punishment will be. I’m sure the talk of a lawsuit against him and the NHL will be brought up and factored into what his actions have done for everyone involved. Bad PR, in this case, is bad PR for everyone.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”