The cautionary tale of Jason Bonsignore

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Hockey nuts who have been around the game for a few decades will recognize the name Jason Bonsignore. He was the 4th overall pick in the 1994 Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers—drafted ahead of guys like Jeff Friesen, Ethan Moreau, Jeff O’Neill, and Edmonton’s own Ryan Smyth. In his draft year, he scored 22 goals and 64 assists for 86 points in his time with the Newmarket Royals and Niagara Falls Thunder (OHL). He was a 6’4” playmaking forward who looked like a sure thing. He even scored a goal in his first NHL game.

Unfortunately, that was the only goal he would ever score for the Edmonton Oilers. In 20 more games, he would score two assists as he started bouncing around more North American hockey teams than he guys who work for NHL’s Central Scouting. His final NHL totals read like a 5th rounder who was brought up to fill in the gaps: 79 games, 3 goals, and 13 assists.

How could a player with that size and potential flame out before ever really getting started? For a long time, Bonsignore has been hesitant to tell his side of the story. People just assumed that he was a “bust;” the type of player who shouldn’t have been drafted as high as he was. Of course, that still could partly be true.

In an extensive interview with TEAM 1260 in Edmonton, Bonsignore told his side of the story that led to his underwhelming career. Here are a few selected quotes from the transcription at Kukla’s Korner:

“…to touch on what you were just talking about, when you’re 18 or 19 years old you don’t notice at the time, but now, I notice how young and impressionable you are. You look at some of the other people that were drafted in certain situations around the time I was and they struggled their first few seasons; Jeff O’Neill and Radek Bonk, some of the guys that were drafted in my draft year. But their teams stuck with them and nurtured them along and never really got down on them. They basically just helped them to progress and learn and mature. I guess I just never went through that process and never got to the opportunity where I got that point.”

(snip)

“It kind of got to the point at one stage where a couple of the veterans even went to the staff and said “You know you’re going to break this kid.” At this point, I was having absolutely no fun at all and was just miserable. Then you get put into the games, for five minutes, maybe get five minutes of playing on the fourth line and you’re expected to be a scorer. If you’re not scoring or producing points, then you’re a bust or they’re down on you. It was just really tough. I did get an opportunity to play sparingly there, but I was just so rusty and out of game shape, not physically but mentally and timing wise from not playing at all.

(snip)

“At this point in the press box I just said “Well Glen why don’t you just trade me.” And he says, “Nobody wants you, nobody wants you.” And at this point my agent told me that three or four teams had made some really attractive offers for me at this point with some big name players involved which I was quite honoured to hear and Glen tried to tell me I was lying.

“I just knew it was going nowhere. He just sort of pushed me and said “Have a nice career.” I was obviously pretty angry and I thought that if I tried to get back at him, or to try have a push and shove contest, or take a swing at him, that this is definitely the end of my career. And, I walked away. Then, 2 days later, my agent called me and said that Glen wants to have a meeting with me and apologize and I appreciated it, but they wanted me to come to camp the next fall? I mean how am I supposed to come back to camp after all of this and feel like I’m going to get a fair chance again or like its water under the bridge.”

The stories that Bonsignore tells are like a guidebook for ruining a prospect. From the former prospect’s description of events, GM Glen Sather and the entire Edmonton organization pushed him too far and put him in a position to fail. In a day and age that drafting and developing prospects has become tremendously important for an organization’s success, the narrative gives an example of how fragile 18-year-olds can be as they enter the world’s toughest league.

Now, most teams seem to understand that enabling their prospects to succeed is one of the most important functions of an NHL team. The Detroit Red Wings have become one of the model franchises for long-term success through their patient development of draft picks. More and more teams are following suit as they help their prospects mature before they’re thrown into the fire.

Look no further than James van Riemsdyk and his four-year journey for 2nd overall pick to multimillionaire. He was given four years to find his game with the University of New Hampshire (and briefly with the Philadelphia Phantoms). Only recently has he started transition from a bottom six forward to a difference-maker up-front.

James van Riemsdyk, Cody Hodgson, Braden Schenn, and a wealth of other prospects represent the new way of thinking for NHL teams. Each and every organization wants to maximize the potential of every player they draft. They need to if they want to become successful. As long as they remain patient, each of their players will have an opportunity to become the best player possible.

Bonsignore was never given the chance.

Habs prospect Juulsen out six weeks with fractured foot

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Tough news for the Montreal Canadiens and prospect defenseman Noah Juulsen on Thursday.

The Habs have announced that the 2015 first-round pick is expected to be sidelined six weeks after suffering a fractured foot on Monday.

The Habs selected Juulsen with the 26th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft following his 52-point regular season with the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League.

This past spring, Juulsen appeared in two playoff games for the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. He turned 20 years old in April and it seemed like the Habs were going to give him a serious look to make the NHL club out of training camp.  

“We like the way he skates and his transition game,” said head coach Claude Julien earlier this week, before the injury was revealed. “He’s going to get a chance to make this team and if he doesn’t he’s not going to be too far away.”

Fight Video: Lappin, Puempel land some good shots in preseason tilt

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Who says players don’t care about preseason hockey?

Matt Puempel and Nick Lappin are trying to earn spots on their respective clubs, so they know they may have to do the little things others aren’t willing to do to stick around in the NHL.

On Wednesday night, that involved dropping the gloves against each other. These two seemed to be in mid-season form when it came to throwing punches.

Neither player is considered a tough guy. Lappin had 17 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Devils last season, while Puempel has 28 penalty minutes in 79 career NHL games.

Here’s the video footage of the scrap:

By the way, the Rangers won 4-3 in overtime.

Flames say they were prepared to contribute $275M for new arena

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The arena situation in Calgary took another twist Thursday, with the Flames revealing that they had been prepared to contribute $275 million to a new arena.

The Flames released a nine-page report, which included the financial details of their proposed contributions. The organization said funding would also include $225 million from a Community Revitalization Levy, which would be generated from other developments in the immediate area around the arena.

Last week, it was reported that the Flames were no longer pursuing a new arena in Calgary. The club reiterated as much in their report Thursday.

“In a “small market” city, even one with an NHL team, a privately funded arena is not economically viable. The City’s proposal is just not workable (or even for that matter, “fair”, based on other arena deals in comparable cities),” the organization stated in the report.

“As a result, after over two years of discussions, we see absolutely no basis upon which a new arena agreement can be achieved with the City, and we have concluded that there is no point to continue the pursuit of a new arena in Calgary. Many, including us, believe Calgary is a terrific place for NHL hockey and we certainly have great fans. As such, we will strive to operate, as we have for the past 34 years, in the Saddledome for as long as we believe it is feasible.”

More from The Canadian Press:

The city proposed a three-way split on the cost of a $555-million arena, with the city and the Flames each paying $185 million and the remaining third raised from a surcharge on tickets sold to events in the new building.

Flames president Ken King contended the city’s plan amounted to the team paying the entire cost, or more, because the team considers a ticket surcharge paid by users revenue that belongs to the Flames and because they’d pay property tax back to the city.

The Flames current arena, the Saddledome, is now 34 years old and has drawn criticism in the past from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. In 2015, the Flames unveiled their plans for a new arena — the CalgaryNEXT project — with an original cost of $890 million.

The city said at the time that the original proposed plan was not feasible. This issue has since continued for over two years now. In June, Brian Burke said the Flames could leave Calgary without a new arena. King, himself, has said the current arena situation in Calgary is not “viable in the near or long-term.”

“That’s why we’re having this discussion is about a new facility,” King told the Calgary Herald. “So, if we’re successful in that initiative, our near and long-term future is here (in Calgary). If not, we have to decide what the alternatives are … Anyone can connect the dots to how many choices we have left.

“If we don’t get a deal, what are our choices?”

There was also this from the commissioner.

Kings outlast Canucks in first edition of NHL China Games

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The Los Angeles Kings came away with a 5-2 preseason win over the Vancouver Canucks in the first of the 2017 NHL China Games. This contest took place in lovely Shanghai.

Adrian Kempe got the ball rolling for Kings, as he scored the first goal of the game on the power play to make it 1-0 for his team (top).

Kings forward Tanner Pearson scored a great shorthanded breakaway goal to extend Los Angeles’ lead to 2-0 (check out the Pearson goal by clicking the video below).

The shorthanded goal against wasn’t the only issue the Canucks power play had in this game. Vancouver managed to score once on the man-advantage, but they finished the game 1-for-14 in that department (yes, it’s only a preseason game).

with Vancouver trailing 3-0 in the second period, Sven Baertschi finally got them on the board to cut the Kings lead to 3-1.

Markus Granlund made it 3-2 in the third period, but that’s as close as the Canucks would come to tying the score.

Pearson extended Los Angeles’ lead to 4-2 before Jeff Carter finished off the game with an empty-net goal.

These two teams will meet again in Beijing on Saturday at 3:30 a.m. ET.