With the World Junior Championships coming up later this month and each country releasing the rosters for their training camps, a few organizations have had to make some tough decisions with their young NHL players. On Thursday night, the Anaheim Ducks announced that the team will loan rookie forward Devante Smith-Pelly to Hockey Canada for the upcoming camp and tournament. Likewise, it’s been reported that the Tampa Bay Lightning will release forward Brett Connolly to Hockey Canada as well.
Eric Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports that Connolly will head to Calgary for Team Canada’s camp on Saturday. The decision to release the 19-year-old rookie was made before Martin St. Louis went down with his injury; the team didn’t change their mind when they learned St. Louis would miss time. Connolly was part of Canada’s silver medal winning team at least year’s WJC and he’ll look to improve on that if he makes this year’s team.
Lightning head coach Guy Boucher talked about the opportunity for Connolly: “…it’s going to be a great moment for him to live that pressure and be one of the top guys. And that’s an incredible experience for him for the future because he’s going to be able to take more pressure and the toughest moments. That’s what you get out of (playing for) Team Canada.”
On the other coast, the Ducks announced 19-year-old Devante Smith-Pelly will get his first opportunity to make Team Canada at the WJC. He was one of the last cuts last season, but took his game to another level in the OHL playoffs last season and made the Ducks’ roster out of training camp.
“This is a great opportunity for Devante to continue his development,” said Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray. “Being a candidate for Team Canada in such a prestigious tournament is a great honor. He’s improving each day as an NHL player and we hope he can continue his progress after playing for his country. We fully expect him to play a prominent role in the upcoming tournament for Canada.”
It’s always a tough decision for general managers when they weigh the experience a prospect will gain when at the WJC against the injury risk while playing for another team. Each team is in a different situation—each player is also in a different situation for that matter.
On Thursday, both the Lightning and the Ducks decided it would be most beneficial for their promising young players to get a taste of the pressure of the WJC.
Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season
Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.
But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.
On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.
Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.
Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.
Gaudreau, Monahan, Bouma express remorse after benching
“We want to apologize to the organization, the coaches, our team especially, and the city of Calgary and the fans,” Gaudreau said, per the team’s Twitter account. “For us not to show up like that, and miss a game like that, it’s not professional on our part.”
“I’m a young guy and I’m a leader on this team,” Monahan added. “I’ve got to step up and take that back and earn that respect again.”
More on what transpired at Tuesday’s practice, from Sportsnet’s Mark Spector:
Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley did his best to keep an epic Super Bowl party under wraps. But two of his players — Lance Bouma and Sean Monahan — arrived at the Saddledome at 10:15 am for a 10:30 Monday morning practice, and those two barely beat Johnny Gaudreau in the Saddledome doors.
Then practice started, and in the words of Calgary winger David Jones: “It’s a little embarrassing when we’re not (making) five-foot passes.”
“I think (Hartley) was pretty pissed off.”
The trio was then subsequently benched for last night’s game against Toronto, which the Flames won 4-3.
Tonight, the New York Rangers are in Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins at Consol, in a rematch of the ’14 and ’15 playoffs (the Blueshirts eliminated the Pens from each of the last two postseasons, you’ll recall.)
You can catch the game at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, or watch live online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.