After a disappointing showing at the 2016 World Junior championships that saw them fail to get out of the quarterfinals, Canada is headed back to the semifinal in 2017 thanks to a 5-3 win over the Czech Republic on Monday night that probably was not as close as it seemed.
Canada will play Sweden on Wednesday in Montreal. The winner of that game will play the winner of the United States-Russia game in the Final. The United States advanced to its semifinal with a close win over Switzerland.
Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot, a first-round pick in 2015, was probably Canada’s best player on Monday with a goal and an assist, while Julien Gauthier, a first-round pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016, added a pair of goals in the win.
Chabot was especially dominant from the blue line logging a game high 25 minutes and finishing as a plus-three. His assist on Gauthier’s second goal came after he made a fantastic play at the top of the slot to gain control of a loose puck, hop over a sliding Czech Republic defender, then move the puck to Kale Clague.
Chabot started the season with the Senators and appeared in one game before being sent back to the Saint John’s Sea Dogs of the QMJHL in early November. He has 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 15 games since returning. If he develops the way the Senators hope they could have one heck of a puck-moving tandem on their blue line with him and Erik Karlsson.
Even though the Czech Republic managed to keep the game close on Monday this still never really felt like one that Canada was in any serious danger of losing.
They dominated the game territorially from the start and more than doubled the Czech Republic on the shot chart, owning a commanding 41-19 advantage by the end of the game.
Canada goalie Connor Ingram had a tough start to the game allowing two goals on the first six shots he faced, including one that was the result of a fortunate bounce for the Czech Republic when the puck hit a referee in front of the net. That, more than anything else, kept the game closer than it probably should have been given the way the two teams played.
Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.
However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.
Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:
“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”
Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.
Markov, Habs officially part ways.
Markov is headed to the KHL.
The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.
The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.
Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.
He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eihel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least development into a regular NHL player.
Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.
Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.
“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”
(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)
The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.
Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.
If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.
One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.
Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.
Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.
Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.
With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.
Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.