It’s unclear who the Czechs will start in goal for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.
But it’s very clear who they won’t start.
Head coach Josef Jandac told NHL.com that Petr Mrazek and Michal Neuvirth are in a “bit of a battle” for the No. 1 gig, and both will get a shot at the job in the three exhibition games leading up to the tournament.
“We are planning to have only two goaltenders in the games,” Jandac continued. “Ondrej Pavelec will be the third one.”
Though it’s not a huge shock Pavelec’s in this position — he had a mediocre campaign with the Jets last year, going 13-13-4 with a 2.78 GAA and .904 save percentage — it still has to sting a little. He was the Czech starter three times at the World Championships (capturing bronze in 2011) and reprised that role at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
But if the news is bothering Pavelec, he isn’t showing.
“I was aware of the situation and I’m cool with it,” he said. “I’m glad I can be a part of all this and you never know what happens during the tournament.”
The Czechs play an exhibition against Russia in St. Petersburg on Thursday, then take on the Russians again Friday at the O2 Arena in Prague on Saturday. It’s unclear which goalie will get which game, but the two are reportedly going to split ’em, before Jandac makes a decision for the third game (versus Team North America on Sept. 14) and the tournament opener.
Whatever the case, this is arguably the Czechs’ biggest storyline heading into the World Cup. The team is coming in as major underdog, having lost the services of top flight players like David Krejci, Tomas Hertl and Radko Gudas.
Mrazek and Neuvirth will be counted on to keep the Czechs in contention.
Guess Joni Ortio saw the writing on the wall.
After a summer in which he wasn’t qualified by the Flames, then watched GM Brad Treliving acquire a pair of goalies in Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, Ortio decided to sign on with Skelleftea of the Swedish League.
Skelleftea announced the move on Wednesday.
The move overseas culminates what was a pretty dramatic fall from grace. Back in ’13-14, Ortio — then just 22 years old — looked to be a bright goaltending prospect, going 27-8-0 with a 2.33 GAA and .926 save percentage with AHL Abbotsford.
That earned him a spot on the league’s All-Rookie team.
Ortio also showed relatively well at the NHL level early in his career, going 4-2-0 with a 2.52 GAA and .908 save percentage in a brief six-game cameo with the Flames.
That led him to announce he wanted to “steal that No. 1 job” for the ’15-16 campaign, something that never came to fruition — Ortio had a very disappointing campaign, was placed on waivers, and put up poor numbers for AHL Stockton.
After acquiring Elliott, Treliving did say he still liked Ortio, adding that the 25-year-old “finished real strong,” so there was some thought Ortio could possibly be back in Calgary as Elliott’s No. 2.
But that thought was extinguished when Treliving signed Johnson on the opening day of free agency.
Peter Mueller is getting another kick at the can.
On Wednesday, ESPN reported that Mueller — who spent last season with Malmo of the Swedish League — has signed a professional tryout to join Boston at training camp.
It’s an interesting deal for an interesting player.
Mueller, 28, was the eighth overall pick in 2006 and showed promise — including a 22-goal, 54-point rookie campaign with the Coyotes — before getting sidetracked by concussions, and missing all of the 2010-11 season.
He left the NHL in 2013, opting to sign with Kloten of the Swiss League. There, he established himself as one of the league’s best scorers, and landed a deal with St. Louis the following summer.
Mueller failed to stick with the Blues, however, and opted to re-join Kloten rather than accept an AHL assignment. He spent one more year in Switzerland before jumping to Malmo last season, where he had 13 goals and 25 points in 43 games.
Traditionally a center, Mueller will (presumably) be in tough to make the Bruins out of camp. The team has relatively decent depth down the middle in Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, Ryan Spooner and the recently signed Dominic Moore.
That said, he does have NHL talent.
Despite parting ways with the Blues two summers ago, GM Doug Armstrong did say “we viewed [Mueller] as a top nine player,” one that would have been back up with the club eventually, had he decided to accept a stint in the American League.
Team Russia has named its leadership group for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey and, to nobody’s surprise, Alex Ovechkin is spearheading the committee.
Ovechkin will captain the team for the tournament, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation announced on Wednesday. Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk will round out the group by serving as alternates.
The decision to slap the “C” on Ovi was a no-brainer. He’s captained Washington for the last six seasons, and served in the same role when Russia won the World Hockey Championships in 2014.
It was widely assumed that Blake Wheeler would inherit Andrew Ladd‘s captaincy in Winnipeg and, on Wednesday, the club made it official.
Wheeler, 30, will become the second player to captain the Jets since the franchise moved from Atlanta in 2011, with Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Scheifele serving as alternates.
The Wheeler decision was something of a no-brainer, as he’s one of the club’s longest tenured player (seven seasons and counting), spending the the last three as one of Ladd’s alternate captains.
In the summer of ’13, Wheeler inked a six-year, $33.6 million extension with the Jets and has since established himself as one of the clubhouse leaders. He was a prominent voice during the Evander Kane saga, mincing no words when explaining what was expected of Jets players.
“There’s a standard that everyone needs to live up to,” Wheeler said, per the Sun. “We’re professionals, we make a lot of money. And we’re expected to uphold a certain standard. That’s the code we live by.
“If you don’t like it then there’s other places to go. This is the way we do things.”