Author: Mike Halford


Bishop Effect: 6-foot-9 goalie ‘trying to make a name for myself’ at Vancouver’s prospect camp


John McLean, the towering NCAA Division III goalie currently participating at Canucks prospect camp, is trending.

For starters, he’s trending on social media. After this picture surfaced on Twitter last week, websites like TSN’s Bar Down and Yahoo’s Puck Daddy took notice of what could be the tallest individual to ever tend goal professionally — after wrapping a four-year collegiate career at tiny Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, the 6-foot-9 McLean played a few games for Pensacola of the Southern Professional Hockey League this spring, which paved the way for his Canucks camp invite.

And with that invite, McLean became part of another trend.

The Canucks are no doubt intrigued by McLean’s size, especially given the recent movement towards bigger goalies in the NHL — like 6-foot-7 Lightning netminder Ben Bishop, who McLean sees as something of a role model.

“I’ve never really been able to play like an NHL goalie until Ben Bishop came along,” he explained, per TSN 1040. “I’ve just kinda played my own way and used my body to my advantage.

“Just in the last couple of years with Ben Bishop and Scott Darling coming into the picture, I was able to relate to some of the goalies.”

According to the database, four current goalies stand 6-foot-6 or taller: Bishop, Darling, Anders Lindback and Devan Dubnyk, the latter being one of three finalists for this year’s Vezina trophy.

A handful of others, like Pekka Rinne and Darcy Kuemper, are listed at 6-foot-5 — and there could be plenty more skyscrapers on the horizon, according to Bishop, the tallest goalie in NHL history.

“I don’t know if it’ll be the end of the era [of small goalies], but I think you see taller guys that can be just as athletic as the smaller guys,” Bishop said during the Stanley Cup Final. “It seems to be the way it’s trending here.

“You look at Darling, he’s 6-6, and that guy can move pretty well. You see bigger guys that can move just as well as the smaller guys, and that’s probably why teams have started going in that direction.”

McLean has a long way to go to match the likes of Bishop and Darling, but the fact he’s at an NHL prospects camp at all is telling. Most goalies with resumes boasting Div. 3 hockey and low-tier professional experience aren’t going to get this kind of chance — but then again, most goalies’ waists aren’t at the crossbar while standing, like McLean’s is.

The 25-year-old knows his time in Vancouver is a huge break for his career, and wants to make the most of it.

“I just use my size to my advantage, and try to play big,” he explained. “I’m just trying to make a name for myself right now, and play where someone wants me.”

Related: Does Bishop, the tallest goalie in NHL history, mark ‘wave of the future’ in net?

Veteran d-man Gervais signs in German League

Journeyman Bruno Gervais has signed with Eisbaren Berlin of Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the club announced on Monday.

Gervais, 30, spent last season with Colorado’s AHL affiliate in Lake Erie, scoring 13 points in 71 games. Prior to joining the Avs organization, Gervais had appeared in over 400 contests with the Islanders, Lightning and Flyers; his most recent NHL action came with Philly during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, when he appeared in 37 games.

Gervais’ best time as an NHLer came on long Island from 2007-10, with his top individual campaign coming in ’08-09 — he scored a career-high 19 points and averaged over 21 minutes a night.

Locked in: Columbus signs Saad to six-year, $36M deal


It took a while, but the Blue Jackets finally inked their guy.

On Friday, Columbus announced it had signed Brandon Saad — acquired three days ago in a blockbuster trade with Chicago — to a six-year contract extension. Per Sportsnet, it’s a $36 million deal with an average annual cap hit of $6M.

“Adding a player of Brandon’s caliber is exciting for the Columbus Blue Jackets organization and our fans,” Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. “We are extremely pleased to have reached this long-term commitment that assures he will be an important part of our team for years to come.”

Saad, 22, was acquired in a multi-player deal that saw prospects Alex Broadhurst and Michael Paliotta also come to Columbus, in exchange for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Corey Tropp, Jeremy Morin and a fourth-round pick in 2016. Like Saad, Anisimov quickly signed with his new team, inking a five-year, $22.75 million deal with the Blackhawks earlier this week.

Getting Saad locked in is a major score for Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets organization. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner, scored a career-high 23 goals last year and is considered to be one of the brightest young forwards in the league — along with center and likely future linemate Ryan Johansen, the two will cut an imposing figure for Columbus next season.

Speaking of Johansen, it’s worth noting that with this deal, Saad becomes the highest-paid skater in Columbus (in terms of cap hit, anyway), ahead of Brandon Dubinsky ($5.85M) and captain Nick Foligno ($5.5M). Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is the team’s highest-paid individual, with a $7.425M cap hit that kicks in next season.

Johansen, who becomes a RFA again in 2017, is currently making $4M per.

Larkin, Mantha in tough to make Red Wings roster, says Holland


Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin, two of the brightest forward prospects in the Detroit organization, will be hard pressed to be on the opening night roster — at least according to GM Ken Holland.

From the Detroit Free Press:

“Realistically, I think he’s going to have to come in — it’s going to be a struggle for him to make the team,” Holland said of Mantha. “You gotta come in and take the job. We’ve probably got 14, 15, 16 forwards that we think, legitimately, are going to be competing for a spot on the team. I’m not even sure if Anthony’s in that group.

“Then there’s another group of young players — (Andreas) Athanasiou, (Tomas) Nosek, Mantha — that we think are going to be Red Wings. Are they going to be Red Wings in September? They gotta come in and knock somebody out of the box.”

What about Larkin?

“Same thing,” Holland said. “My take on Larkin is he’s gotta be in our top 12. Coach (Jeff) Blashill’s gotta say to me, as we’re putting the team together, ‘I want him in the lineup.’ He’s not going to be a 13th, 14th forward.”

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Detroit was already deep at forward before inking AHL Grand Rapids standout Andy Miele to a one-way deal, and signing veteran center Brad Richards on the opening day of free agency.

All told, Detroit currently has 12 NHL-caliber forwards under contract (though one is Johan Franzen, still dealing with concussion issues) with four guys — Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen and Landon Ferraro — still needing new deals.

So, all signs point to both Larkin and Mantha heading to the Griffins next year. For Larkin, the 15th overall pick in 2014, it’ll be a chance to further impress after scoring five points in six Calder Cup playoff games this year.

For Mantha, the 20th overall pick in ’13, it’ll be a chance to rebound after a tough year in which Red Wings executive Jim Devellano said Mantha was “very, very, very disappointing.”

Jets re-sign Maurice’s coaching staff

Winnipeg Jets v Colorado Avalanche

After making the playoffs for the first time since their move from Atlanta, the Jets have re-upped with all of Paul Maurice’s coaching staff.

Assistants Charlie Huddy and Pascal Vincent have inked new contracts, along with goalie coach Wade Flaherty. All signed three-year extensions.

In related news, the Jets have also announced that Rick St. Croix is coming aboard as the club’s goalie development coach.

It’s not surprising that Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff kept Maurice’s staff in the fold. They were not only responsible for last year’s postseason berth, but also played a role in Maurice finishing fourth in Jack Adams voting for NHL coach of the year. Maurice received six first-place votes — tied with Nashville’s Peter Laviolette, who was a finalist.