Author: Mike Halford

Toronto Maple Leafs v Buffalo Sabres

Ex-Sabre Paetsch pleads guilty in connection to gambling ring


Former Buffalo defenseman Nathan Paetsch has pleaded guilty for his role in an illegal gambling ring, per the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle:

Paetsch was accused by the government of recruiting hockey players and others to place bets, and also of aiding in the transmission of wagering information as well as collection of debts, according to papers read this morning in U.S. District Court in Rochester before Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr.

He agreed to plead guilty to two charges: transmission of wagering information and structuring a bank transaction to evade reporting requirements (all cash transactions in excess of $10,000 must be reported by banks).

Because of his cooperation and because he has no criminal record, federal sentencing guidelines allow the plea arrangement of the 8-month home detention and 400 hours of community service, though Judge Geraci is not bound to abide by the agreement.

Sentencing will be Aug. 31.

The Democrat & Chronicle also reports Paetsch must pay the U.S. government $265,000 as part of his punishment.

The gambling ring is the same operation Minnesota forward Thomas Vanek was connected to. Paetsch and Vanek were teammates in Buffalo for four seasons.

Vanek admitted to gambling and, last year, testified as part of the investigation after he reportedly endorsed a $230,000 New York Islanders paycheck to cover some of his debts.

Vanek’s agent, Steve Bartlett, then flatly denied his client engaged in any illegal activity.

“[Vanek] was a witness against this guy who was the bookmaker,” Bartlett explained back in December. “He was the guy that wanted money and Thomas paid it to him. Thomas wasn’t involved in any bookmaking activities.

“Now people are like, ‘Oh, Thomas was a money launderer. That’s totally false. He was the bettor. He bet on football games. Obviously that’s what he was testifying to. It doesn’t take Einstein to figure that out.”

Following Bartlett’s remarks, Vanek addressed the gambling issue himself.

“I’m not proud of the decisions I’ve made,” he said, adding that he no longer gambles.

Get to know a draft pick — Oliver Kylington

2015 NHL Combine
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Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Oliver Kylington (D)

Height: 6’0 Weight: 185 Shoots: Left

Team: AIK IF (Allsvenskan)

Country: Sweden

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 6 among International Skaters

What kind of player is he?

A two-way, puck moving defender blessed with good skill and skating ability, Kylington is high on talent but played to mixed reviews this season. After struggling at the start of the year with SHL club Farjestad, the 18-year-old was loaned out to second-tier club AIK for the remainder of the campaign.

In January, an injury kept him from representing Team Sweden at the 2015 World Juniors.

Despite those setbacks, scouts remain high on Kylington heading into the draft. His speed and playmaking skills figure to translate well to the current NHL, where there’s a premium on blueliners that can move pucks quickly out of the defensive zone.

Seidel says:

“Kylington has been on the radar of NHL scouts for a couple years because of his exceptional skating and offensive skills. Unfortunately, he went through inconsistent stretches this season that caused concern among some teams. His calling card in the NHL will be offense, and he’ll use his foot speed to support and occasionally lead the rush.

“His overall effectiveness will be determined by whether he can become a little more committed in the defensive end — but we feel confident that, as he gets older and stronger, Kylington will become a solid contributor.”

NHL comparable: Erik Karlsson/Kris Letang

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.

Devils re-sign goalie Wedgewood: two years, $1.175M

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils

The Devils locked in another netminder on Monday, agreeing to a contract extension with third-stringer Scott Wedgewood.

The deal is two years at $1.175 million — an average annual cap hit of $587,500 — and is of the two-way variety. Wedgewood, 22, was taken by New Jersey in the third round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and has spent the last three seasons with AHL Albany, appearing in 36 games in each of the last two.

Prior to new GM Ray Shero coming aboard, the Devils had inked No. 2 goalie Keith Kinkaid to a two-year, $1.45 million extension. Kinkaid earned the deal after his first full season as Cory Schneider’s backup, in which he fared well — the 25-year-old went 6-5-4 in 19 appearances, posting a .915 save percentage and 2.59 GAA.

So for the next two years, the Devils have Schneider and Kinkaid at the NHL level and Wedgewood locked in as the No. 3. Now all that’s left is to figure out the rest of the roster.

Canada names Armstrong, Holland, Murray, Bergevin and Blake to World Cup management team

Martin Brodeur Retirement Press Conference

On Monday, Hockey Canada made it official — St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has been selected as Team Canada GM for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

And he’s been armed with quite a staff.

Anaheim’s Bob Murray, the NHL’s reigning GM of the Year, will serve as an assistant, along with Detroit’s Ken Holland, Montreal’s Marc Bergevin and L.A. Kings AGM Rob Blake.

Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s VP of operations, has also been named to the group.

“These are some of the most respected and successful men in hockey, and we could not be more excited for them to lead Team Canada into the 2016 World Cup of Hockey,” Hockey Canada president Tom Renney said. “There is a lot of work to be done between now and Sept. 17, 2016, and as a staff we look forward to working with the management group as we look toward a second consecutive World Cup championship for Team Canada.”

Two things to consider about this new management team:

One, it’s got a remarkably high standard to live up to — outgoing GM Steve Yzerman was lauded for his work with the Olympic squad at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, putting together a team that went undefeated en route to its second consecutive gold medal (worth noting that both Armstrong and Holland were part of Yzerman’s management group.)

Two, the selection process comes with a wrinkle.

Canada and the U.S. will be unable to select any skaters age 23 and under, as those players will be exclusively available for the North American Youngstars team. According to a Hockey Canada release, the Youngstars squad will be selected by a management group jointly named by the NHL and NHLPA.

Get to know a draft pick — Paul Bittner

Portland Winterhawks v Kelowna Rockets

Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Paul Bittner (LW)

Height: 6’4 Weight: 204 Shoots: Left

Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Country: USA

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 26 among North American skaters

What kind of player is he?

A big one.

One of the largest forwards available at this year’s draft, Bittner — projected to play at 220 pounds at the NHL level — utilized his frame and physicality to score 34 goals in 66 games with the Winterhawks this season. While some of that production came from playing on a stacked line featuring league MVP Oliver Bjorkstrand and Winnipeg prospect Nic Petan, Bittner gave the trio some much-needed bulk, routinely using his size to 1) make space for Bjorkstrand/Petan, and 2) create scoring chances by fending off opponents and driving hard to the net.

“I see Paul as a power forward,” Portland head coach Jamie Kompon said, per the Grand Forks Herald. “He’s a very good skater for a big man. He has a long reach. He has a terrific shot. He uses his body and size very well.

“I see him in that power forward role as a top-six player.”

Seidel says:

“Bittner is another big power forward that skates exceptionally well and has above-average offensive skills. He’s coming out of the ‘prospect factory’ that is WHL Portland, and his game has evolved over the past two years.

“We’d still like to see him become a little more aggressive and committed defensively, but a kid with his size and skating ability will be very enticing as teams gather for the draft on June 26. The game has become very fast, and Bittner’s ability to add offense and get in on the forecheck make him a quality prospect.”

NHL comparable: Chris Kreider

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.