Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Ducks sign WHL Kamloops standout Sideroff to ELC

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Deven Sideroff, the 85th overall pick at the 2015 draft, has signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Anaheim Ducks, per TVA.

The deal reportedly carries a $620,000 average annual value at the NHL level. Sideroff, 19, scored the contract after a good campaign with WHL Kamloops, finishing third on the team with 59 points in 63 games.

This past spring, the Ducks rewarded Sideroff with a one-game cameo with AHL San Diego (Kevin Roy, another Ducks prospect out of Northeastern, also got a game).

Sideroff will almost assuredly be back in junior next year, but still could be one to moving forward. He’s currently participating with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Summer Showcase, and could have a shot at playing in Finland at the world juniors this winter.

 

Conroy: Tkachuk’s ‘mindset is to make the Flames’

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Matthew Tkachuk, taken sixth overall by Calgary at this year’s draft, was supposed to partake in the U.S. national junior team development camp, currently underway in Plymouth.

But he’s not.

Instead, Tkachuk is taking the camp off to rest, after playing through an injured ankle for the Memorial Cup-winning London Knights this past spring. The absence shouldn’t hurt his chances of making the junior team — Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy said it was “kind of the plan” for Tkachuk to skip — but something else might prevent him from representing the U.S. this winter:

The NHL.

It’s hard not to look at the 18-year-old’s decision to rest up his body as a sign that he’s gunning to crack the Flames roster out of training camp this fall.

Conroy all but confirmed as much to the Calgary Sun.

“You talk to [Tkachuk] right now and his mindset is to make the [Flames],” he explained. “And that’s what we’ve always said … just like with [Sean] Monahan.

“He came in and played great and then he was on the team. He took it out of our hands. That is his mindset and that was Monny’s mindset too.”

Monahan wasn’t supposed to make the Flames two years ago, but did, and played exceptionally well, finishing second on the team in scoring as a 19-year-old.

And it sure sounds like Calgary’s as high on Tkachuk as it was on Monahan (and Sam Bennett, who also debuted in his draft year).

The team wasted little time signing Tkachuk to an entry-level deal, and president Brian Burke suggested the rugged power forward had attributes the Flames could use right now.

“Kid’s a kind of pain in the ass,” said Burke, per the Calgary Herald. “We don’t have enough guys who are pains in the ass. And the way I like to play, I like guys who are pains in the ass.

“So, I thought that was a real important pick for us.”

Bruins add Leach, Whitfield to AHL coaching staff

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Boston has added a pair of coaches to Kevin Dean’s staff in AHL Providence.

From the club:

The Bruins have hired Jay Leach and Trent Whitfield as assistant coaches of the Providence Bruins. Leach and Whitfield will serve on the coaching staff of head coach Kevin Dean, who was named to his position on July 18, 2016.

Leach will be working primarily with the team’s defensemen while Whitfield will work primarily with the team’s forwards.

Leach, 36, most recently served as an assistant coach in AHL Wilkes-Barre. Prior to coaching he enjoyed a lengthy, journeyman career that included 70 games at the NHL level.

Whitfield, 39, is a familiar face, having suited up for both Boston and Providence during his playing career. He spent last year behind the bench with WHL Calgary.

Washington got better down the middle, which is vitally important in the East

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Given that Washington has the reigning coach of the year, goalie of the year and goalscorer of the year, it’s tough to say the addition of a third-line center will make a huge difference.

But Lars Eller isn’t just another third-line center.

And the hole he’s filling isn’t just another hole.

“We identified Lars probably a year ago,” Caps GM Brian MacLellan said upon acquiring Eller from Montreal at the draft. “We’ve been asking about him. We’re trying to fill a third-line center with a good two-way guy that can give us a little offense and play defense. Little PK and probably a little power play too.

“We identified him probably over a year ago, and he was on our list this year.”

Then — when asked if he’d finally solved Washington’s longstanding problem at 3C — MacLellan smiled, and gave a one-word reply.

“Yes.”

The importance of depth down the middle cannot be understated. Last year’s Eastern Conference Finalists, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, had it in spades — the Penguins rolled Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen, while the Bolts had Tyler Johnson, Steve Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula, Brian Boyle and, when Stamkos was sidelined, cycled in a quality fifth option in Vladislav Namestnikov.

Washington, conversely, was top-heavy.

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom did most of the lifting, which was fine during the regular season. But when the playoff clamp down began, and Kuznetsov faded, it was up to Jay Beagle and Mike Richards to give something more.

And no offense to either of those guys… but they are what they are.

The Eller acquisition essentially ended Richards’ time in Washington, and will (presumably) push Beagle back from 3C to 4C, where he’s better suited.

Eller, 27, will also increase Washington’s team speed. And this is another big deal in the East.

Following the loss to Pittsburgh in Round 2, MacLellan acknowledged the Pens’ speed “took over” at times. This was a familiar refrain.

Jon Cooper, the coach of a pretty speedy Bolts team — the only team to push Pittsburgh to seven games — said the Pens were just too fast. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer, who’s team looked outmatched in the Stanley Cup Final, called Pittsburgh the fastest team in the league.

Eller should combat this. He has good speed, and captured the fastest skater title at a number of Montreal’s skills competitions.

Eller also has some nice offensive upside, scoring 13 goals in 79 games last year. Comparatively, Beagle and Richards combined to score 10.

But will it be enough?

As stated at the top, Eller’s not going to be a front-line guy for the Caps. And the speed he brings might only offset the loss of Jason Chimera, who was arguably the team’s fastest skater last season.

Whatever the case, one thing is clear. MacLellan knew he needed to fix his 3C problem, and he believes he’s found the perfect solution.

Vegas hires former Capitals scout as player development director

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Nice timing on this news, breaking during PHT’s Washington Capitals day — Las Vegas announced that former Caps scout Wil Nichol has been hired as the club’s first-ever director of player development.

Nichol, 42, had been with Washington since 2011, where he worked under current Vegas GM George McPhee.

Prior to the Caps gig, Nichol served as head coach with two different outfits — USHL Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point — and pulled double duty with the Steel, working as the club’s GM as well.

Long story short, he’s worn several hats during his front office career.

Which seems to be a theme with McPhee’s hires thus far.

Earlier, Vegas announced that Kelly McCrimmon would serve as McPhee’s assistant GM. McCrimmon joined the expansion outfit after a do-it-all career with WHL Brandon, where he was the owner, general manager and head coach.

More on McPhee’s hiring process, from Sports Illustrated:

Five more contracts have been signed to fill various high-level roles, McPhee told SI.com via telephone, including a salary cap expert, a director of hockey operations, a director of player development (former Capitals scout Wil Nichol was announced on Aug.4), and an organizational goalie director.

He hopes that directors of pro and amateur scouting will be found within the week.

Related: McPhee wants to play ‘attack’ hockey in Vegas