The Nashville Predators announced that they have signed goaltender Juuse Saros to a three-year, entry-level contract.
Saros, 20, was taken with the 99th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He’s coming off of a strong season in the Finnish league where he posted a 2.14 GAA and .929 save percentage in 47 games with HPK Hameenlinna. That’s after he was 2013-14 Finnish Elite League Rookie of the Year with a 1.76 GAA and .928 save percentage in 44 games.
On the international stage, Saros led Finland to a gold medal in the 2014 World Juniors. He also was Pekka Rinne’s understudy in the 2015 World Championship. That role didn’t lend itself to much playing time, but when he was called into service against Slovakia, he earned a shutout by turning aside 22 shots.
Rather than once again become Rinne’s backup, Saros is more likely to be given a chance to adjust to North American hockey while honing his skills in the minors during the 2015-16 campaign. Nashville already has Carter Hutton inked to a one-way contract, although the 29-year-old goaltender’s deal will expire after the 2015-16 campaign, so if Saros has a strong season then perhaps he’ll be viewed as a serious candidate for the backup job at that time.
Another chapter was written in the Tim Bozon story on Wednesday — the Habs announced Bozon has been sent to AHL Hamilton, on the heels of a successful junior season with WHL Kootenay.
It’s an impressive feat, to say the least.
Roughly one year ago — Mar. 19, to be exact — Bozon was awoken from a medically-induced coma stemming from bacterial meningitis, which caused him to lose 40 pounds and left him with difficulty speaking. The 21-year-old spent six months in hospital and had to re-learn how to walk.
“I almost died,” Bozon said earlier this season, per CBC. “I’m not scared to say that.”
From there, Bozon regained strength and participated in the Habs’ training camp last fall before playing three exhibition games with the Bulldogs. It was at that time the Canadiens’ organization thought it best to return Bozon for a fifth year of junior hockey and he fared well, scoring 35 goals and 63 points in 57 games for the Ice.
Bozon, Montreal’s third-round pick (64th overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, could make his AHL debut this Friday when Hamilton takes on Texas.
Nashville Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey had a terrific year for the Harvard men’s hockey team, and it appears he’ll return to that team and school next year as a senior.
Bob McKenzie of TSN reported during Insider Trading on Tuesday that Vesey had been in contact with Harvard to see if he could turn pro and still get his courses from this semester.
The Predators selected Vesey in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft. In his junior year with Harvard, he led his team with 32 goals and 58 points in 37 games.
According to recent reports, it’s believed from some NHL executives that Vesey was “NHL-ready.”
“We’ve been in contact with his family through his mom and his dad and family representative,” said Predators GM David Poile, as per The Tennessean.
“We’re just going to give them the time. We’ve told them what we think of their son and how he is as a hockey player. It’s their decision as to whether this is the right time for him now or after the year or even next year. We would never tell a player to leave school.”
The Philadelphia Flyers have inked another intriguing young free agent, signing Cornell forward Cole Bardreau to an entry-level contract.
Bardreau, 21, is a former U.S. National Development Team member that helped the Americans capture gold at the 2013 World Juniors in Russia — a team that featured Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.
Two weeks after capturing gold — scoring three points in seven games, finishing with a plus-5 rating — Bardreau returned to Cornell and suffered a fractured C-7 vertebrae in the front and back of his neck on an illegal check. The injury cost him the remainder of his season, but Bardreau returned the following year and had a solid senior campaign this season, recording a career-high 22 points in 30 games to lead the team in scoring.
As mentioned above, Bardreau is just the latest undrafted free agent to join the Flyers. Earlier this week the club inked QMJHL sniper Danick Martel to an entry-level deal. Martel, 20, tore up the Quebec league this season with 48 goals and 102 points in just 63 games.
Bit of an eyebrow-raiser from the QMJHL — Anthony Duclair, the highly-touted prospect that went from New York to Arizona as part of the Keith Yandle trade, will be a healthy scratch tonight when his Quebec Remparts take on Shawinigan.
According to this Journal De Montreal piece, Duclair, who has 27 points in 22 games since being sent back to Quebec in early January, is mired in head coach Philippe Boucher’s doghouse for a perceived lack of effort. It’s possible the 19-year-old is dealing with a bit of fatigue — after making the Rangers out of training camp and appearing in 18 NHL games, he’s since won gold with Team Canada at the ’15 World Juniors and played big minutes with the Remparts — but whatever the case, Quebec isn’t having it, possibly because it doesn’t want complacency setting in, given it’s hosting this year’s Memorial Cup.
It’s also possible Duclair could be distracted. The Yandle deal was one of the biggest blockbusters of this year’s trade deadline, and Duclair could be guilty of looking to the future. In Arizona, he figures to play a prominent role in the organization’s rebuild and will eventually be reunited with Team Canada linemate Max Domi, who the Coyotes took in the first round of the ’13 NHL Entry Draft.
“Having the opportunity to maybe play with [Domi] in the future, that’s great and I look forward to it,” Duclair said, per the Arizona Republic. “I’m actually really excited about the opportunity.”