2014 NHL Draft - Portraits

Flames return Bennett to junior

The Calgary Flames returned forward Sam Bennett to the Ontario Hockey League’s Kinston Frontenacs the club announced Saturday.

Bennett, who hasn’t played this season, was in Calgary recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum.

“After the fourth month it gets a little annoying,” Bennett told the Flames website. “Wherever I play I’m ready to go. I don’t feel hesitant at all out there. I guess it’s just a matter of getting my confidence back up again.

The 18-year-old was finally cleared for contact last weekend and spent the week practicing with the Flames prior to Saturday’s decision.

Bennett had 36 goals and 91 points in 57 games before the Flames selected him fourth overall last June.

He has not played a meaningful game since April 1 when his Frontenacs were bounced from the first round of the OHL playoffs.

Once his OHL season is over, Bennett will be eligible to re-join the Flames or their AHL affiliate in Adirondack.

Saturday’s move allows Calgary to hold on to the first year of Bennett’s entry-level contract.

U.S. bounced from World Juniors by Russia for second straight year

Igor Shestyorkin
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For the second time in as many years, the United States found itself opposite Russia in the World Juniors’ quarterfinals. Once again, it was the Russians that came out on top.

New York Rangers prospect Igor Shestyorkin stood tall Friday afternoon, turning aside 39 of 41 American shots to hand Russia a 3-2 victory. That brought him up to a .949 save percentage in the tournament. It helped that his teammates Ivan Barbashev and Alexander Sharov each found the back of the net in the first period to give Russia an early 2-0 lead.

The United States was never able to even things after falling behind early, although Lightning prospect Anthony DeAngelo and Zach Werenski each scored for the United States to keep the game close. Sergei Tolchinski chipped in what proved to be the game-winner on a power-play at 1:27 of the third period.

Russia will take on the winner of Finland vs. Sweden. The fact that the Russians are playing in the semifinals will help salvage what was shaping up to be a rough tournament for them after they went to a shootout with Denmark and lost to the Czech Republic and Sweden.

The United States went 2-1-0-1 in the Preliminary round, including a shootout win against Finland and a 5-3 loss to Canada on New Year’s Eve.

Pastrnak building on experience with the Bruins at world juniors

David Pastrnak: Georg Sorensen
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David Pastrnak setup three goals Wednesday night at the world junior hockey championship as the Czech Republic defeated Russia 4-1 in a must-win game.

The Bruins’ prospect now has a team-leading seven points (one goal and six assists) heading into Friday’s quarterfinals against Slovakia.

Pastrnak, the 25th overall pick at last June’s draft, appeared in five regular season games with Boston to start the season before being assigned to the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. The 18-year-old says his experience in the NHL is helping him even at the international level.

“It helps me a lot,” he said. “I played on the team with stars in the NHL so I picked up a lot of experience. I tried to learn as much as I can. (World juniors) is very different hockey than the NHL, but the experience has helped me a lot and I’m trying to get better every day.”

Entering Wednesday’s game Pastrnak said the team has been feeling pressure from the Czech Republic after being out-scored 10-4 in preliminary round losses to Sweden and Switzerland. The Czechs used overtime to edge the Danes 4-3 prior to Wednesday’s win which secured them a berth in the final four.

“We felt some pressure from back home,” said Pastrnak. “When you get to this situation, you feel you don’t play for yourself, you play for all of your country. All you want is to make your country proud of you. That’s what we said to each other, we have to play as one (unit) and do it for our country.”

A native of Havirov in the Czech Republic, Pastrnak had 10 goals and 27 points in 23 AHL games prior to joining the Under-20 team.

Pastrnak knows what to expect from the Slovaks on Friday.

“They are our neighbours so we have to get ready,” he said. “They beat us in a training game, but that doesn’t matter (now). It’s going to be about one game, the quarterfinals and we have to play our game.

“They’ve got a good power play, they play really simple hockey, but they skate well.”

The winner of the Czech and Slovakia quarterfinal will meet either Canada or Denmark in the semifinals on Sunday.

Report: Oilers to return Draisaitl to junior

Anaheim Ducks v Edmonton Oilers
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The Edmonton Oilers recalled center Anton Lander from the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons on Thursday night.

According to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, the club is expected to return center Leon Draisaitl to the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders.

Draisaitl, who has already burned the first year of his entry-level contract, has two goals and nine points in 37 games this season.

The 19-year-old was the third overall pick in last June’s draft.

Lander leads the Barons with 31 points in 29 games this season.

The 23-year-old has appeared in one game with the Oilers this season.

In 95 career NHL games, all with Edmonton, Lander has two goals and eight points.

Eichel named Team USA captain for World Juniors

USA Hockey Juniors v Boston
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One day after Canada named Ottawa rookie Curtis Lazar its captain for the World Junior Championships, the Americans announced Jack Eichel would wear the “C” for the upcoming tournament.

Eichel, the standout Boston University freshman that’s pegged as a top-two pick in next year’s NHL Entry Draft, heads a leadership group that also includes Blackhawks draftee John Hayden (74th overall, ’13) and defenseman Will Butcher, Colorado’s fifth-round pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

That Eichel got the “C” shouldn’t come as a big surprise. He’s a hugely talented forward that’s taken the collegiate hockey landscape by storm this season, leading the country in scoring (27 points in 16 games) while impressing several onlookers — including American hockey legend Mike Eruzione.

From the Calgary Sun:

In his post as director of special outreach at Boston University, Eruzione was well aware of what was transpiring when Eichel announced his intentions to go to the school. And just to make sure, during Eruzione’s many speaking engagements across the country, fans would remind him of just what a talent the school was getting.

Said Eruzione: “It’s funny. All year during my travels people would say ‘You have Eichel, you’ve got Eichel coming in.’ I’d say: ‘I’m sure the kid’s a good player.’”

“You always hear about these guys coming up and how great they are. Then you go to the first two or three practices and it’s like ‘Whoa, this kid is pretty good.’

“It’s great to see. He’s a great player and seems a good kid, a well grounded kid. That’s important.”

This year’s World Junior tournament will take place in Toronto and Montreal from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. Team USA opens its campaign against Finland at the Bell Centre on Friday.