Sharks sign ‘15 first rounder Timo Meier


The San Jose Sharks have signed Timo Meier to a standard, entry-level contract, the club announced on Wednesday.

Meier was the ninth overall pick at last month’s NHL Draft.

“Timo is a dynamic forward who has outstanding finishing skills,” said Sharks’ GM Doug Wilson. “His big, pro frame allows him to be successful in all three zones, and his high hockey IQ has already become evident at our Prospects Development Camp. We look forward to watching his continued development.”

The 6-foot-1, 209-pound forward has spent the past two seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Herisau, Switzerland native scored 44 goals and 90 points in 61 regular season games with Halifax during the 2014-15 season.

He was awarded the 2015 Michael Bossy Trophy given to the QMJHL player judged to be the best professional prospect.

Meier represented Switzerland at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship scoring two goals and four assists in six games.

“Timo is an accomplished goal scorer who had an excellent season in Halifax last year,” Sharks’ Director of Scouting Tim Burke said. “A strong body, good skater, and versatile player, we were very excited to take him with the 9th overall pick.”

Photo courtesy of the San Jose Sharks

Joseph Veleno granted exceptional status, eligible for QMJHL draft

Feb. 10, 2015 Bell Centre--. Joe Veleno receives a $1,500 bursary from the Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and the Quebec Foundation for Athletic Excellence. (FAEQ)

Joseph Veleno is the latest player to be granted exceptional status.

Hockey Canada informed Quebec Major Junior Hockey League commissioner Gilles Courteau of Veleno’s eligibily for this Saturday’s entry draft the league announced on Thursday.

Veleno, who turned 15 in January, spent this season playing midget hockey.

The 6-foot, 170-pound forward finished 12th in his league in scoring with 52 points in 41 games while playing with the Lac St. Louis Lions, according to an article in the Montreal Gazette.

“There is a talent there that plays a 200-foot game, which is rare at that age,” Veleno’s coach, Jon Goyens said. “We’ve been very lucky to be able to coach some of the most talented kids (Jonathan Drouin, Anthony Duclair, Louis Leblanc, Mike Matheson) to come out of Quebec in the last 10, 15 years. Not all of them necessarily had the 200-foot game in them; they might have had other elements, like stickhandling or vision, that might have been ahead of Joseph. But nobody at his age was playing, as a skilled forward, a 200-foot game, which is really, really rare.”

Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Sean Day have all been granted exceptional player status previously, but Veleno is the first player out of Quebec to receive the honor.

“If you’re going to be the first guy (in Quebec) to get exceptional status, right off the bat you’re going to be compared to the four or five guys who got it in the ‘O’ (Ontario Hockey League), and you’re going to be compared to those who didn’t get it,” Goyens said.

The Saint John Sea Dogs hold the first overall selection at the draft.

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Gazette

Trade: Rangers acquire draft pick from Bolts for Walcott

Saint John Sea Dogs v Blainville-Boisbriand Armada

The New York Rangers have re-acquired the seventh round pick for this month’s draft, which they initially sent to Tampa Bay in the Martin St. Louis deal last season.

In exchange, the Lightning receive prospect Daniel Walcott.

Walcott finished his second season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this year with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound, blue liner had seven goals and 41 points in 54 regular season games.

The 21-year-old also appeared in one American Hockey League game with the Hartford Wolf Pack registering a minus-1 rating.

Walcott was originally the Rangers fifth round selection (140th overall) in 2014.

Mantha’s ‘going to be a great player,’ says Detroit’s AHL coach


Entering this season there were high hopes for Anthony Mantha.

The Red Wings prospect was hoping to make the leap to the NHL with Detroit; however, Mantha suffered a broken leg at the prospects tournament in Traverse City.

The injury forced the 20-year-old to miss the first month and a half of the season and even today Mantha feels like he’s playing catch up.

“That injury was hard. It took me two months off so that means I started two months later than everyone,” Mantha told PHT recently. “I’ve started to play really good, but I mean I’m still two months back of everyone so I need to put double the effort in.

“After my injury, it had been five months since I had played a real game and it hurt my confidence a little bit and obviously my game is not the same.”

On top of recovering from the broken leg, this is Mantha’s first season in the American Hockey League.

The forward is coming off back-to-back 50 goal seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Val d’Or Foreurs.

In 36 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Mantha has eight goals and 10 assists.

“I think its been hard. Especially starting late on everyone, but I’m getting there now and its going up hill,” Mantha said of the adjustment. “The guys are way better over here. They’re stronger; they’re harder on the puck. The goalies are also really good over here.”

Despite his early season struggles, Griffins’ coach Jeff Blashill has no doubt about Mantha’s future in the game.

“He’s got special skill for a guy his size. He can do things that other guys just can’t do,” said Blashill. “He’s going to be a great player; I truly believe that and its just going to be a matter of time.

“When you care as much as he cares, as soon as he learns the daily attention to detail and the daily work ethic it takes, with his skill set, he’s going to be a special player.”

As with any 20-year-old playing in the AHL, Blashill says Mantha needs to shed some of his junior habits in order to take his game to the next level.

“He was able to get away with not skating a ton and I think at this level you have to skate to get the puck, skate to get the puck back, you have to skate to make sure you’re not spending the whole time in the defensive zone,” said Blashill. “Its just a matter of changing those habits.

“That’s just going to take time, but habits will change if work at them and willing to work hard at them and listen and get better. That’s what he’s certainly been willing to do.”

Detroit is notorious developing late-round picks into NHL players. Riley Sheahan is the lone Red Wings’ forward currently on the roster, who was selected in the first round by Detroit.

Mantha, the Red Wings’ first-round pick (20th overall) in 2013, could soon be the second.

“We know he can score goals,” said Blashill. “But he’s actually got an ability to make lots of plays with the puck in tight areas and I think when you’ve got that kind of stick, at that size level, when you can skate like that – its just a really good package.”

Sharks sign free agent forward Nikita Jevpalovs

Blainville-Boisbriand Armada v Gatineau Olympiques

Latvian hockey fans could soon have another NHLer to cheer for.

The San Jose Sharks announced Monday the signing of free agent Nikita Jevpalovs to an entry-level contract.

Jevpalovs, a native of Riga, Latvia has 38 goals and 71 points in 45 games with Blainville-Boisbriand of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“Nikita is a big-bodied forward who has a good combination of size and scoring ability,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. “He has represented his country numerous times and impressed against some of the world’s top young talent and we’re excited to add a young forward with his skill set to our organization.”

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound forward has 84 goals and 164 points in 166 career QMJHL games.

Jevpalovs has represented Latvia internationally on several occasions. He won silver at the 2014 Division I world junior championship, played in two U-20 world junior hockey championships (2013, 2012) and the 2012 U-18 world championship.

Fellow Latvian, Zemgus Girgensons, won the All-Star fan voting this month as his home country stuffed the ballot box. Girgensons led all vote-getters with 1,574,896 votes.