PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Wojtek Wolsk, who now plays for Torpedo Nizhny Novgoro in the KHL, showed off his soft hands during the shooutout in a recent game against HC Dynamo Moscow.
Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $20,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.
NHL Winter Classic: Setting up rinks a shared passion for father and son (The Washington Post)
Kings’ defenseman Alec Martinez admits contract talks are in the back of his mind (L.A. Kings Insider)
Did the Devils contact Adam Oates without permission? NHL and Capitals consider case closed (The Bergen Record)
Sharks’ Nieto set for return after missing 9 games (CSN Bay Area)
Travis Green and Mike Stothers named coaches for AHL All-Star Classic (The AHL)
Curtis Lazar and Connor McDavid: Junior hockey’s odd couple (Toronto Star)
What can the NHL do to get more fans? (The Hockey News)
Canadian gold-medal Olympic men’s hockey team named CP Team of the Year (The Canadian Press)
There’s good news for top prospect Connor McDavid and Team Canada as camp gets set to open in Toronto this week.
The 17-year-old has his cast off and will be participating in on-ice activities as Canada’s team selection camp for the upcoming world junior championship begins.
However, McDavid has not been cleared for contact as of yet.
“We’re going to talk with Connor tomorrow and obviously it’s great news for us to have him on the ice to skate,” coach Benoit Groulx told The Canadian Press Wednesday. “We’re going to discuss with him how he feels and he’s going to be monitored by the doctor.
“Obviously it’s going to be a day-to-day evaluation. We’ll start from there and see how it goes.”
McDavid, who is expected to be one of the top two selections at next June’s NHL Draft, has not played since Nov. 12 when he broke his right hand during a fight.
The Ontario native had 16 goals and 51 points in 18 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League at the time of his injury.
There’s plenty of buzz coming from Canada’s world junior selection camp after Tampa Bay rookie Brett Connolly took out Florda Panthers prospect Quinton Howden during an intra-squad scrimmage.
(Watch the hit here.)
Howden was crushed along the boards midway through the second period of Monday night’s game and struggled to leave the ice. He went to the dressing room and did not return — Hockey Canada later said Howden has an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated today.
“It’s a tough play,” Connolly said. “I’m just trying to finish my check and he’s kind of in a vulnerable position. I mean, if I was to go back maybe I would have held up a little bit, but I’m just trying to be intense and finish my checks and obviously I feel bad now. Hopefully he’s not hurt too bad, but definitely could have held up a little bit.”
The hit has come under fire from pundits.
“I didn’t like the hit at all,” said TSN’s Ray Ferraro. “I thought it was a hit that didn’t belong in a scrimmage at all. In particular, a hit on an opponent that’s going to be a teammate of yours in a couple of days.”
Ferraro’s TSN cohort, Bob McKenzie, echoed those sentiments.
“I thought it was an unnecessary hit as well,” he said. “More importantly, it would be a hit that if you were in the World Junior Championship quite likely would’ve resulted in a five-minute major.”
Connolly was loaned to Canada’s junior team after posting 4G-4A-8pTS in 28 games with the Lightning this season. Howden, taken 25th overall by Florida at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, has 29 points in 20 games for the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors.
August is usually when things get quiet hockey-wise, but for the World Junior Championship teams, it’s their time to see what they’ve got talent-wise. Team Canada’s development camp is under way in Edmonton, and while the rosters aren’t set yet for the Canadians, they’re able to get a good look at what they’ve got for now.
The one thing you want to avoid in these situations is injuries, and Team Canada got a scare tonight as 2010 Tampa Bay Lightning first round pick Brett Connolly left the ice with what appeared to be a leg injury when he was tripped up from behind by 2011 Colorado Avalanche first round pick Duncan Siemens.
NHL.com’s Mike Morreale has the update from Edmonton on how Connolly is doing.
Team Canada head coach Don Hay doesn’t believe the “lower body” injury to be serious despite the fact he needed the assistance of two persons to exit the ice surface and reach the trainer’s room.
“I was talking to the doctor and we’ll re-evaluate (Friday), but right now it doesn’t look as bad as maybe first thought,” Hay said. “It may be a bad bruise. He’ll be able to recover to play over the weekend.”
It’s good that Connolly isn’t hurt as bad as was initially thought, and for the Lightning they’re even happier to hear that. While Connolly may not have been likely to challenge for a roster spot this year, hopes are very high for him to eventually be a big scoring contributor for them in the future.
Connolly was a key member of Team Canada’s WJC team last year in helping them to win the silver medal and being one of seven players from last year’s team at this summer’s development camp means he’s in line to earn a spot on the 2012 WJC team. Canada will be looking to get revenge against Russia after being upset in the gold medal game 5-3 back in January.
With the event being held in Edmonton and Calgary this time around, Team Canada’s home ice advantage in the tournament will be immense as will the pressure to win gold for the first time since 2009. Losing in the finals the last two years to the United States and Russia is leaving a bad taste in the mouth of Team Canada. Making sure their best players are in shape and healthy is key, and Connolly will be a big part of this year’s team. If Team Canada can get things figured out and keep the injuries away, they’ll enter the tournament once again as heavy favorites expected to take home the gold in January.
It was inspiring to see the hockey world get behind Mandi Schwartz and even more inspiring to read about her courageous battle with cancer. Sadly, she couldn’t win that battle with leukemia in the long run, though, as the disease caused her death in April.
One of her most passionate supporters was her brother, St. Louis Blues prospect Jaden Schwartz. The 14th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has been forced to deal with that tragic situation and some personal hockey-related bad luck as well, as his time with last year’s Canadian World Junior Championship team was cut short last year thanks to a broken ankle.
Redemption seemed to be on Jaden’s mind when he discussed having another spot at the WJC next season during the team’s summer training camp, but honoring Mandi – and taking inspiration from her resilience – seemed like it was on the forefront. The winger said that much when he discussed his goals with the media.
“From here on out, this tournament, this camp — everything is for (my sister),” Schwartz told NHL.com following the opening day of Canada’s development camp at Rexall Place. “While I’m obviously trying to do this for me, my family and for Canada; most of all, it’s for her.”
“She was everything to me,” Schwartz said. “She was a huge inspiration in every aspect of life, whether it was hockey or the way she treated people. She kind of touched everybody, especially when she got sick; she never complained about a thing and kept fighting. She kept believing and, every chance she’d get, she’d go for a workout or skate despite being sick — it was awesome.”
Jaden will play his second year of college hockey as well next season, where he’ll join his older brother Rylan Schwartz for another campaign with Colorado College. It might be hard for fans of Colorado College’s rivals – and maybe someday the Blues’ bitterest opponents – to root against a guy like Jaden Schwartz.