Nice run, kid: Chicago sends Brandon Saad back to junior hockey

It was a nice run while it lasted for Chicago’s Brandon Saad. After getting to start on opening night alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp and winding up practicing the past few days on the fourth line in Chicago, Saad is headed back to the OHL Saginaw Spirit.

Saad was trying to stick around with the Blackhawks after impressing Joel Quenneville in training camp enough so that Saad got a huge opportunity during Chicago’s opening night loss to Dallas. Since then, however, reality set in for the 18 year-old 2011 second round pick and down the depth chart he went.

In Saad’s two games he had no points and just three shots on goal. He’ll be more of a factor next season in training camp and after getting such a generous look this time around, things are looking up for Saad even though he’s likely very disappointed now.

Back to juniors: Panthers top pick Jonathan Huberdeau sent to Saint John

While we’re going to see guys like first round pick Mark Scheifele and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins get their shot to breakout with their respective teams this year, one guy we won’t be seeing in the NHL until at least next season is Jonathan Huberdeau.

The Panthers have decided to not get Huberdeau signed to his entry-level deal and give him the nine game preview treatment and will instead send him back to junior hockey with Saint John in the QMJHL.

Huberdeau’s selection in June at the draft coupled with Tallon’s big spending ways generated a ton of buzz for the Panthers this summer, but without Huberdeau it’s a bit of a buzzkill. That said, Huberdeau’s development comes first and if he’s not ready for primetime it’s best to send him back to juniors.

All youth is not lost in Florida, however, as last year’s first round pick, Erik Gudbranson, will start the year with the Panthers along the blue line. Gudbranson looked solid in camp last year but he and the Panthers couldn’t agree on a contract before the start of the season and he went back to juniors. Now Gudbranson is signed up and locked in and will be in the lineup on opening night. Given what the Panthers have going with their forwards and defensemen respectively, keeping a big defenseman around is a more pressing need than another forward.

Kings prospect Brayden Schenn is headed back to junior hockey

After all the speculation and wondering what exactly the Kings would do with 2009 top pick Brayden Schenn this season as he approached his games deadline between staying in Los Angeles or heading back to junior hockey with the Brandon Wheat Kings, the Kings finally made a tough choice. Team general manager Dean Lombardi announced today that Schenn will head back to junior hockey after getting an extended look after eight games with the Kings this year. Schenn also spent two weeks in the AHL on a conditioning assignment after being a healthy scratch for so long, but it wasn’t meant to be this year for the 19 year-old.

Schenn hasn’t played in a game since October 30th for the Kings and getting a young kid like him consistent playing time is the right move to make. Keeping him with the big league team as a consistent healthy scratch would only harm his development. Now, he heads back to the CHL where he’ll play a ton of minutes and likely also get a chance to play once again for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships at the end of this month. In eight games Schenn had no goals and two assists with a -2 rating.

We’ll likely see Schenn get a better look next year in Los Angeles to be the teams number two or three centerman. He’ll be back, but in the long run this is better for his development. Only curious part of all this is why it took the Kings so long to decide what they would do with him. The team has plenty of players at center, Schenn’s position, but not much at wing (a big reason why Marco Sturm is looking to be acquired). Had Schenn been a natural left or right wing, it’s possible he would’ve stayed up. Instead, the potential addition of Sturm to go along with the return of Alexei Ponikarovsky, keeping Kyle Clifford in the fold, and the stalwart play of Ryan Smyth strengthens up the Kings left wing considerably.

Canada brings back Ducharme as World Juniors coach


After capturing silver at this year’s World Juniors, Dominique Ducharme is back for a shot at gold.

On Wednesday, Hockey Canada announced that Ducharme would return as head coach for the 2018 World Juniors, along with assistants Tim Hunter and Kris Knoblauch. The trio was instrumental in helping Canada medal this year after a disappointing sixth-place finish in 2016.

“This is a very unique opportunity to return an entire coaching staff that came within a shot of winning gold last year,” Hockey Canada’s Scott Salmond said, in a release. “The Program of Excellence Policy Committee unanimously agreed that it was in the best interest of the program to keep this coaching staff together and that their experience will provide us the best opportunity of winning gold in 2018.”

Two months ago, Ducharme’s charges came agonizingly close to winning it all, losing in a shootout to the Troy Terry-led U.S. squad in Montreal.

The 2018 tournament will be held in Buffalo. USA Hockey has yet to announce if head coach Bob Motzko will return to defend his title.

Of note, Canada and the U.S. will play an outdoor game at this year’s tournament.


Drouin’s junior team owner believes Yzerman ‘is going to get this back on the rails’


Bobby Smith knows what it’s like to enter the NHL with high expectations. He also knows Jonathan Drouin, and he thinks things should eventually work out with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Smith was the first overall pick in the 1978 NHL draft. Today, he owns the Halifax Moosehead, Drouin’s former junior team.

Having seen up-close what Drouin can do on the ice, Smith believes Lightning GM Steve Yzerman would be wise to salvage the fractured relationship between player and club.

“I know the teams that have traded away this type of player, whether his name is Joe Thornton or Tyler Seguin, normally live to regret it,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think Steve Yzerman, having been not an elite player, a super elite player, is going to get this back on the rails and Jonathan is going to have a long and very good career.”

To be sure, talented young players have not always seen eye to eye with their NHL coaches and/or GMs. The difference in Drouin’s case is the public way that things have played out. Not only did his relationship with Lightning coach Jon Cooper become a story on the NHL’s biggest stage, the Stanley Cup Final, now his agent has come out and publicly requested a trade.

And remember, the last thing Drouin wanted going into this season was to end up in the AHL, which is exactly where the Lightning have assigned him.

“Nobody wants to go to the AHL,” Drouin said in July. “That’s not what I’m thinking about right now. I’m thinking about making the team and making more of an impact. Last year a lot of people said it wasn’t my greatest year, but I gained a lot, I learned a lot, and I’m definitely more ready going into the season, into training camp.”

Without intimate knowledge, it’s impossible to say if the point of no return has been reached in Drouin’s case.

However, it may be worth noting that Patrick Marleau reportedly wanted to be traded in November, and we don’t hear much about that anymore.

Related: Laugh about it later? Lightning players react to Drouin’s trade request