Happy Canada Day!! Lots to talk about this week so lets get too it.
CHL IMPORT DRAFT. The Regina Pats made one selection in Tuesdays CHL Import Draft. Russian defenceman Nikolai Knyzhov was picked 41st overall in the 1st round.
Knyzhov has played hockey in the United States for the last two years with the Phoenix Junior Coyotes. He says he grew up wanting to move to North America to play the game. "I came here to the camp (in Phoenix) two years ago and we just had a scrimmage and the coach came and watched me and asked if I wanted to play in the United States. I always wanted to play in the U.S. because I think the hockey is better here, I like it better the style of hockey so I decided to stay."
Knyzhov stands 6'2 and weighs in at 186 lbs. He had four points and 14 PIM's in 24 games last year in Pheonix. He says his goal was to hear his name called and get a chance to play major junior hockey. "This whole last year I wanted to play in the WHL. It was just so exciting for me to just get my name called. I can't explain how excited I was and I am looking forward to the future."
Pats Head Coach and Senior VP of Hockey Operations John Paddock says Knyzhov was a guy that head scout Dale McMullin and scout Barry Trapp both had a chance to see this last year. "He was one of quite a few that we had information on, that we had a good feel about. Dale happened to see him this year and Barry Trapp saw him three times. We think that there is a very good chance he will play on the team this year but I don't think there are any guarantees. Nobody knew what Sergey Zborovskiy was like when he came. It was enough for us to take him, he's been in Arizona for two years, he speaks pretty good English, so there are a lot of positive things."
Knyzhov says he brings a good solid game to the ice. "I'd say I'm a skilled defenceman. Can play both offense and defence pretty good, neutral zone, have a good gap, can play on the point on the blueline."
He joins fellow Russian and now New York Rangers prospect Sergey Zborovskiy on the Pats blueline.
GRAHAM TUER IS BACK. So cool to see Graham Tuer back with the Regina Pats. Tuer formerly was the Pats head scout and assistant GM but was most recently a scout with the Kelowna Rockets. Tuer will be doing some scouting and working as a liaison to Hockey Regina in his new role with the Pats. Truly one of the best guys you will ever meet and it's good to have him back on the good side.
PATS NHL DRAFT. The Regina Pats had five players selected in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft over the weekend. The best single draft for the organization since 1989 when there were also five players taken.
Defenceman Sergey Zborovskiy was the first to go at number 79 in the 3rd round to the New York Rangers. Zborovskiy was ranked 103rd by Central Scouting ahead of the draft. What a rise for the Russian D-man who had an outstanding final month to the regular season and a great payoffs. Sergey was unable to attend the draft because he had yet to obtain his VISA but was ecstatic when he found out in Calgary and even shed some tears.
Next Austin Wagner went in the 4th round to the Los Angeles Kings, 99th overall. Wagner held the 35th ranking by CSS going in. Personally I thought Wagner would go earlier on in the draft but what a perfect fit for the speedy winger from Calgary. He has the size as well which is always a staple of the Kings these days.
Still in the 4th round the Boston Bruins selected forward Jesse Gabrielle 105th. Gabrielle was ranked 73rd. Probably an even better fit than Wagner in L.A. Gabrielle's favorite team is Boston, he models his game after Bruins forward Brad Marchand and even wears number 63. He plays a Bruins type game.
In the 5th round, the Washingon Capitals selected defenceman Connor Hobbs with the 143rd pick. Hobbs was ranked 72nd ahead of the draft. Hobbs came a long way in the last year, from playing Junior A in Nipawin to the Pats and then the NHL Draft. He is a steal in round 5 in my opinion, the Capitals get another good Regina Pat.
Then in the 6th round the Capitals took defenceman Colby Williams at number 173. Williams was not ranked by CSS going in. What a fantastic surprise it was to see Colby's name called in the draft. It came out of left field, no one expected him to go including Colby himself. Williams was competing in a Spartan race in Edmonton when he got picked and didn't find out until about two hours later. Now the only question is whether or not the Capitals decide to let him play his 20-year-old season in junior of if they elect to play him in the AHL or ECHL. He would have to be signed first of course but what a blow that would be to the Pats if their 2014/15 MVP does not return. Fingers crossed!
I couldn't be happier for all five of these guys, good people who have worked hard and deserve everything they got.
NHL DRAFT TAKEAWAYS. No surprise as to the first three picks in the draft on Friday night. McDavid, Eichel and Strome. There were not a whole lot of surprises through the whole first round except for maybe one. The Minnesota Wild drafted Swedish centre Joel Eriksson Ek 20th overall. The kid had 6 points with Farjestad last year... Doesn't seem like first round numbers to me but I've never seen him play.
The Oilers traded the 16th and 33rd overall picks to the New York Islanders for defenceman Griffin Reinhart at the draft. It's a lot to pay for an unproven guy in my opinion. Yes Griffin was a great junior player and Memorial Cup Champion and from the Edmonton perspective they need to acquire older guys and not draft prospects. If Griffin turns into a good pro then it's a great trade for the Oilers but it is a little high risk.
The Oil also picked up goaltender Cam Talbot and a pick from the Rangers for three picks. I knew Edmonton would add a goaltender but I didn't think it would be him. Thought a Niemi or a Lack or Cam Ward might be in the cards. Again a little risky but Talbot had a heck of a year with the blue shirts last year.
FLAMES MOVE. The Calgary Flames are the second team to benefit from the Boston Bruins trading away a young prospect. First it was the Dallas Stars with Tyler Seguin and now the Flames get defenceman Dougie Hamilton and have signed him to a 6 year extension worth under 6 million a year. The Flames only paid an extra second round pick for Hamilton than the Oilers paid for Reinhart. That's hard to fathom because Dougie is established, a different player yes but right now a much better one. Great trade for Calgary.
SEVEN PLAYER DEAL. Wow what a trade between the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets. Brandon Saad and two prospects are headed to the Jackets in exchange for Artem Anisimov, 3 other players and a drat pick. It's not very often these types of deals are done, the Blackhawks obviously needing cap room allowed them to trade Saad but he will be missed. One of the best power forwards in the game.
MOLLEKEN RETURNS TO COACHING. Congrats to former Regina Pats and Saskatoon Blades Head Coach Lorne Molleken on being named the new bench boss of the Vancouver Giants. He has been out of hockey for the last two years but said on the 620 CKRM Sportscage Tuesday that he felt the itch to get back behind the bench and has found a good fit in Vancouver. He has a franchise player to start with right off the bat in Tyler Benson. Plus some other good young players around him. Are they contenders yet?no, will they make the playoffs this year? maybe. But the Giants need some consistency behind the bench after hiring two head coaches last year. This is a start.
PATS ALUMNI HEADED INTO HHOF. Former Regina Pats forward and Saskatoon native Bill Hay is among the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class as a builder. Hay played with the Pats in 1952-53 and then again in 1954-55 where he went to the Memorial Cup but lost to the Toronto Marlboros. He went on to play College in Colorado and became the first player to make the NHL out of the college ranks. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 1960 and then the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1961, the franchises first championship since 1938. Hay says it's great to be recognized. "It really is quite an honour to go into the HHOF. Especially with the players and builders that have been inducted. In the game of hockey to be be inducted into the HHOF is the greatest honour a player or a builder can have."
Hay says he hopes he had an impact on the game over his career as a builder. "My career highlights were being the first college graduate to play in the NHL and that opened some gates. Scouts knew there was some talent south of the border and they used it and you can see the amount of college players that are in the NHL right now. From there what I really enjoyed, well I really enjoyed playing and winning the Stanley Cup, but when I came out of the game and got involved with Hockey Canada and research and development of the game, we were falling behind the rest of the world. In the late 50's and early 60's we had to put some smarter thinking in at the grassroots level and we established centers of excellence across the country and the game really improved. The coaches improved, the referees improved and we had some smart people, not just old hockey players, talking about the game of hockey and what the problems were."
Hay went on to be named the President and CEO of the Calgary Flames in 1991 and then served on the selection committee for the HHOF before being named chairman.
Hay says he has fond memories of where he started his hockey career in Regina. "I tell ya, that was the most fun I had playing the game. Murray Armstrong was our coach and Del Wilson was there as well and we went to the Memorial Cup. Moose Jaw was always a good rivalry. The one story I remember as a 16-year-old was playing Crows Nest Past and I took a run at this guy and he cut me for about 15 stitches. So I got sewed up and then I told myself I was really going to get hi in the second period and he knocked three teeth out. So you learned early when you were there. But man there were a lot of tough guys back then."
Hay will be inducted alongside fellow builder Peter Karmanos Jr. Players Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger, Phil Housley, Sergei Federov. and US female player Angela Ruggiero.
INJURY WOES. The Riders were bit hard in week one with injuries. I could not believe it sitting in the broadcast booth after the loss to Winnipeg. The defeat didn't even seem to matter, what mattered was that Darian Durant, Shea Emery, Nic Demski, Marshay Green and Keenan MacDougall all left the game and did not return. Durant is done for the year, Emery doubtful this week, MacDougall out for a while and Demski and Green are up in the air. That's an unbelievable number of injuries to Canadians and impact starters. Way too many for one game. AT least it looks like Weston Dressler and Tyron Brackenridge will be back. I do not think the season is lost in the slightest. Kevin Glenn will be fine behind center and while there will be some new faces on defense, this is not the end of the world. I trust Brenden Taman will bring in the guys needed and Corey Chamblin will have them ready.
TACKLING. One thing that has to get better for week 2 is the tackling. It was a tough night for the entire defense against the Blue Bombers on Saturday. While you do have to credit Winnipeg and their offensive line and running game, the Riders shot themselves in the foot giving up way too many yards after first contact. What's comforting is that tackling is a correctable fundamental. It will get better.
TORONTO. The Argos visit Mosaic on Sunday and are coming off a big win over the Edmonton Eskimos in week 1. Trevor Harris was outstanding at QB and set a franchise record for completion percentage in a game. Their defense looked solid and the offense moved the ball. Will be another tough game for the Green and White.
WEEK 1 TAKEAWAYS. I know it's only been a week but from watching all four games, I don't think there is going to be as big a disparity between the West and the East this season. Last year the Ti-Cats won the East with a 9-9 record. It will be a winning record this year for that team in my opinion. Toronto is better, Montreal can beat you and Ottawa while still behind the pack looks improved and will win more than two games. Meanwhile in the West, Mike Reilly is done for 3 months in Edmonton, Durant is gone for the year, Bo-Levi Mitchell looked average in Calgary and Winnipeg might be the best team in the early part of the season. After a week of judgement I see a lot more parity and that is good for the league.
That's it from me today, Have a great week!