Author: NationalTeamsOfIceHockey (page 1 of 89)

Mirziyoyev visits Humo Arena ice rink project

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By Tashkent Times

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev today visited several ongoing projects in Tashkent, among which multifunctional ice complex Humo Arena, which is being built at the intersection of Afrosiyob and Beshyogoch streets.

Construction of the complex began in February last year. The ice rink is designed as a multifunctional stadium where various ice sports games will be held such as ice hockey, short track, figure skating as well as boxing, basketball, futsal, kurash, volleyball, entertainment, performance events and others.

The complex is expected to be completed on the eve of the New Year.

The President noted that the facility is of great social importance, and it is necessary to make the complex function all year round. He gave instructions to form ice-hockey teams to be based in the complex.

Tashkent-based hockey club Binokor is expected to be stationed in the Humo Arena and will be hoping to enter the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) within the next two seasons.

Khumo Arena ice rink project 1

New Format for Women’s Euro Hockey Tour

By Svenska Ishockeyforbundet

WOMEN’S EURO HOCKEY TOUR

Six countries will play in Euro Hockey Tour season 2018/2019: Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Euro Hockey Tour season 2018/2019 will be played in four tournaments:
A 4 Nations Tournament in Hodonin, Czech Republic, in August 23-25 2018. Countries: Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden.

A 4 Nations Tournament in Switzerland in November 2018. Countries: Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Switzerland.

A 4 Nations Tournament in Vierumäki, Finland, in December 13-15 2018. Countries: Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland.

Additional games between Finland-Sweden, Czech Republic-Russia and Germany-Switzerland will also be counted in Euro Hockey Tour 2018/2019.

The final tournament will be a 6 Nations Tournament in Dmitrov, Moscow Region, Russia, in February 7-10 2019. Countries: Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland. These six teams will play in two groups followed by placement games.

Read more about Euro Hockey Tour

New women’s hockey nations in development programs

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From the desert country of Kuwait to the Sport Institute of
Finland in the forests north of Helsinki:
Laila Alkhbaz is one of two participants from the Gulf state to
take part in the development programs of the 2018 IIHF
Women’s High-Performance Camp.

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The 2018 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp does not only include top junior players working on becoming world-class players but also development programs for countries that are not that far yet.

Among the countries that sent participants to the camp programs are some that are working on launching women’s hockey or already have female players and want to establish a national team in IIHF events in the future such as Estonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine. They work in the Leadership Development Program and the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend program together with colleagues from current or former top-level nations such as the United States, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia and Kazakhstan.

Two of these countries work on their IIHF debut on the ice next season. Ukraine has established a women’s program within the last few years and will for the first time play in the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification in Cape Town, South Africa. Also next spring, the Kuwaiti women’s national team will enter the stage in the IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia program.

While Ukraine has prepared for this moment with the IIHF’s recruitment campaigns such as the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend and the Global Girls’ Game to help build a five-team league, Kuwait is the lesser known debutant.

Laila Alkhbaz in the Leadership Development Program and Rawan AlBahouh in the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend hope to change that in the upcoming season.

“I’ve been a supervisor for the women’s national team for one year and am looking for leadership role,” Alkhbaz said after watching presentations from mentor Steve Norris and some of the countries.

Currently there are over 50 female players in Kuwait in three teams.

“We have a hockey school for girls between 4 and 14 years, then a team for players older than that and the national team,” she said. The teams usually practise and play internal games while last season the national team also went abroad to gain more experience.

“We had a camp in the Czech Republic in August 2017, played a tournament in Bangkok in November, and later in Abu Dhabi with Gulf teams where we took third place,” Alkhbaz said. After losing the games in Bangkok, the first win in history came against the Dubai Gazelles in Abu Dhabi. “In October we will play again in Bangkok and next year we will have a camp in Slovenia before the Challenge Cup of Asia.”

The debut in an IIHF-sanctioned event will be in the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I. Both divisions are planned be staged not far from home in Abu Dhabi next spring. The venues, dates and participants of the Challenge Cup of Asia program will be decided next month.

How did Alkhbaz land into ice hockey?

“Last year my friend joined the team and liked it and I went to the ice rink in Kuwait and watched the hockey. Before I didn’t know what hockey is because hockey is not popular in Arab countries, it’s not like football or basketball. I asked the Winter Sports Club in Kuwait. I played but hurt my elbow, I was afraid to continue but stayed with the girls to help them,” she said.

She did a government course to become a supervisor and is happy to be at the Leadership Development Program that is taking place as part of the current women’s camp in Finland.

“I’m looking forward to be a good leader for the team. I’m so excited to be here and I’m looking forward to develop my skills so I can help them to be better,” she said. “I hope I’ll get better in everything to make my team better.”

For that she had to take time off from her job as a computer teacher for kids and her IT study. Beside her job and study, there’s not much time left. Ice hockey has become her biggest hobby since last year. “I’m with the hockey girls. I like to make our relationship stronger. It’s better to be one family,” said Alkhbaz.

Currently there’s just one ice rink in Kuwait. One that’s international size and has hosted IIHF events in men’s hockey before. In the winter months the Winter Sports Club also has a small ice sheet to practise shooting.

After the first camps, the Kuwaiti is thinking about the next steps after the upcoming debut of Kuwaiti women’s ice hockey on the international stage.

“Now we focus on the Challenge Cup of Asia and after that we will work on entering the World Championship but maybe it will take time,” she said.

To reach that level and fulfil the minimum participation standards, they will need more female players in the country and a national championship with enough teams and games. “I hope it will happen, inshallah [if God wills]. We are trying to develop the team and the skill of the team. We had girls who didn’t skate before but some are good players and we hope we will develop them and make them better.”

She hopes a league for women can be established, maybe already in September. And she thinks about games against boys. And her colleague AlBahouh learns more about recruitment and teaching small kids to play with the goal of running such events in Kuwait.

When the women’s team started first time in 2007 there was no support and the project died. This has obviously changed with the relaunch 11 months ago. “Now it’s good and now we are looking to have our own ice rink for ice hockey and figure skating,” she said. Having two Kuwaiti at the camp is also a strong signal for the development of women’s hockey and to raise the level back home.

Coming to the Sport Institute of Finland in Vierumaki also means a big change of scenery. Away from the desert country with guaranteed sunshine and temperatures of currently up to 49°C to the changeable and mild Finnish summer at the institute surrounded by green forests and lakes.

“It’s my first time in the north. I didn’t have time to see much yet. I really like the place and the facilities here. In my country it’s very hot right now,” she said. “It’s a pleasure for me to participate in the program and I hope I will learn much this week.”

Status report from the other countries

The program started with lectures from the mentors and from the represented countries at very different levels. On the upper end there are countries like Russia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia that have top-level experience and a full league program but are fighting for awareness and against stereotypes about women’s hockey. Germany is another top-level country represented where numbers for young girls have gone up since joining programs like the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend. During the last year there have been 10 per cent more female players.

Great Britain with two nationwide leagues and an English league in two geographical groups is also among the bigger programs represented but wants to improve in terms of retention.

In Kazakhstan and Ukraine the championship games are played in a couple of tournaments and they are among the countries where not all communities and junior coaches are interested in girls playing hockey with boys, same in other central and eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic or Latvia.

Turkey has now 300 female players of which half play in the women’s and U18 leagues with teams from three cities but money is a problem for women in club hockey as they have to pay for equipment and travel that can be far as the distance between Istanbul and Erzurum is over 1,200 kilometres. There like in Romania the public perception of hockey as a men’s sport and trust from parents is a problem. It’s not always easy to convince parents that ice hockey is a safe sport for girls and women until they see it themselves.

South Africa is another country in the lower divisions present here and has 130 players from four regions, most of them (88) from Gauteng where two women’s teams play in the boys’ U18 and U16 leagues in addition to a small-ice development league with four women’s teams. But with only 60-90 minutes of ice time available for a women’s hockey team per week they want to work on an off-ice program.

In Croatia players need to give sacrifice to keep women’s hockey alive as there’s no financial support and no sponsors and practices are usually late night at 16:00. Also Bulgaria with currently 44 female players hopes to learn more and find a strategy to grow hockey.

Ukraine has profited from the recent recruitment offence in international ice hockey and has gone up from virtually no female players to 193 players and a league with five teams that may get a sixth team next season. Similar in Estonia where the league restarted with four teams from four cities after many years without women’s hockey after using the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend as starting point.

Latvia and Lithuania with a new women’s hockey program work together with a Lithuanian team that joined the Latvian league last season. The Lithuanians hope to one day have a women’s league too and a national team that can join the Women’s World Championship program in 2021.

Serbia could be another team to try that step with currently 63 female players but right now most play in boys’ teams until U16 and there’s just one women’s team. The Serbs hope to get more education on female hockey and coaching.

Other countries have even bigger challenges. Women’s hockey in Ireland suffers since the closure of the country’s only ice rink in 2010. The few remaining female players have to play in men’s teams and cross the Irish-UK border to play games in Belfast. In FYR Macedonia there is just one female player, who is in the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Program to learn about organizing recruitment events and learn-to-play events. Kyrgyzstan reported to have no female players at all and is thinking how to launch a program.

Despite the very different levels and places the women and men in the Leadership Development Program come from, they all have the same goal: to improve women’s hockey in their countries, networking and learning from each other.

Canada’s National Junior Team staff unveiled for 2018-19 season

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By Hockey Canada

A familiar name returns behind the bench to lead Canada’s National Junior Team through the 2018-19 season and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship this December in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.

Tim Hunter (Calgary/Moose Jaw, WHL) will be part of the coaching staff for the third-straight year, taking the reins as head coach after previously serving as assistant coach the past two years. Completing the coaching staff are assistants Marc-André Dumont (Montreal/Cape Breton, QMJHL), Jim Hulton (Kingston, Ont./Charlottetown, QMJHL) and Brent Kisio (Calgary/Lethbridge, WHL).

“To be in a position to have familiarity in our coaching staff with Tim Hunter gives us the opportunity to again compete for a gold medal,” said Scott Salmond, senior vice-president of national teams with Hockey Canada. “All three assistant coaches have also had prior experience working within our Program of Excellence at various levels. Their experience and knowledge will help our players succeed in this prestigious international tournament.”

Hunter won back-to-back medals as an assistant coach with Canada’s National Junior Team, earning gold in 2018 and silver in 2017. He also won a bronze medal as head coach of Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team at the 2015 IIHF U18 World Championship. Hunter is coming off his fourth season as head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League, guiding the franchise to its first Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular-season champion. Prior to joining the Warriors, he was an NHL assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals. As a player, he suited up in 815 NHL games over 16 seasons with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose and Vancouver Canucks, capturing the Stanley Cup in 1989 with Calgary.

Dumont was named head coach and general manager of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2012. He previously coached the Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL), and was an assistant coach for two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL). Dumont was also head coach of Team Quebec at the 2009 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

Hulton has served as head coach of the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the past three seasons, and has also been general manager for the past two. Prior to joining the Islanders, he spent two seasons as general manager and head coach of the Tri-City Storm of the USHL. His international experience includes serving as associate coach of Canada’s under-16 team at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, and as an assistant coach with Canada’s National Junior Team at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2004 and 2005, winning silver and gold. Hulton also spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Florida Panthers.

Kisio coached Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team to a gold medal at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. He was also head coach of Team Canada White at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and added a silver medal as an assistant coach with Team Pacific at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Kisio just completed his third season as head coach of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, guiding them to the league final. Prior to joining the Hurricanes, he spent eight seasons as an assistant coach with the Calgary Hitmen, reaching the semifinal at the Memorial Cup in 2010.

Nepal Ice Hockey – Legacy in the Making

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By Nepal Ansar

Taking quick glides across an ice rink, buckled in skates, carefully shuttling the puck across the rink, players are focused on just one thing… The goal!

Nepal’s dedication towards sport is not unknown to the world but when it comes to ice hockey, the rush is different!

NIHA for Nepal Ice Hockey
Nepal Ice Hockey AssociationNepal saw new hope for Ice hockey when the Nepal Ice Hockey Association (NIHA) was established in 2014. The federation was formed with the following goals in mind:

  • Preparing Ice Hockey players for international level
  • Conduct ice hockey tournaments and other games across the country
  • Preparing and creating ice hockey teams to represent Nepal for different categories and participation in international tournaments
  • Making contributions to the society and the world with Ice Hockey

The first national team was formed in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu in the same year. Currently, the country has no indoor ice rinks but makes use of Lake Tilicho, which is frozen for about half a year, for skating and playing hockey. Kathmandu, Pokhara, Ilam and Kavree have four outdoor inline hockey rinks that serve the purpose, additionally.

Things took a higher turn for Nepal Ice Hockey when NIHA became an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in 2016. It was a historic moment for Nepal!

Nepal Ice Hockey President Lok Bahadur Shahi handed over a Khukuri knife to IIHF President Rene Fasel as a symbolic present.

During his visit to the IIHF headquarters at Zurich, the NIHA President told IIHF.com, “With the support of the government and the IIHF, we are looking to build a new chapter in Nepalese sports with ice hockey”. Adding further he said that he hoped the first ice rink could be soon built in the capital Kathmandu for which the land had already been acquired. At the time, ice hockey could be played on natural ice only in winter months.

NIHA continues to strive for higher standards of the sport and in its bid to do so, it takes up conducts a number of activities in terms of competitions and matches but more importantly takes up some serious initiatives.

NIHA Initiatives in 2016-17

  • In the beginning of the term, NIHA President Shahi put forth what the federation planned to do
  • March 10, 2016: NIHA member Keshav Kumar Bist travelled to the headquarters of the IIHF and held serious talks with a team of experts regarding the making of an ice hockey rink in Nepal
  • October 22, 2016: Post Bist’s visit, IIHF Treasurer and Ice Hockey France member visited Nepal to study the two suggested sites for the ice hockey rink in Dhulike and Pokhara
  • 2017: NIHA focused on preparing the design for the hockey rink, preparing the technical manpower for a training to Finland in July 2017, organizing programs to receive wide financial support from Nepali hockey fans abroad, asking for financial cooperation from various organizations to prepare the hockey rink and making the management effective

Inline Vs Ice Hockey

  • Inline hockey is similar to ice hockey in most aspects except that it uses a plastic tile floor, wooden floor or smooth cement instead of ice and is played at room temperature
  • Equipment for inline hockey players and goalies include inline skates and ‘no’ shoulder blades whereas ice hockey requires padding for both shoulders and legs
  • Inline hockey is played by four players and one goalie whereas ice hockey uses five players
  • The puck in inline skating is made of a much lighter plastic and rests on small nylon nubs to curb friction with the inline rink. The puck for ice hockey is made of vulcanized rubber.
  • The FIRS inline hockey cage is six inches smaller than ice cages
  • The inline rink for FIRS Continental and World Championships measures 60×30 m while the ice rink is rectangular and measures about 180 to 1200 ft in length and 85 to 100 ft in width

While the rest of the game remains almost the same in both types!

Playing Ice Hockey
Ice HockeyThe game is divided into three 20 min periods, where a face-off between two players initiates the game. Followed by this, the match gets diverted to the teams who have to strive to get the puck to each of their goals.

Each team consists of 6 players including the goalie, two defensemen, center and two forwards.

In this fast sport, the puck can travel up to 100 mph and since this game is body-bruising players use protective gear. Moreover, there are no substitutions!

Countries that Love to Play Ice Hockey
The national winter sport in Canada, ice hockey is the most popular sport in the country and in other countries like Europe, Nordic countries- Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, Russia and the United States. Like Canada, for countries such as Belarus, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland, ice hockey is the most popular winter sport.

NIHA’s Map for the Future
NIHA is working hard to make Nepal a prominent entity in terms of ice hockey and in this regard,  it has outlined a few plans for the future:

  • Organize inline hockey campaigns as the first step to promote the sport in Nepal
  • Mark ideal locations for the sport and build the required infrastructure
  • Hold different sports programs and events in schools to develop ice hockey and create a youth team
  • Bridge junior youth teams with international championships
  • Identify and prepare coaches, technicians and referees
  • Build associations with international ice hockey associations for the enhancement of the sport in Nepal

Hope for the Future
With many initiatives in the pipeline, ice hockey in Nepal will soon bear fruition and if things continue in the same pace, the day will not be very far when the country will have its own Ice Hockey Rink!

Eyeing 2022 Winter Olympic glory, China hockey flirts with overseas talent

By Joanna Chiu, Ye Qian – Hong Kong Free Press

The women from China’s far northeast, who spent childhood winters whipping around on frozen lakes and rivers, towered menacingly over the other team as they faced off for puck drop.

At China’s national ice hockey championships last month, the Harbin squad vanquished contenders from China’s sultry southern city of Guangzhou with a lopsided score of 51-0, with goal-scoring MVP Kong Minghui slapping shot after shot into the net.

China women's hockey

Harbin women’s ice hockey team taking part in China’s national ice hockey championships in Beijing.
Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP.

Despite their dominance, Kong and her skillful team-mates may not be enough to power China’s national team to medal glory when the country hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Eager to move up in the medals table, the national hockey team may bend the nation’s rigid single-citizenship rules to recruit overseas talent and beef up their squad.

“What we have to do going forward is play in more international tournaments and get more practice playing with top teams,” Kong told AFP.

The highly unusual move to seek foreign talent is a sign of how far China is willing to go for success at its home Winter Olympics, a tournament at which it has enjoyed only fleeting success.

With a population of nearly 1.4 billion, China is pushing hard to promote ice hockey and other winter sports ahead of the Games after winning just nine medals, including a lone gold, at this year’s edition in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Both China’s men and women hockey teams will compete in the Games, since host countries traditionally earn a spot in the competition regardless of world ranking.

Pucks and passports

The national and local governments have been pouring money into new facilities, equipment and training for players and coaches in the past few years, with the majority of the new ice rinks being built in shopping malls.

But it remains to be seen whether Beijing will grant citizenship to foreigners to strengthen their rosters, following in the footsteps of Seoul for the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Out of 25 players on the South Korean men’s ice hockey team during the Games, seven were foreign nationals with six coming from Canada, including goalie Matt Dalton.

Mark Dreyer, editor of China Sports Insider, said China will likely recruit only foreign players with Chinese roots.

“There’s been no official policy saying this, but recruiting policy has been clear throughout tryouts in North America. New recruits must have at least some Chinese ancestry,” Dreyer told AFP.

Such a move would allow China to expand its player pool, while encouraging engagement with the Chinese diaspora — something Beijing has been keen to do at all levels.

However, China does not currently recognize dual citizenship. To become a naturalized Chinese citizen, a foreigner would have to give up his or her previous citizenship, making the option undesirable to many foreign hockey players.

“Would the players be able to keep their other passports? If this does somehow happen in ice hockey– which now seems possible — we would likely see other sports following suit,” Dreyer said.

Kunlun Super Team

In March, at the Canadian Women’s Hockey League final, China burst onto the international hockey scene with a new squad that was a special mix of Chinese nationals and overseas Chinese.

Kunlun Red Star, one of two private teams formed this year to prepare Chinese talent for the 2022 Olympics, has a special mix of Chinese nationals and overseas Chinese for its male and female teams.

The Kunlun women shocked hockey observers by making it all the way to the Clarkson Cup finals in Toronto, narrowly losing to Ontario’s Markham Thunder after an overtime goal — but proving that Chinese teams can compete with world-class clubs

In May, the Kunlun teams went through a grueling official Olympics training camp alongside foreign players and coaches in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

Participation in Kunlun is optional for China’s national team players, and provides them with more opportunities to play in top world tournaments.

“(We) are now choosing the best Chinese and overseas players to cultivate talents for the Chinese women’s hockey team for 2022,” Kunlun manager Zhou Song told AFP.

“We assembled 22 outstanding overseas Chinese-origin players. They will have a chance to fight for their country in the future,” Zhou said, notably calling China”their country” despite them being foreigners.

Kunlun provides a competitive salary plus bonuses for players, with the help of private sponsors such as Chinese real estate developer Vanke.

However well or poorly the Chinese hockey teams perform at the 2022 Games, they are already setting new precedents for sports policy in the country.

Supportive family members say the promising performance of female players in particular will also help to improve women’s overall status as professional athletes.

“I didn’t want my daughter to play hockey at first. I wanted her to focus on school. But within 30 minutes of being on the ice for the first time, she seemed like she was at home,” said Yang Dong, father of Harbin player Yang Kai Qi.

“We are very proud of her.”

Why Jack Hughes is the No. 1-ranked 2019 NHL draft prospect

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By Chris Peters – ESPN

The 2019 NHL draft is shaping up to be as exciting as this year’s, at least at the top of the draft. The hockey world is already salivating over 17-year-old American phenom Jack Hughes after his jaw-dropping performance in leading Team USA to the title at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in November. Since then, he has been lighting up scoreboards and generating headlines across the world for his superior skill and skating.

Part of a family with deep roots in the game, with both parents playing at a reasonably high level and a pair of brothers who make for great training partners and competitors, Hughes has been preparing for this moment his whole life. After Jim and Ellen Hughes’ eldest son, Quinn Hughes, went No. 7 overall to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday, the spotlight will begin shining more brightly on their middle son.

“He has the most pure skill of any player I’ve seen for 2019,” one Western Conference scout said of Jack Hughes.

The skill and skating abilities Hughes possesses have been a big reason that his size comes up so much later in the conversation with scouts. Should Hughes go No. 1, he would be the smallest top pick since Patrick Kane was selected in 2007. Hughes was most recently listed at 5-foot-10, 161 pounds. Kane was listed at 5-10, 171 pounds in his draft profile. There’s no doubt Hughes needs to bulk up a bit, but there are a lot of reasons the size factor will be a minimal one come draft day next summer.

Hughes’ 16-year-old season is essentially unprecedented for an American player. At USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, he put up 116 points — just one point shy of Auston Matthewsprogram record. The big difference is Matthews did it when he was a year older. The previous high-water mark for a U17 player at the NTDP was 82 points set by Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller. That’s a 34-point difference from what Hughes did. Last I checked, both of those guys are pretty good NHL players.

Looking back through the years, there just haven’t been that many American teenagers who have had a season this astonishing from a production standpoint this young at a level this high. For reference, Mike Modano, the second American to go No. 1 overall, had 62 points in 70 games in his first WHL season at 16, and that was in 1987. Kane, at the same age at the NTDP, had 70 points in 63 games, but 40 of those contests were in the North American Hockey League, a Tier II Junior A league in the United States. Hughes appeared in 27 games in the Tier I USHL this season and spent half the season playing up with the U.S. national U18 team in the USHL, against colleges and U18 international teams.

To find recent, closer comparables to what Hughes did this season, the U17 OHL seasons of Connor McDavid (99 points in 56 games) and Steven Stamkos (92 points in 63 games) might be good starting points.

One of the more incredible stats from his 2017-18 season is that Hughes had 54 points against USHL competition, averaging two points per game. He led all USHL rookies and ranked 12th in league scoring despite playing only 27 games of a 60-game season.

Even more jaw-dropping, among U17 players who appeared in at least 20 games in the USHL’s long history, none averaged better than 1.45 points per game. This year’s No. 2 pick, Andrei Svechnikov, averaged 1.21 points per game in 48 games vs. the USHL in 2016-17. Matthews averaged one point per game in 20 USHL appearances as a U17. This league is traditionally difficult to score in, and Hughes obliterated it as a 16-year-old.

The Orlando-born forward also led two major international tournaments in scoring this year. He had 15 points in six games as the U.S. won the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, a tournament that boasts many of the NHL’s top players as alumni. Only Colin White, an Ottawa Senators first-rounder, had more points than Hughes in that tournament’s history. Some guy named Ilya Kovalchuk ranks third behind Hughes. Then he closed out his season with 12 points in seven games at the IIHF World Men’s U18 Championship, becoming the first under-ager to lead that tournament in scoring since 15-year-old McDavid did it in 2013.

Hughes is expected to return to the national team development program next season despite overtures from the Ontario Hockey League and flirtation with accelerating his schooling to attend college a year early, a la Noah Hanifin and Zach Werenski. No player has gone directly from the NTDP to the NHL, but Hughes will probably have a chance at becoming the first. Each of the past four Americans selected first overall in the NHL draft — Rick DiPietro, Erik Johnson, Kane and Matthews — each played at the NTDP for two seasons before going on to college, junior or pro. Hughes will be part of a team many scouts consider one of the best the NTDP has ever produced, which is really saying something given that program’s star-studded alumni roll. There could be as many as six or seven first-round picks off of that team in 2019.

John Wroblewski, head coach of the team featuring most of the top Americans from the 2001 birth year, noted that having so many high-caliber players has created excellent competition in practices on top of the advanced competition the team plays throughout its season. So what has Wroblewski noticed as a separating factor for one of his prized pupils?

“When you’re at ice level and you watch his glide — compared to everyone else, he’s just moving so much faster,” Wroblewski said. “The game slows down in his mind.”

As the game continues to speed up, Hughes looks built for that brand of hockey. He will be scrutinized like all top picks are. He’ll have some competition along the way, perhaps even from some of his own NTDP teammates. But based on what we saw this season, considering the lack of precedent for what Hughes accomplished, it appears the next great American star has arrived.

Winners and losers from Day 1 of the NHL Draft

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By Hannah Stuart – thescore.com

The NHL draft kicked off Friday night with a touching tribute to the Humboldt Broncos. Team president Kevin Garinger accepted the 2018 E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence, given annually to the prospect “who best exemplifies the commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism as selected by NHL Central Scouting,” on behalf of the Broncos team.

After tears were wiped away, things got weird.

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka went off the board and took Barrett Hayton of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds fifth overall. The league’s other 30 GMs seemingly took that as permission to do whatever they pleased, and the resulting chaos left quite a bit of confusion in its wake.

Joe Veleno, the first player to obtain exceptional status and play in the QMJHL at age 15, fell to the Detroit Red Wings at 30th overall (he’d been ranked consistently in the top 10 by many for most of the season). Bode Wilde and Serron Noel fell out of the first round entirely. Suffice to say no one could’ve predicted exactly how the 2018 first round played out.

Here are our winners and losers after Day 1.

Winners

Washington Capitals: Before the draft began, the Capitals traded Brooks Orpik and Philipp Grubauer to the Avalanche for Colorado’s second-rounder at 47th overall. The trade dumps Orpik’s cap hit and leaves Washington room to sign pending unrestricted free-agent defenseman John Carlson, which is expected to happen over the weekend. That’s great news for a team that wants to try to win a second straight Stanley Cup.

Colorado Avalanche (conditionally): According to Joe Sakic, the Avalanche intend to either trade or buy out Orpik. If that happens, they got Grubauer for a second-round pick and that trade, one for one, looks good for them, too.

Buffalo Sabres: Rasmus Dahlin is a literal game-changer for the franchise. Yow.

Detroit Red Wings: Boy, things are looking up for Red Wings general manager Ken Holland after last year’s forgettable draft. Taking Michael Rasmussen when several better players were still on the board was widely criticized. He didn’t make that mistake this year. Filip Zadina fell to sixth overall, and Holland practically swan-dove onto the stage to select him. Later, Veleno fell to 30th, and you can bet Holland didn’t miss there, either. A great first day for him and Detroit.

New York Islanders: With back-to-back picks at 11 and 12, the Islanders selected Oliver Wahlstrom (who should not have fallen to 11th) and Noah Dobson (who probably shouldn’t have dropped to 12th). Take a minute and imagine Wahlstrom playing with Mat Barzal.

Ryan Merkley: Lots of pre-draft chatter had Merkley’s boom-or-bust style and reports of attitude problems knocking him out of the first round. The San Jose Sharks took a chance on him at 21st overall, and if he turns into the player his ceiling suggests he could be, the Sharks will reap major benefits.

Losers

Arizona Coyotes: John Chayka knows what he’s doing in a lot of situations, but taking center Barrett Hayton at fifth overall was a head-scratcher. While Hayton is a solid player, he’s not a game-breaking, top-10 talent. Who knows, though, a few years down the road, we could be proven wrong.

Ottawa Senators: Let’s make one thing clear: the Senators aren’t on this list because they drafted Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk, while not the best player available at fourth overall, is a very good player. But it feels like by choosing to keep this year’s pick, with the uncertainty surrounding Erik Karlsson and with chances being good the Senators are worse next year, Ottawa’s sealed its fate. Next year’s first-round pick goes to the Avalanche, and the Senators are really going to regret it if that pick somehow turns into Jack Hughes. Colorado sure hopes it does.

Philadelphia Flyers: This one is a maybe, because their first pick at 14th overall, Joel Farabee, is a fantastic player. But their second pick is suspect. Jay O’Brien would be a good mid-second-round pick, but the Flyers grabbed him at 19. While no one outside the draft floor knows the chatter that took place, surely O’Brien wasn’t such a hot commodity that the Flyers couldn’t trade down and still get him.

Key meeting for new-look Racers

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By Nigel Duncan – The Edinburgh Reporter

Murrayfield Racers legend Tony Hand MBE has invited coaches and players of ice hockey teams based at the Edinburgh rink to a key meeting on Friday.

The much-decorated player, who is in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Hall of Fame, plans to outline his vision for the future of the world’s fastest team sport at the Capital rink.

Underpinning the move is Hand’s desire to develop young, British talent and open trials will be available for anybody to attend. They will be held on dates to be confirmed.

And the former Racers, Ayr Scottish Eagles, Sheffield Steelers, Edinburgh Racers and Dundee Stars player has pledged to be totally transparent in his move to take ice hockey forward in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh-born Hand, who will be director of hockey for Murrayfield Racers, said: “Murrayfield Racers were once Britain’s most decorated team and I was privileged to play for the club.

“They have now been reborn and this is a new era for ice hockey at the rink.

“And we’ve pledged to showcase the highest level of hockey possible next season. The recruitment process begins now.”

Racers have the ice contract at Murrayfield next season and have been entered into the Scottish National League (SNL) and the highly-competitive National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) Cup which, according to Hand, is a big step-up from the SNL.

Billingham Stars, Blackburn Hawks, Hull Pirates, Sheffield Steeldogs and Telford Tigers join the Sharks and Racers in the NIHL cup competition.

The Edinburgh side will play one home game and one away fixture against each other before two leg semi-finals and a final later in the year.

Hand said: “We’ve invited coaches and players from the SNL and under-20 teams as well as other teams playing out of Murrayfield.

“We want to discuss with them the best way forward for the sport in the Capital.”

He added: “Time is short and we have a lot of work to do, but we have been working hard behind-the-scenes over the past few months.

“We’re happy to take any questions at the meeting as we plan to move forward in a totally transparent way.

“This is a key meeting but we feel it is vital that we give ambitious, young British players a pathway to the top of the sport in this country.”

Tomek Valtonen to coach Polish national team

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By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The Polish Ice Hockey Association (PZHL) has signed a two-year contract with Tomek Valtonen as new head coach of the Polish men’s national team. The signing comes one month after the decision to part ways with the former duo of Ted Nolan and Tom Coolen following the relegation to the third tier of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

The 37-year-old was born in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland, to a Polish mother and a Finnish father but didn’t have touchpoints with Polish ice hockey until now. The family moved to Kitee in eastern Finland when he was four. There he became an ice hockey player and also played nine years pesapallo, a Finnish sport similar to baseball, where he won three junior championships before focusing on ice hockey.

After starting to play in Kitee, he later played his junior hockey at Joensuu and Ilves Tampere where he had his professional debut. He played three IIHF World Junior Championships for Finland winning gold in his first participation in 1998 and was drafted in the second round by the Detroit Red Wings the same year. He left to practise with the Red Wings and spent one year of junior hockey with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers before continuing his professional career with Jokerit Helsinki in Finland where he won one championship in 2002 and retired as a 28-year-old in 2009 due to a shoulder injury and moved into coaching.

Valtonen worked his way up in Jokerit Helsinki and moved to the senior team first as an assistant coach in 2012 and the later part 2013/2014 season as head coach. At the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, he also had a brief return to international ice hockey as assistant coach of the Finnish U20 national team. The last four years he was the head coach of Vaasan Sport in the Finnish Liiga before the decision to part ways in March.

Now Tomek Valtonen, introduced under his more formal Polish name Tomasz Valtonen by the association, returns to his motherland and gave his first interviews in Polish. He was presented to the press in Nowy Targ close to the Tatra mountains and the border with Slovakia both as head coach of club team Podhale Nowy Targ and of the Polish national team. In Nowy Targ he will be assisted by Marko Ronkko, who worked with him at the Jokerit Helsinki U20 team. The coaching staff of the national team has not been named yet although Valtonen mentioned new Automatyka Gdansk coach Marek Zietara as a candidate.

One year ago Ted Nolan was introduced in the Polish capital in splendid fashion and with the goal to get back to the top level. This year things are different with a news release of three sentences and a press conference organized by the local club team in Nowy Targ’s city hall. The Polish Ice Hockey Association had a big financial loss that ended with a change of leadership in spring with Piotr Demianczuk as new President and a possible legal aftermath. Few weeks later the association also suffered losses on the ice. After narrowly missing out on promotion to the top division in 2015 and 2016, the team was last in the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Hungary and was relegated to the third tier of world hockey.

Having a young coach from the top level in Finland move to Poland and working there for two organizations was an ideal solution for the national team also considering the financial situation. He was selected among several applicants by the PZHL board.

“He has a good CV. Tomek is willing to co-operate. He followed us, he knows a lot about us. He’s a coach of the young generation who has willingness, plans and ambitions. The Finnish association also praised him very much,” PZHL Vice President Miroslaw Minkina told Polsat.

“The association is in a tough financial situation. We would not be able to afford the salary of a coach of this class even with the situation that the amount of the salary was not the main thing for him.”

His first tournament will be the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge tournament on home ice 9-11 November. The PZLH managed to get strong opponents to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Poland restoring independence with the Independence Day on 11 November as Denmark, Norway and Austria will come to play at a Polish venue to be determined.

“I’m aware what hockey in Poland looks like, it absolutely doesn’t frighten me. I know what to expect and I know that I can help,” Valtonen told hokej.net and looks forward to his two assignments in Poland.

“Coaching players is a 24/7 job. If someone is not ready for that there’s nothing to look for in this sport. My players have to be ready for this.”

Valtonen saw three games of the national team at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A live. “I can say with all confidence that the results were worse than the game. The players have skill but they were not a team,” he said and hopes to bring a positive influence to Poland with his demand to reduce the number of import players from ten to six but also hopes that with his Finnish connection and exchange he can help educate Polish coaches.

The goal for the season will be to return to the Division I Group A. Poland will play the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Tallinn, 28 April to 4 May 2019, against Japan, host Estonia, Ukraine, Romania and the Netherlands.

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