Category: North America (page 2 of 12)

French newcomer Texier making a splash with Blue Jackets

By Mitch Stacy – The Associated Press

Fortunately for the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team called KalPa in the Finnish hockey league completed its season last month well below the line to make the playoffs.

Alexandre Texier, a 19-year-old centre, scored in overtime to win KalPa’s finale on March 14 . Then he packed up and headed to North America, making his continental debut with the Blue Jackets’ top farm team two days after he stepped off the ice in Finland. The stay in the minors would be brief.

Last Friday, Texier, who is from Grenoble, France, made his NHL debut in a playoff-clinching win by Columbus at Madison Square Garden in New York with his parents in attendance. A day later in Ottawa, he scored his first goal , collecting a pass from Oliver Bjorkstrand in full stride and ripping it in like an NHL veteran.

Texier has impressed everyone who matters. He insisted he is not nervous even the slightest bit, even though the spotlight will get much hotter when Columbus opens the playoffs on Wednesday night at Tampa against the league’s best team.

It’s been a whirlwind for the kid who was a Blue Jackets’ second-round draft pick (45th overall) two years ago .

“No, to be honest, never,” Texier said when asked if he thought he’d be in the NHL right now. “You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so just enjoy the time here.”

Texier did not come out of nowhere. Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has been watching him and talking about him since Texier came under the team’s umbrella two years ago. He was one of three prospects the GM deemed untouchable at the trade deadline.

The Blue Jackets couldn’t get him here fast enough. After leading KalPa in assists, points and shots, he tore it up in Cleveland with the Monsters, collecting five goals and two assists in seven games. Then came his high-pressure NHL debut Friday in which he handled himself admirably.

“He’s not nervous,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “In fact, he plays with a type of arrogance that for the age of the kid it’s pretty impressive. You can see his intelligence of the game, he’s physical when he needs to be, he’s engaged on pucks. He’s impressive, and he’ll play (in the playoffs).”

Blue Jackets centre Pierre Luc-Dubois knows something about being a hockey prodigy. He debuted in the NHL at 19 last season and turned into one of the team’s stars. He’s also from Quebec, so he can speak French and communicate with “Tex” better than his other teammates.

And talk about a small world: They discovered their fathers played together for a season in Canadian junior hockey years ago.

“He’s really smart, skilled,” Dubois said. “He’s one of those players that you can you just see plays with his instincts, doesn’t think about the game too much, just goes out there and has fun.”

Texier, who seems to have adapted seamlessly to the different rink dimensions in North America, likely will play with Bjorkstrand and Nick Foligno on the fourth line, although Tortorella is known for mixing things up.

“It was a bonus for me (to join the Blue Jackets) because they are a pretty good team and they want to make the playoffs, so I didn’t expect anything,” Texier said.

Tortorella said he’s not hesitant about throwing Texier into the playoffs, regardless of his tender age and lack of experience.

“This kid here, I just think he had an attitude that he’s not afraid of anything,” Tortorella said.

A Mexican Hockey Player Looks for a Place to Lace Up His Skates

Hector, a star forward for the Mexican national team, plays for Hockey Punks of the largely unknown Lithuanian pro league

By Tal Pinchevsky New York Times

After being deported from the United States as a collegian, Hector Majul has bounced around, most recently landing in Lithuania.

Perhaps the only thing more unusual than being a Mexican in Lithuania is being a Mexican hockey player in Lithuania.

So the general astonishment that has greeted Hector Majul since his arrival in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, in late November does not surprise him.

At 24, he is a forward for the Hockey Punks, one of four teams in the country’s largely unknown professional league. That move was another unforeseen step on an unconventional hockey path, which shifted when Majul was deported to Mexico during his college career in the United States.

“He is an impressive skater,” said Boris Dorozhenko, Majul’s childhood coach and mentor. “The only problem for him was always his Mexican citizenship.”

Like a growing number of international athletes who want to pursue careers in the United States, Majul found that his immigration status — and what some view as suddenly stringent enforcement of technicalities — had become a major impediment.

In a country that has long tried to attract athletes and artists with special talents, what once appeared to be a fairly clear path to at least semi-permanent residency has become a far more arduous road. The possibility of deportation can arise with just one unsatisfactory answer to an immigration official, whether spoken or written on a form.

In Majul’s case, an incorrect response a year and a half ago led to a dizzying journey back to Mexico, then on to Switzerland and now to Lithuania, with no promise of a return to the United States in the near future.

Dorozhenko, who played hockey in the former Soviet Union, discovered a 6-year-old Majul in Mexico City after becoming a coach with the Mexican national program in the early 1990s.

Dorozhenko eventually landed a hockey job in Arizona, and Majul, 14 at the time, followed him. Because he was attending high school, Majul entered the United States with a student visa, then became a fixture at hockey clinics in the area, alongside a local standout named Auston Matthews. Drafted first over all by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016, Matthews is now among the N.H.L.’s brightest stars.

Majul was allowed to stay in the United States after high school, first on an amateur athlete visa, known as a P1, then on another student visa when he landed at Curry College in Massachusetts to play Division III hockey in 2015.

By then he was a star for Mexico in international competition. In his first appearance in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Division II Group B world championship tournament in 2014, he tied for the team’s scoring lead and helped Mexico finish one win shy of promotion to a higher division. He was named the tournament’s top forward in 2015 and again in 2016.

“I know there have been professional players that have Mexican descent or Mexican parents,” Majul said, referring specifically to the N.H.L. (Matthews’s mother is from Mexico.) “But there has never been a Mexican-born pro hockey player. I want to be that guy.”

Majul, second from right, with his Hockey Punk teammates before the start of practice last month

But on Aug. 22, 2017, as Majul returned to the United States from a trip home to see family, Customs and Border Protection officials at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston discovered a makeup box belonging to his girlfriend, Katy Weizman. An American, Weizman had accompanied Majul on the trip and returned to the United States the previous week. The makeup kit contained a week’s supply of Concerta, her A.D.H.D. medication and a controlled substance.

Majul said that the Houston Police Department had declined to further investigate his possession of the drug, but that he was detained and questioned that night and into the morning. According to an appeal filed by his lawyer, Majul told a customs agent that he had left Mexico “to pursue a career in ice hockey.”

Based on this admission, Majul was found to have expressed an intention to violate the terms of his student visa. The visa was canceled, and he was deported after almost a decade of legally living and training in the United States.

When contacted about this case, the Customs and Border Protection agency said in a statement that officers had found that Majul “provided differing answers when asked about his trip to the U.S. and the reason he departed his country of origin.”

Majul’s lawyer submitted an appeal in September 2017, saying the officers had overreached in their decision. The appeal was denied.

Marian Daugherty, who took Majul into her home when he first moved to the United States, set up a “Bring Hector Back” Facebook page and reached out to the office of then-Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, to no avail.

Majul was left to train in Mexico City, unable to return to the United States until 2022 and without the services of an agent. But with only 1,552 registered hockey players in Mexico, compared with more than 562,000 in the United States, Majul knew he would need to go elsewhere to keep up his game.

Majul and Dorozhenko canvassed their hockey network. Their search drew the attention of Arno Del Curto, who for 22 years had led the Davos hockey club in Switzerland. Equipped with a 90-day tourist visa, Majul ventured to Switzerland. Within three weeks, he was told that the team wanted him to stay.

“It was a huge relief,” Majul said. “I’m going to be honest, I think I teared up a little bit when I talked to my parents.”

But immigration would again become a hurdle. To qualify for certification, Majul needed to have been considered a professional before arriving in Switzerland. Because he had most recently played competitive hockey in college and with the Mexican national team, he was deemed an amateur and denied a visa. The club in Davos appealed to the Swiss government, even offering to hire Majul as a skills coach in the hopes that might provide a legal workaround.

By November, with only five days remaining on his tourist visa and all his options exhausted, Majul went to train with a coach and former colleague of Dorozhenko’s in Serbia. Days later, he received an invitation to join Hockey Punks.

The Lithuanian club signed Majul to a contract, provided an apartment in Vilnius and helped him stabilize his immigration status. In perhaps the most unexpected turn of this hockey escapade, Majul is not the only Mexican on the team. His countryman Arunas Bermejo joined the club while studying in Lithuania.

“It’s a steppingstone, something to help me get to the next level,” Majul said. “Usually when people say they’re going to Europe, nobody thinks of Lithuania or Vilnius.”

He acknowledged that the transition to life in Vilnius was difficult, especially considering the abrupt nature of his arrival. But he has come to enjoy his new surroundings.

“It’s actually a really nice town,” Majul said. “Great food, people are very friendly. I think the only downside is how cold it is.”

The average high temperature in Vilnius in February is 30 degrees — not frigid, unless your reference points are Mexico and Arizona.

Majul has been approved for worker certification that for the next year or two will allow him to work within the Schengen Area, a region of 26 European nations, including Switzerland. That would make it easier for Majul to rejoin Davos for the 2019-20 season. (That hope was muddled when Del Curto announced his resignation in November.)

Daugherty helped Majul enroll in online classes through Arizona State University, and he is working to complete his degree.

In his first professional game, on Dec. 22, a 5-2 loss to Kaunas, Majul registered an assist. In his first eight games with the club, Majul collected a goal and six assists. He has not given up on his pro hockey dreams, including a potential return to the United States.

“I think in North America I have this label of, ‘Why is a Mexican playing hockey? He should be playing soccer,’” Majul said. “Don’t get me wrong. Here it’s also a shock when they hear there’s a Mexican hockey player. But after they see me playing, they see the level that I have, it kind of speaks for itself.”

“I think that was maybe the way it had to go,” he added. “Maybe for me to be able to go on to the next level, I had to come and make it through here first.”

Seattle NHL expansion approved by Board of Governors

seattle becomes 32nd team; will begin play in 2021-22 season

By Dan Rosen – NHL.com

Seattle is home to the NHL’s 32nd franchise.

The NHL Board of Governors voted Tuesday to approve the expansion application from the NHL Seattle group to bring the yet-to-be-named team into the League for the start of the 2021-22 season.

In addition, the Board of Governors approved a realignment package that calls for the Arizona Coyotes to move into the Central Division, making way for the new Seattle team to play in the Pacific Division.

There are eight teams in the Pacific Division, including the Coyotes. There are seven teams in the Central Division.

The Coyotes will remain in the Pacific Division until Seattle enters the League.

Seattle’s ownership group, led by David Bonderman, private equity CEO, will pay a $650 million expansion fee, $150 million more than Bill Foley and his group paid to bring the Vegas Golden Knights into the NHL for the 2017-18 season.

The Seattle team will play at Seattle Center Arena, the former KeyArena which is scheduled to undergo a privately financed $700 million renovation. The project was waiting for NHL approval of the expansion team before it could begin. The capacity for an NHL game at KeyArena will be about 17,400.

KeyArena opened in 1962 and was the home of the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics from 1967-78 and 1985-2008 prior to them relocating to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season.

The ownership group is also scheduled to pay approximately $75 million to build a 180,000-square foot practice facility with three ice sheets in Northgate, a shopping area in the northern part of the city.

The arena and training facility are scheduled to be completed in advance of the start of the 2021-22 season.

The Seattle ownership group was hopeful to have the 2020-21 season be its inaugural season, but beginning in the 2021-22 season allows for completion of arena renovations.

Seattle will follow follow the same rules for the 2021 Expansion Draft as Vegas did in 2017, but Vegas will be exempt.

The NHL authorized the Seattle ownership group to file an application for an expansion team at the Board of Governors meeting in Manalapan, Florida a year ago.

A season-ticket deposit drive was held March 1, securing 10,000 deposits in the first 12 minutes and 32,000 in the first 31 hours. There is a waiting list of about 10,000 names.

The NHL Seattle group presented its plan for the franchise the Board’s Executive Committee at its meeting in New York City on Oct. 2. The committee gave a report in the Board meeting Tuesday prior to the vote.

Although Seattle has never had an NHL team, the Seattle Metropolitans, who played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915-24, won the Stanley Cup in 1917, defeating the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey Association 3-1 in a best-of-5 series.

New coach for U.S. women

By IIHF.com

Former NHL player and assistant coach Bob Corkum has been named head coach of the U.S. women’s national team for the 2018/2019 season.

He will be assisted by Joel Johnson, the associate head coach of the University of Minnesota women’s ice hockey team, and former NHL defenceman Brian Pothier.

Corkum succeeds another former NHL player who turned to coaching. During the past two seasons Robb Stauber led the U.S. to Olympic gold in 2018 and Women’s World Championship gold in 2017.

He already got a first glimpse of women’s hockey when he worked as an assistant coach in an U22 series between the U.S. and Canada in August that the American won with a three-game sweep. There Johnson worked as head coach while at the senior women’s team the roles will be switched.

Most recently the 50-year-old was working as an assistant coach for the New York Islanders between 2013 and 2017. He had joined the Islanders after spending five seasons as an associate coach of the men’s ice hockey team at his alma mater, the University of Maine.

The U.S. will soon play at the 2018 Four Nations Cup that will take place in Saskatoon, Canada, 6-10 November 2018. Corkum’s first season will end with the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Espoo, Finland, where Team USA will play in the “upper” Group A with Canada, Finland, Russia and Switzerland.

From the WJAC to the NHL

Tyson Jost (Canada West, 2014-2015

By Jason La Rose – Hockey Canada

The puck dropped Wednesday night to kick off the 2018-19 National Hockey League season, and it did so with 70 alumni of the World Junior A Challenge earning spots on rosters across the league.

The United States led the way with 19 alumni in the NHL, followed by Russia (12), Canada West (12), Canada East (11), Sweden (eight), the Czech Republic (five), Denmark (two) and Switzerland (one).

The Canada West and United States contingents both included players who won gold at the World Junior A Challenge; 25 players in all – eight Canadians and 17 Americans – stood atop the podium, with U.S. forwards Craig Smith (2007 and 2008) and Kyle Connor (2013 and 2014) to only players to hoist the trophy twice.

The list of alumni also included eight players who earned MVP honours – Kyle Turris (2006), Scott Mayfield (2010), Devin Shore (2011), Vinnie Hinostroza (2012), Nick Schmaltz (2013), Nikolaj Ehlers (2014), Tyson Jost (2015) and Andrei Svechnikov (2016) – and 14 WJAC all-stars.

Twenty-eight of the NHL’s 31 teams had at least one alumnus on their 23-man roster, led by the Colorado Avalanche with five; Boston, Columbus, Detroit, the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Washington had four each.

In addition to the 70 who cracked the rosters, five alumni started the season on the injured list with the respective teams, and may or may not join the NHL roster once they’re deemed healthy.

WORLD JUNIOR A CHALLENGE ALUMNI ON SEASON-OPENING NHL ROSTERS

Oliver Bjorkstrand – Columbus Blue Jackets (Denmark, 2014)
Brock Boeser – Vancouver Canucks (United States, 2014)
Drake Caggiula – Edmonton Oilers (Canada East, 2011)
Dennis Cholowski – Detroit Red Wings (Canada West, 2015)
Kyle Connor – Winnipeg Jets (United States – 2013-2014)
Austin Czarnik – Calgary Flames (United States, 2010)
Evgeni Dadonov – Florida Panthers (Russia, 2006)
Jacob de la Rose (injured) – Montreal Canadiens (Sweden, 2011)
Casey DeSmith – Pittsburgh Penguins (United States, 2010)
Nic Dowd – Washington Capitals (United States, 2009)
Sheldon Dries – Colorado Avalanche (United States, 2012)
Ryan Dzingel – Ottawa Senators (United States, 2010)
Nikolaj Ehlers – Winnipeg Jets (Denmark, 2014)
Jesper Fast – New York Rangers (Sweden, 2009)
Tanner Fritz – New York Islanders (Canada West, 2008-2009)
Derek Grant – Pittsburgh Penguins (Canada West, 2008)
Vinnie Hinostroza – Arizona Coyotes (United States, 2011-2012)
Ben Hutton – Vancouver Canucks (Canada East, 2011)
Zach Hyman – Toronto Maple Leafs (Canada East, 2010)
Calle Jarnkrok – Nashville Predators (Sweden, 2009)     
Nick Jensen – Detroit Red Wings (United States, 2009)
Luke Johnson – Chicago Blackhawks (United States, 2012)
Tyson Jost – Colorado Avalanche (Canada West, 2014-2015)
Vladislav Kamenev (injured) – Colorado Avalanche (Russia, 2013)
David Kampf – Chicago Blackhawks (Czech Republic, 2012)
Ondrej Kase (injured) – Anaheim Ducks (Czech Republic, 2012)
Alexander Kerfoot – Colorado Avalanche (Canada West, 2011-2012)
Jujhar Khaira – Edmonton Oilers (Canada West, 2011)
Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay Lightning (Russia, 2010)
Dean Kukan – Columbus Blue Jackets (Switzerland, 2010-2012)
Dmitry Kulikov – Buffalo Sabres (Russia, 2007)
Sean Kuraly – Boston Bruins (United States, 2011)
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Washington Capitals (Russia, 2008)
Johan Larsson (injured) – Buffalo Sabres (Sweden, 2009)
Elias Lindholm – Calgary Flames (Sweden, 2011)
Hampus Lindholm – Anaheim Ducks (Sweden, 2011)
Scott Mayfield – New York Islanders (United States, 2010)
John Moore – Boston Bruins (United States, 2008)
Vladislav Namestnikov – New York Rangers (Russia, 2009)
Riley Nash – Columbus Blue Jackets (Canada West, 2006)
Patrik Nemeth – Colorado Avalanche (Sweden, 2009)
Valeri Nichushkin – Dallas Stars (Russia, 2011)
Joakim Nordström – Boston Bruins (Sweden, 2009-2010)
Dmitry Orlov – Washington Capitals (Russia, 2008)
Colton Parayko – St. Louis Blues (Canada West, 2011)
David Pastrnak – Boston Bruins (Czech Republic, 2012)
Matthew Peca – Montreal Canadiens (Canada East, 2010)
Neal Pionk – New York Rangers (United States, 2013)
Mike Reilly – Montreal Canadiens (United States, 2011)
Evan Rodrigues – Buffalo Sabres (Canada East, 2010)
Joakim Ryan – San Jose Sharks (Sweden, 2010)
Justin Schultz – Pittsburgh Penguins (Canada West, 2008)
Jordan Schmaltz – St. Louis Blues (United States, 2010-2011)
Nick Schmaltz – Chicago Blackhawks (United States, 2013)
Jaden Schwartz – St. Louis Blues (Canada West, 2008)
Devin Shore – Dallas Stars (Canada East, 2011)
Dominik Simon – Pittsburgh Penguins (Czech Republic, 2011)
Jaccob Slavin – Carolina Hurricanes (United States, 2012)
Brendan Smith – New York Rangers (Canada East, 2006)
Craig Smith – Nashville Predators (United States, 2007-2008)
Reilly Smith – Vegas Golden Knights (Canada East, 2008)
Libor Sulak – Detroit Red Wings (Czech Republic, 2011)
Troy Stecher – Vancouver Canucks (Canada West, 2011-2012)
Andrei Svechnikov – Carolina Hurricanes (Russia, 2016)
Evgeny Svechnikov (injured) – Detroit Red Wings (Russia, 2013)
Cam Talbot – Edmonton Oilers (Canada East, 2006)
Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues (Russia, 2008)
Kyle Turris – Nashville Predators (Canada West, 2006)
Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay Lightning (Russia, 2011)
Mikhail Vorobyov – Philadelphia Flyers (Russia, 2014)
Jakub Vrana – Washington Capitals (Czech Republic, 2012)
MacKenzie Weegar – Florida Panthers (Canada East, 2011)
Alexander Wennberg – Columbus Blue Jackets (Sweden, 2011)
Scott Wilson – Buffalo Sabres (Canada East, 2010)
Valentin Zykov – Carolina Hurricanes (Russia, 2011)

2018 CIBC Canada Russia Series Hosts

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By Chl Canada/Russia.ca

The six-game series features regional league teams of Canadian National Junior Team candidates competing against the Russian National Junior Team and is an integral part of the identification process for Team Canada prior to the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.  The 2018 event will open with two games in the WHL, followed by two OHL matchups, and ending with a pair of contests hosted by the QMJHL.

The season’s event begins in British Columbia with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers and Vancouver Giants hosting Game’s 1 and 2 respectively on Monday November 5 and Tuesday November 6.  When the series shifts to Ontario it will be the OHL’s Sarnia Sting hosting Game 3 on Thursday November 8 followed by the Oshawa Generals hosting Game 4 on Monday November 12.  The series wraps up in Quebec with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix hosting Game 5 on Tuesday November 13 and the Drummondville Voltigeurs hosting Game 6 on Thursday November 15.

“Over the past 15 years we’ve seen the Canada and Russia rivalry ignite passion in CHL communities across our great country,” said CHL President David Branch. “This is truly a special event that showcases many of our league’s best players and future Canadian National Junior Team stars who will compete to defend gold on home soil at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver and Victoria.”

Since the event first began in 2003, CHL teams have played to an overall record of 61-22-1-6 and have won 12 of the 15 series including three straight.  The competitiveness of the rivalry has grown in recent years with five of the last eight series decided in the final game including last season where a shootout was required to decide the overall winner for the first time in event history.  A total of 36 players from last season’s event competed in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo including 17 CHL players who won gold for Canada.

“The Canada-Russia rivalry is legendary and Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast will be cheering on our Canadian teams as they take in the action for this iconic showdown,” said Stephen Forbes, Executive Vice President, Banking Centres, CIBC.  “We congratulate the six host cities of the 2018 CIBC Canada Russia Series and we look forward to celebrating with our clients and employees in these communities, as we support the next generation of hockey talent through our partnership with the CHL.”

All six cities selected for games in 2018 have previously hosted this event including Kamloops, Sarnia, and Drummondville who will tie Sudbury’s CHL record with their fourth game.  Kamloops first hosted in 2006 with Team WHL skating to an 8-1 win, then in 2010 with Russia earning a 7-6 shootout win, and most recently in 2015 with Team WHL winning Game 2 of the series by a 4-2 score.  Sarnia hosted a 4-0 win for Team OHL in 2003, a 5-0 OHL win in 2006, and a 2-1 OHL victory in 2012.  Drummondville’s past three games include 2005 where Team QMJHL defeated Russia 7-4, 2009 where the QMJHL won 3-1, and most recently in 2010 won 4-3 by Russia.  Oshawa has hosted twice before including 2006 where Team OHL won by a 4-3 score, and in 2013 with Team Russia skating to a 5-2 win.  The other two clubs have hosted once with Vancouver’s game resulting in a 1-0 shootout win for Team WHL in 2012, and Sherbrooke’s event featuring a 4-3 win for Team QMJHL in 2013.

The 2018 CIBC Canada Russia series is supported by CHL associate sponsors Cooper Tires and Sherwin-Williams.  All games will be broadcast nationally on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.

2018 CIBC Canada Russia Series Schedule:
Game 1 – Monday November 5 at Kamloops, BC
Game 2 – Tuesday November 6 at Vancouver, BC
Game 3 – Thursday November 8 at Sarnia, ON
Game 4 – Monday November 12 at Oshawa, ON
Game 5 – Tuesday November 13 at Sherbrooke, QC
Game 6 – Thursday November 15 at Drummondville, QC

Team Canada prepares for World Junior Showcase in Kamloops

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By Adam Donnelly – CFJC Today

They say death and taxes are the only two certainties in life, but when you live in Canada, there’s a third: hockey. This week in Kamloops the third is on display, with some of the best under-20 hockey players in the world in town. It’s the world junior showcase. The first step in Team Canada’s journey to the 2019 World Junior Tournament in Vancouver and Victoria.

It’s been almost eight months since Alex Formenton last donned the Maple Leaf. He was on the ice in the dying seconds as Team Canada captured the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship, defeating Sweden by a 2-1 score.

“I just remember getting the opportunity to pick up the puck in the neutral zone,” Formenton said with a big smile. “The whole tournament was memorable, just being with a great group of guys.”

As one of the few returning players from that team, Formenton will be looked at to lead this young team heading into 2018 World Junior Showcase, set to kick off tonight at the Sandman Centre.

“I just try and model my game after the leaders who lead by example,” Formenton said. “I’m not a real vocal guy, but I want to lead by example on the ice and try and help out my teammates as much as I can.”

One of those young players getting his first look at the national U20 program is Vancouver Canucks 2018 2nd round draft pick Jett Woo, who says he’s coming to the event ready to learn.

“For myself, being such a young player and young prospect, the biggest thing for me is to keep my eyes open,” Woo said. “If I think that I’m good now, there’s so much more I can do.”

For Woo, the transition to the National program from his major junior club should be a little easier, as his head coach with Moose Jaw Warriors, Tim Hunter is at the helm of the Team Canada for the showcase and the 2019 World Junior championships.

“He was a pretty gritty player and a hard-working player,” Woo said. “Those are the things I’ve been able to pick up from him: hard work and compete level.”

Hunter played 16 seasons in the NHL, and was known for his grit and toughness on the ice; he knows he’s got to let his team find their own identity in this event.

“The team is going to have its own identity, Hunter told media. “It’s us making sure the players buy into writing our own story, writing our own identity and being who we are.”

With only three returning players at to the summer showcase event, he’s embraced the possibility he could have a young team heading into the 2019 World Junior Championships.

“Some of the best players here are 2000 [born players]. Always, an older team is a better team, but there’s a lot of good 2000’s in Canada, and we have quite a few here, especially on defence,” Hunter said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to take our best players. The players that can play the style we want, and whether they’re [born in] ’99 or 2000, it doesn’t matter.”

Hughes, projected No. 1 pick at 2019 NHL Draft, happy with USA Hockey

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By Mike G. Morreale – NHL.com

Jack Hughes, projected by many as the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, never wavered in his decision to continue his playing career at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program this season.

Hughes (5-foot-10, 166 pounds), a center, had 116 points (40 goals, 76 assists) with the U-17 and U-18 NTDP teams last season, one point shy of tying Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews for the single-season point record (117) set during his U-18 season in 2014-15. Hughes had 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) in 36 games for the U-18.

“I just felt like the NTDP was the best spot for my development,” Hughes said. “I love my teammates, my coaches, the resources and love being able to put on the USA jersey. I tell everyone no one trains as hard as us at the NTDP. We’re working out in-season, skating four times a week, and playing games on top of that.”

Hughes, 17, had the option of joining his brother, defenseman Quintin Hughes, at the University of Michigan. Quintin Hughes, 18, selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round (No. 7) of the 2018 NHL Draft, decided Saturday to return to Michigan for his sophomore season.

“I knew the NTDP was a great spot, and Michigan was a great spot as well,” Jack Hughes said. “Quinn had really good success there and anytime I have a chance to play with Quinn it’s really appealing. I took that into consideration, but I think the NTDP was the best spot.”

Jack and Quintin are representing the United States at the World Junior Summer Showcase this week at Sandman Centre. The first round of cuts by USA Hockey is scheduled for Wednesday.

“I talked to him a bit before I made my decision to go back [to Michigan],” Quintin Hughes said. “Michigan worked for me, but that doesn’t mean it would ultimately work for him. If you’re a good enough player, no matter where you go, you’ll find your way.”

United States general manager John Vanbiesbrouck wasn’t surprised by Jack’s decision.

“He saw his bother go through a process and is content working on his game and developing as a player,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “There’s a great opportunity for him moving forward wearing the red, white and blue. We hope we keep him into it for a long time.”

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.

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.

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