FROM THE CREASE with BRUCE BERLET

Bruce Berlet 7BY: Bruce Berlet

Speedy Carl Hagelin is being given a good chance of making the New York Rangers this season off a stellar career at the University of Michigan and a solid showing with the Connecticut Whale in the playoffs in April.

But Hagelin had never attended the Rangers’ prospects camp until late June because of injuries the last two years. He prepped for the camp doing a lot of running and lifting weights with his brother in their native Sweden and felt fortunate to be one of the older players (22) after the standout career at Michigan. He co-captained the Wolverines to the NCAA title game in April, losing 3-2 in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth, and then spent three weeks practicing and playing regular shifts with the Whale after signing an amateur tryout contract.

“Playing for Michigan was pretty tough because of a lot of good players who are drafted, so I was kind of used to the tempo (in prospects camp),” Hagelin said at the Rangers’ training center in Greenburgh, N.Y. “There was always a good pace, but I was used to that. So it was kind of what I expected, but obviously the testing was a bit tougher than I expected. I wasn’t used to skating three laps in a row six times. You never really skate three laps in a game or in practice, so it was obviously good for your mental toughness and overall skating.”

Hagelin, a sixth-round pick in 2007, also learned plenty with the Whale, starting with having more time with the puck than he expected.

“After a few games, I started to realize you can really work the defense down low because you’re not allowed to grab or hook,” he said. “In college, they usually just grabbed you and pinned you towards the boards. But in the pros, you can actually control the puck a bit more, and I just have to be a little more patient down low and then I’ll be able to create some stuff offensively.”

Hagelin had one goal and one assist in five playoff games with the Whale and helped with the penalty killing. But even against older, more experienced players competing in the most critical time of the season, he was one of the top-end guys in the speed/quickness department.

“He’s very quick and fast, and that’s his biggest attribute,” Rangers assistant general manager/assistant coach/Whale GM Jim Schoenfeld said.

“Speed is my game, and if I don’t use my speed, I’m not going to have any success no matter what level I play on,” Hagelin said. “So for me it’s just important to work my speed into my game every day because I know the better I get there the more success I’ll have.”

While with the Whale, Hagelin also enjoyed a bonus of being with former Michigan teammate Chad Kolarik, who was captain of the Wolverines in his senior year when Hagelin was a freshman. Hagelin texted congratulations when the Rangers extended the right wing’s contract on June 17 and said he looked forward to seeing him again at training camp, which starts Sept. 15. That will be after Kolarik caps a three-year, long-distance relationship this month when he marries Michigan gymnastics great Kylee Botterman in her hometown of Chicago and Hagelin participates in the prospects tournament Sept. 10-14 in Traverse City, Mich.

“Chad is a really good guy and helped me a lot,” Hagelin said. “Any time you know someone on a team it’s easy to get in and be a part of the team. He really took me under his wing. I became good friends with a lot of guys on the team, and that made it easy to fit in and I have him to thank a lot for that.”

Hagelin had an ulterior motive to work overtime this summer to be among the 25-30 Rangers players who will be going to Europe for four exhibition games in Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden, where they will play the Frolunda Indians, the former team of elite goalie Henrik Lundqvist in Gothenburg, which is a few hours from where Hagelin grew up. Two newly acquired players, defenseman Tim Erixon and center Oscar Lindberg, and unsigned wing Jesper Fasth are also from Sweden, where Rangers open the regular season Oct. 7-8 with games against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks in Stockholm, which is about 45 minutes from Hagelin’s house and where his brother Bobbie and sister Helene live.

“That would be really sweet and obviously a pretty fun and great experience to start out your NHL career,” Hagelin said. “But it’s a long way there, and I know what I have to do, just work hard in the summer and if I get the chance, I’ll take it.”

Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark expects Hagelin to be in top form when camp opens.

“He has done so much because of his speed, and he has made himself better each year by preparing in the offseason and getting as strong as he can for his size,” Clark said. “He’s also an elite character kid because you don’t usually see a Swedish kid that’s the captain of a U.S. college team.”

Hagelin’s captaincy epitomized his maturation with the Wolverines. After getting 24 goals and 19 assists in 82 games his first two seasons at Michigan, he had 37 goals and 62 assists in 89 games as a junior and senior. Three days after the title-game loss in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth, Hagelin signed his first NHL contract and began his stint with the Whale, which showed he’s not far from the NHL.

And Hagelin’s growth wasn’t only on the ice. Hagelin won his second straight Isaacson Award as the Wolverines’ “Best in Classroom” while completing his major in sports management. He also made the CCHA Scholar-Athlete Team for the third consecutive year and was the men’s winner of Michigan’s Big Ten Medal of Honor, given to each Big Ten school’s highest achiever in academics and sports.

Hagelin had a strong GPA throughout his four years in Ann Arbor, Mich., and never thought of leaving school early.

“The reason I came over was to get my degree as well, so my dad would never have let me leave,” he said. “For me, the plan was always to stay.”

Hagelin’s father, Boris, a member of the Swedish national golf team, shaped his son’s career early on. He attended Western Michigan University but became a fan of the Michigan program and continued to follow the Wolverines after former NHL standout Red Berenson took over as coach in 1984. Boris talked to his son about attending college in the U.S. as he had done, and when Carl was only 11, he and older brother Bobbie were sent to Berenson’s hockey camp in Ann Arbor.

Carl’s affinity for Michigan was strong by the time his draft year arrived and he had 24 goals and 31 assists for the Sodertalje Under-20 team. That helped earn him tryouts for the national junior team. Clark and his scouting staff knew about Hagelin’s desires to attend college, but they were willing to wait for him to develop while holding his NHL rights.

“I just wanted to go to college and give my best for four years and get a degree,” Hagelin told Dan Davis of newyorkrangers.com. “I didn’t think too much about getting drafted or anything, but anytime someone shows appreciation for what you do, that’s kind of the good feeling you get when someone drafts you. It was a great honor to get drafted by the New York Rangers. It is a great club.

“It was a no-brainer for me to come to the U.S. to get a degree and at the same time I played hockey at a high level. I also knew there were a lot of good players that came through the Michigan program so I was going to get a great education and great hockey at the same time. Looking back, I made the right decision.”

Now Hagelin is headed in the right director to follow in the footsteps of hero Peter Forsberg, who led Sweden to the Olympic gold medal in 1994. Hagelin would certainly like to be part of an Olympic and Stanley Cup champion.

YOGAN ON TRADING BLOCK

Left wing/center Andrew Yogan, who had two goals and one assist in the Whale’s final two games last season, has been put on the trading block by the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League, according to Victor Fernandes, the Erie Times-News staff blogger at goerie.com.

Otters managing general partner and general manager Sherry Bassin told Fernandes that “he’s involved in serious trade discussions” for the 19-year-old and four-year OHL veteran. Bassin declined to name the interested team and the timetable for a possible deal, but an unnamed OHL source considers an undisclosed Eastern Conference team as the frontrunner and a trade could be finalized by the end of the week.

“I can’t really judge and tell you that it’s imminent or not imminent,” said Bassin, who wants “whenever fits” for Yogan, whether it’s players, draft picks or both.

Bassin said he has made Yogan aware of the trade talks, which surfaced because of “a numbers game” after Bassin alluded to Mike Cazzola and Brett Thompson, who combined for 63 goals and 151 points last season, being around for a full season. Bassin also said trade talks involving other undisclosed players besides Yogan are ongoing.

Yogan, a fourth-round pick in 2010, also should have a good chance to make the Whale after participating in the prospects tournament. He missed most of last season after having surgery on his left shoulder on Sept. 21 and then spent his final month of rehabilitation with the Whale before returning to the Otters and getting three goals and one assist in 10 games. When Erie was eliminated from the playoffs, Yogan returned to the Whale and learned more about the pro lifestyle and what he would need to do to succeed at the next level.

Yogan continued to build on his Whale success at the prospects camp, where he was one of the dominant offensive players. His left shoulder was clearly 100 percent, enabling him to elevate his game and score some notable goals in scrimmages while often in the middle of the action.

“Because he missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, we feel another year of juniors might be best for him,” Schoenfeld said via email. “But we will monitor him closely in camp, and you may see him in Hartford.”

If Yogan is traded or makes the Whale, he won’t be returning to play for Erie coach and former Rangers center Robbie Ftorek, who signed a two-year contract extension Tuesday, and assistant/goaltending coach Peter Sidorkiewicz, who played for the Whalers and inked a new two-year contract Tuesday.

A feature on Yogan by David was posted Wednesday on www.newyorkrangers.com.

ISLANDERS OWNER ‘NOT GIVING UP ON LONG ISLAND’

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang is “not giving up on Long Island” after voters rejected a plan to borrow $400 million for a new state-of-the-art sports facility adjacent the antiquated Nassau Coliseum, the team’s home since it entered the NHL in 1972.

In a statement released Wednesday, Wang said he had two goals for the Islanders, winning the Stanley Cup and staying on Long Island. The Islanders lease at Nassau Coliseum expires in 2015, but Nassau County voters emphatically rejected a plan to replace Nassau Coliseum on Monday. The plan also included development of a nearby minor league ballpark and possibly an indoor track and field facility.

Some have suggested Wang could move the Islanders to the new arena being built in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets or to eastern Long Island. Hartford-area fans would like Wang to pick the Insurance City, which has been without a NHL team since the Whalers left town in 1997 for North Carolina and became the Carolina Hurricanes.

EX-DEVIL WHITE SIGNS WITH SHARKS

Defenseman Colin White didn’t stay an unrestricted free agent for long as he signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday.

White was waived by the New Jersey Devils on Monday, and after clearing Tuesday, the team bought out the remaining one year and $3 million of his contract. White will now earn $1 million from the Sharks and $1 million from the Devils this season. He also will be paid $1 million by the Devils next season.

The Sharks needed a veteran blueliner, and they got a two-time Stanley Cup champion. White, 33, will likely compete for a spot on the Sharks’ third pairing after spending his entire career in New Jersey, playing 743 regular-season games and 111 playoff games in 11 seasons.

“This was a no-brainer for us,” White told nhl.com. “We looked at their last couple of seasons. We looked at their acquisitions this year. I thought it was a good veteran group.”

The Sharks reached the Western Conference finals for the second straight year last season, losing to the Canucks in five games. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was not satisfied and traded with the Minnesota Wild for All-Star defenseman Brent Burns in June and signed free agent defenseman Jim Vandermeer last month.

The addition of White gives the Sharks another physical defenseman to add to a group that already includes big hitter Doug Murray, puck mover Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and youngsters Jason Demers and Justin Braun.

SLANEY, SIGALET NAMED AHL ASSISTANT COACHES

The Phoenix Coyotes announced Thursday that John Slaney, one of the AHL’s all-time leading defensemen, has been assistant coach of the Portland Pirates. And the Calgary Flames announced Jordan Sigalet has been named goaltender coach of the Abbotsford Heat.

Slaney, 39, will work under Ray Edwards, who replaced Kevin Dineen after the former Hartford Whalers star right wing and captain was named coach of the Florida Panthers on June 1. Slaney replaces former Whalers defenseman and Maine native Eric Weinrich after being a two-time recipient of the Eddie Shore Award (AHL’s top defenseman) in 2000-01 and 2001-02, a two-time First Team (2001, 2002) and one-time Second Team (2004) AHL All-Star and also won a Calder Cup with the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2005.

Slaney participated in five AHL All-Star Classics (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006) and was MVP of the 2001 AHL All-Star Game in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa., where he represented the Phantoms only a day after being traded from the host Penguins, and served as a team captain in 2002 in his hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

In the 2005-06 season, Slaney became the AHL’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen until the record was broken by the Oklahoma City Barons’ Bryan Helmer last season. In 631 career AHL games with Baltimore, Portland, Cornwall, Wilkes-Barre and Philadelphia, Slaney had 166 goals and 353 assists. He also had 22 goals and 69 assists in 268 NHL games with the Washington Capitals, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Slaney joins the Pirates after finishing a 19-year playing career last season with Plzen HC in the Czech Republic. He was originally drafted by the Capitals in the first round (ninth overall) in 1990.

Sigalet, a native of Westminster, British Columbia, joined coach Tory Ward after being the goalie coach last season with the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips. Sigalet was a seventh-round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2001 and played three years at Bowling Green University of the CCHA, where he was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2004-05. He played his only NHL game the following season while spending three seasons with the Providence Bruins. He played two seasons in Austria before retiring and going into coaching.

In another transaction, the Winnipeg Jets signed veteran forward Jason King to an AHL contract with the St. John’s IceCaps. King, 29, played the past three seasons in Germany, most recently with the Hamburg Freezers. He has played five seasons in the AHL with Manitoba (2002-06) and Portland (2007-08), totaling 106 goals and 102 assists in 256 regular-season games and added 13 goals and 10 assists in 40 playoff games.

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