Category Archives: Junior Hockey

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME 8 – HOLD ON, THIS COULD GET BUMPY

Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 8 – HOLD ON, THIS COULD GET BUMPY

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – The NHL Draft is upon us and there is SO much going on in the NHL that has an effect on every team let alone the Hartford Wolf Pack.

LATE BREAKING NHL DRAFT NEWS

The New York Rangers swung a major pre-draft trade with the Arizona Coyotes as they dealt center, Derek Stepan and their backup goalie, Antti Raanta, for New Jersey-native, defenseman, Anthony D’Angelo who split last year between Arizona and the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL) and the number seven overall pick in the 2017 draft.

The Ranger will have two first rounders as they will also select in the 21st spot. The Rangers look to replenish the team prospect depth, which is presently very low in Hartford. The Wolf Pack finished last in the AHL last season and they dismissed their long-time head coach, Ken Gernander, and hired Keith McCambridge to replace him.

The surprising part of the deal was the inclusion of Raanta. This creates an opening in New York for a backup goaltender, something the team will need to address. The Rangers have second-year pro, Brandon Halverson, and rookie Chris Nell both under contract for next season. They are the only other goalies in the organization right now.

*Cantlon’s Corner will have draft recap on Monday*

PLAYER & COACHING MOVEMENT

Ex-Pack Chad Johnson was traded by his hometown Calgary Flames to the Arizona Coyotes for another goalie Mike Smith.

Former Sound Tiger, Ryan Strome, was sent to the Edmonton Oilers for the highly skilled, Jordan Eberle.

One NHL coach going out and one coming in with CT connections.

Coming in is former Sound Tigers head coach Jack Capuano. He is one of the good guys in the game and he becomes the associate head coach with the Florida Panthers. Cap will work with the recently hired new head coach Bob Boughner.

Heading out is the Head Coach of the dysfunctional Arizona Coyotes. He is former Hartford Whaler, Dave Tippett, who leaves with four years left on a contract extension. Tippet was relieved the day before the draft!

The Coyotes are in complete disarray as an organization. They have no Head Coach, no Director of Player Operations, no captain, have become established as one of the least attended teams. They have an expiring arena lease after this season and no prospects for a new one to be built in the eastern part of Phoenix. Oh, and they also have the lowest payroll in hockey.

Ex-Pack Chris Bourque signed a two-year extension with Hershey with the second year being a mutual option for the 31-year-old forward.

Washington also signed Christian Djoos, the son of former Ranger, Per Djoos.

Nick Lukko, formerly of Salisbury Prep, signed a one-year deal with the Reading Royals (ECHL). His father is Peter Lukko is the CEO of the NHL Florida Panthers.

Joel Vermin, one of the top performers for the Syracuse Crunch in their Calder Cup run, has formally announced his signing with HC Lausanne (Switzerland-LNA) on a five-year contract to return to his homeland.

Petr Straka, who was with Albany Devils last year, also heads home to play with HC Plzen (Pilsner) in the Czech Republic Elite League (CEL).

A fellow Czech, Matej Stransky, leaves Texas for Severstal Cherepovets (Russia-KHL). That makes for 36 AHL’ers (22 of 30 teams so far have lost at least one player) to sign in Europe and with completed expansion draft and tonight’s amateur draft expect a few more names to be added just as the July 1st NHL/AHL free agency kicks in.

Ex-Pack/CT Whale Blake Parlett, who split last year with KHL Medvescak Zagreb in Croatia before their finances went south and finished the year with Tappara (Finland-FEL), has signed with Eisbaren Berlin (Germany-DEL) for 2017-18.

Former UCONN Husky Brant Harris (AHA years), who spent most of last year with the Florida Everblades (ECHL) and eleven games in Bridgeport has signed with EC Salzburg (Austria-AEHL) for the next season.

Another UCONN Husky from last year who left school mid-season, defenseman Joona Kunnas, who split the rest of the year with Illves Tampere (Finland-FEL) and a few games with Leki (Finland Division-1), has signed with Grenoble in the French Elite Magnus league for 2017-18.

Former Salisbury Prep product, Jerry Pollastone, signs for another year with Vienna (Austria-AEHL).

Ex-Sound Tiger Paul Flache was named Associate head coach for Flint (OHL).

Former New Haven Senator, Jake Grimes, signs a one year extension as assistant coach with Peteborough (OHL).

Ex-Pack, John Tripp, leaves ETC Crimmitschau (Germany DEL-2) where he started his coaching career mid-season last year, gets a gig with Braehead (Scotland-EIHL) for next season.

Former New Haven Knights assistant coach, Scott Bell, who has been an amateur scout for the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins the last five years, and was a former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher two time captain, has taken the assistant coach job at his alma mater who play in the Big 10 conference.

Leon Hayward, an assistant coach at Avon Old Farms (CTPREP) the last three years has taken the assistant coach position with Bloomington (USHL). After his five-year minor pro career,  spent mostly in the ECHL with some AHL time with the Providence Bruins and the Manchester Monarchs, the Northeastern grad was also an assistant at Taft Prep (Watertown) for four years.

EXPANSION DRAFT & NHL AWARDS

Certainly, the Las Vegas Golden Knights had some Connecticut hockey flavor for their first 30 players on their roster.

Former Wolf Pack Oscar Lindberg, underutilized by the Rangers, was selected as was former CT Whale, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, who had a breakout 30 goal campaign with Florida Panthers.

Two ex-Sound Tigers were among the 30. Goalie Jean-Francois Berube and former #1 pick of the Islanders, defenseman, Griffin Reinhart.

Gathering some trophy hardware was one time New Haven Nighthawk assistant coach and former Ranger coach John Tortorella. Now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tortorella garnered the Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year).

Ex-Pack Brady Skej was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team.

HOCKEY NEWS

Congrats to the US Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2017 that will be inducted in December.

One of the inductees is former Whaler Scott Young who played 197 games in Hartford with 138 points and is the currently an assistant coach with the Boston University Terriers (HEA).

Another CT connection is Ben Smith who was an assistant coach at Yale (ECACHL) for six years under the late Tim Taylor. He help guide the US Women’s Team to Olympic gold in Nagano, Japan in 1998.

Just the second official in history and the first in 43 years Kevin Collins (Springfield, MA) will be inducted for his work on ice and his work off ice to help develop the officiating fraternity in all levels of hockey.

The first and last official inducted was the late “Big Whistle”  Bill Chadwick known mostly by the older generation for his work as Rangers color commentator on Channel 9 in the 1970’s and 1980’s with Jim Gordon.

Ron Wilson, the long time NHL head coach who has worked almost every level and team for USA hockey is the other.

Providence Bruins Kevin Dean promoted to Boston as an assistant coach after just one year as the head coach.

Bridgeport signed former Quinnipiac Bobcat Travis St. Denis to a one year AHL contract for next season. The Sound Tigers also saw the Islander resign Steve Bernier to a two year two-way deal at $650K-NHL/$225K-AHL (1st year)/$250K (2nd year).

Former Yale Bulldog Denny Kearny who split last year with HC Bolzano (Italy-AEHL) and Cardiff (Wales-EIHL) will play with the recently promoted Milton Keynes team (England–EIHL).

This will be a quiet summer as far as AHL franchise movement next off season will likely not be.

It looks likely that St. Louis will likely place their full AHL team according to several hockey sources in Indianapolis. They will upgrade the Indy Fuel from ECHL to AHL in 2018-19. Currently Indy is Rockford’s ECHL affiliate.

It looks like the Colorado Avalanche will finally get their AHL affiliate in Colorado as they wanted to for several years. The same hockey sources have indicated that likely the Colorado Eagles will too be upgraded from the Avalanche ECHL affiliate to AHL affiliate.

The Avalanche really had wanted the now defunct Central Hockey League, the Denver Cutthroats to be that team, but it never worked out.

The relationship in San Antonio with the Rampage owners, the NBA San Antonio Spurs has soured greatly. The Spurs are very disappointed with the on ice product especially last year when the Avalanche spent a lot of free agent money in the off season for a more competitive squad and finished with the third worst record in the AHL.

Then of course the unknown situation for the Rangers with the unresolved XL Center issue also hangs in the balance will Vancouver continue on in Utica.

The Pacific Division could see a small change as Calgary may look to move within California not because of the arena or fan support, rather a very serious real gang violence issue in Stockton that affects the players and staff. The two cities mentioned they are said to be exploring are Fresno and Sacramento, but no final decision has been made.

-Rapid City becomes the new ECHL affiliate for the Iowa Wild. Expect New Jersey to announce they will make Adirondack (Glen Falls) their ECHL affiliate for Binghamton where they just moved their AHL team from Albany.

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME 7

Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 7

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – Things are heating up not only outside, but in hockey news as well.

STANLEY CUP FINALS

With the Pittsburgh Penguins knocking off the Nashville Predators in six games, not only do the Pens become the first team to repeat as champion in over 20 years, but there are several Connecticut connections and two more chances for Lord Stanley to visit the Constitution State this summer.

On the ice, Nick Bonino (Farmington) captures his second title. Ron Hainsey (Bolton), who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Carolina Hurricanes, nabs his first Cup ring. Jake Guentzel, the son of former New Haven Nighthawk and the current head coach of the University Minnesota, Mike Guentzel, after starting the season in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The architect, getting his third Stanley Cup title, is GM Jim Rutherford. He was, of course, the GM with the Whalers and played with the New Haven Nighthawks. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME 6

Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 6

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – Never a dull moment in hockey. Plenty to review as news still pours in from the Hartford Wolf Pack and the rest of the hockey world.

WOLF PACK SIGN ANOTHER DEFENSEMAN

The first signing under the Chris Drury regime as Wolf Pack GM has been made.

The Rangers signed defenseman Brenden Kotyk, 25, from the NCAA Frozen Four runner-up University Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (NCHC) who fell 3-2 to Denver University.

Kotyk, who stands 6-6 and weighs 240 pounds, spent three seasons with the Bulldogs.  He is a native of Regina, Saskatchewan.   Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME 4 PART 2

Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 4 Part 2

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – So much going on right now that one story wasn’t enough to cover it all.

PLAYER AND COACHING MOVEMENT

Magnus Hellberg is getting as far away from Hartford as he possibly can. The now ex-Pack netminder signed a one-year contract with the Kunlun Red Star in Beijing, China for the KHL team that is entering its second season. Hopefully, Hellberg got his yuans up front. Below is a story from the AP on the financial problems of the KHL.

MOSCOW (AP) — The Kontinental Hockey League has cut a Russian team as it tries to fix worsening financial problems, including debts to league players of over $17 million.

KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko said Wednesday that the league is removing the Metallurg Novokuznetsk team, which had a 14-46 record and small crowds this season, as it bids to become leaner and more commercially successful.

Croatian team Medvescak Zagreb said in March it would withdraw to join the Austrian-based EBEL league.

Chernyshenko says the KHL — widely considered the world’s strongest league outside the NHL — has been hit by “unprecedented” wage delays to players totaling over 1 billion rubles ($17.7 million).

Seven of the KHL’s 29 teams are “regularly” late with salaries and some players have been waiting over six months for payment.

“The KHL will not stand for this,” Chernyshenko said.

From 27 teams next season, the KHL will cut three more for the 2018-19 season, Chernyshenko said. A statistical rating system measuring teams’ on-ice ability, their finances and crowd appeal will be used to determine who quits the league.

The league also plans to lower the salary cap and close some loopholes which help big spenders. That could make the league more competitive and reduce the dominance of wealthy teams like CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, which are funded by state-owned oil and gas companies.

SKA won its second KHL championship in three years last month after posting a 46-14 record in the regular season and then winning all but two of the 18 games it played across four rounds in the playoffs.

Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: PACK OFF-SEASON REPORT – WEEK THREE

CANTLON’S CORNER: PACK OFF-SEASON REPORT -WEEK THREE

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT  – While the lights may be out for hockey in Hartford, and after a big shake-up hit last week for the Wolf Pack, the off-season continues to move forward.

AHL CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS

The conference finals are set. On the West Coast, the San Jose Barracuda will faceoff against the Grand Rapids Griffins. On the East Coast, the Providence Bruins will meet the Syracuse Crunch. Each series will play a 2-3-2 format.

Grand Rapids advanced after beating the Milwaukee Admirals in five games. The Griffins feature ex-Wolf Pack players Dylan McIlrath and Matt Ford.

San Jose disposed of San Diego in five games as well.

Despite being down three games to two to the Hershey Bears, Providence rallied and on Wednesday on the back of three goals in the second period, advanced to their first conference finals appearance since 2009.

The Bears led Providence after surviving a three-game set in Providence of trap hockey. While not pretty to watch, the Bears were held to just 44 shots over three games, but still managed to win two of them. The Bruins, after falling behind 2-0 in Game 6, came roaring back with the last four goals and forced the decisive seventh game Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: PACK OFF-SEASON NOTEBOOK – WEEK TWO

CANTLON’S CORNER: PACK OFF-SEASON NOTEBOOK – WEEK TWO

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CTWhile the lights may be out in Hartford, there is still plenty of hockey going on still in the ECHL, AHL, and NHL.

AHL PLAYOFFS

The Hershey Bears have a three-games-to-two lead in their playoff series with the Providence Bruins after the weekend’s action. On Thursday night, Hershey won a 2-1 OT thriller with, who else but ex-Hartford Wolf Pack, Chris Bourque scoring both goals. The team got the win despite registering just 15 shots on goal. Bears’ goalie Pheonix Copley stopped 39 of 40 Bruins shots. The series is a 2-3-2 format with Game 4 on Friday going to the Bruins in a reversal of the score from the previous night and their own 2-1 win.  In Game 5 on Sunday in Providence, it took OT to get a result again, and Hershey won again as Madison Bowey scored 1:58 into overtime to give the Bears a 3-2 win.

Meanwhile, back in Thursday’s game, Bourque got his first goal early in the third and then the second, the game winner, the other came at 7:23 in overtime both on the powerplay. The Bears evened up their series with Providence at one with Travis Boyd scoring the overtime game-winner in Game 2. Continue reading

RANGERS AGREE TO TERMS WITH FREE-AGENT FORWARD DAWSON LEEDAHL

RANGERS AGREE TO TERMS WITH FREE-AGENT FORWARD DAWSON LEEDAHL

BY: The New York Rangers

NEW YORK, May 8, 2017 – New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that the team has agreed to terms with free-agent forward Dawson Leedahl.

Leedahl, 21, skated in 71 regular season games with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL) this season, registering 35 goals and 54 assists for 89 points, along with a plus-45 rating and 121 penalty minutes. He established WHL career-highs in several categories in 2016-17, including games played, goals, assists, points, plus/minus rating, and penalty minutes. Leedahl was the only WHL player who registered at least 30 goals, 100 penalty minutes, and a plus-40 rating this season. He tied for sixth in the WHL in plus/minus rating and tied for 12th in the league in points in 2016-17. In addition, he ranked third on Regina in points, and he tied for third on the team in goals and assists this season. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: 2017 WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME ONE

CANTLON’S CORNER: 2017 Wolf Pack Off Season Volume One

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – There is LOTS of news going on regarding the New York Rangers and their top affiliates in Hartford and even in Greenville With the Swamp Rabbits. We will give to you a weekly series all summer keeping you up to date on all of it.

Week One has plenty to offer.

PLAYERS SiGNINGS

The Hartford Wolf Pack team makeover for 2017-18 is clearly underway.

The first two off season signings were on defense.

The latest is from the collegiate ranks in right-handed shooting rearguard, Neal Pionk. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: FUTURE LOOKING BRIGHT FOR LETTIERI

CANTLON’S CORNER: FUTURE LOOKING BRIGHT FOR LETTIERI

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT Hockey and sports have always been a huge part of Vinni Lettieri’s life.

Lettieri took the first steps towards becoming a professional athlete when he signed an Amateur Try-Out (ATO) deal to play for the Hartford Wolf Pack for the last nine games of the regular season after the elimination of his college team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, in the NCAA Regionals.

Lettieri played on several different combinations in Hartford including an extended stay with winger Chris Brown.

“It’s a great experience coming here to start to get a taste of pro hockey,” Lettieri said. “I have gone to several player development camps (two with the Rangers and one with Nashville), but this is my first real action. A guy like Brownie is a big body and gets the puck out of the corner. He has been helpful to remember the full cycle in the offensive zone. Sometimes coming out of college you get to a half cycle. There’s always something to learn.”

Shooting the puck has been his main strength. While he did not get that first pro goal, he did show a knack and fearlessness about putting the puck on net. Continue reading

CANTLON: WOLF PACK WRAP UP DAY

Wolf Pack Wrap Up Day

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – The XL Center arena was dark. The ice is gone. Almost no equipment remains in the locker room as the picture was that of a 2016-17  AHL season Hartford Wolf Pack clearly over. While it may be over for the players, for the off ice staff was still at work with their season-ending multiple tasks.

The only news of the day was that the New York Rangers will not be recalling as many players for the playoffs as there have in the past to be a part of the Black Aces squad. The Rangers are ready for a crucial Game 4 in their Best-of-Seven series with the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers find themselves down two games to none. Magnus Hellberg, who was recalled earlier in the week was on the bench in the place on Antti Raanta. Hellberg may remain the only recall, but that remains undetermined.

“The list is truly not finalized as of yet. There are several contractual and other matters that need to be ironed out, but I can say there will be very few players going to New York,” Head Coach Ken Gernander said. Continue reading