BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
Hartford, CT – For Hartford Wolf Pack fans, the excitement is beginning to rise as the season is getting closer by the day.
WOLF PACK SIGNING
The Pack made another signing mid-week inking forward Matt Carey to a contract for the ’16 – ‘17 season.
Carey led the Quad City Mallards (ECHL) with 25 goals and 47 points in 49 games. He also spent 21 games with the Iowa Wild (AHL) garnering two goals and four points for what turned out to be the AHL’s worst team last season.
He played with the Rockford IceHogs the previous season and left St. Lawrence (ECACHL) after just one college season where he compiled 37 points in 38 games. Carey scored his first NHL goal in his second game with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Carey is a 6’0, 190lb. winger who played Junior A hockey in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario (OJHL). He is also the younger brother of Greg Carey, who played with the Springfield Falcons last season. The elder Carey has signed to play with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for this coming season.
The New York Rangers formally announced the signing of BU forward and defenseman, Ahti Oksanen, to an AHL deal. Cantlon’s Corner reported this signing back in June.
ON THE MOVE
Former Pack forward Nick Tarnasky has signed with the San Diego Gulls. Tarnasky moves into the slot vacated by Brian McGrattan, who signed with Nottingham (England-EIHL). Former Wolf Pack and Ranger, Stu Bickel, and former Yale player, Antoine Langaniere, re-signed with San Diego for another year.
Tarnasky represents the 12th player from last season’s Hartford roster to sign elsewhere. Just five players from that team have yet to be signed. They are Shawn O’Donnell, Tyler Brown, Chris McCarthy, Matt Lindblad and Brian Gibbons.
Joining McGrattan in heading to Europe is forward Matt Fraser who split last season between Rockford and the Manitoba Moose. Fraser is going to Rogle BK (Sweden-SHL) while goalie Joni Ortio, who played with the Stockton Thunder and had some time with the Calgary Flames, heads to Skelelftea AIK (Sweden-SHL).
The list of AHL to Euro players is up to 78. Now 28 of the 30 AHL teams have seen at least one player head overseas. To this point, only the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Ontario Reign have not seen any roster players head across the pond.
The new Laval team, scheduled to launch in the AHL next fall when the Montreal Canadiens move their farm team there from St. John’s in the soon to be completed, Place Bell Centre, now has a name. 51 percent of those responding to the, “Name The Team” contest selected, “Rocket” over Patriotes and Rapides (French spelling). The name of course, honors Montreal Canadians great, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, who was the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games in NHL history.
The team name “Rocket” has been used once before when it was the name of a QMJHL franchise that played out of the Maurice Richard Arena (which is now used for speed and figure skating) and the Bell Centre from 1999-2003. The team was sold and moved to Charlottetown, PEI and retained the name, Rocket, until last year when the team was renamed, “The Charlottetown Islanders.”
Former Wolf Pack Vinny Saponari, who played most of the last year with the Pack’s ECHL affiliate, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and who had three AHL recalls for a total of 18 games, was released in training camp by KHL Dynamo Riga, but has signed with Frisk Asker (Norway-NEL).
Samuel Noreau, an ex-Pack who played for three ECHL teams last season including Greenville, was cut loose by the Rangers and signed with the Missouri Mavericks (ECHL).
Former Bridgeport Sound Tiger, Lukas Sutter, the son of Rich Sutter from the NHL’s legendary Sutter clan, after a sitting out a year playing senior hockey with the Prairie Outlaw of the Fort Carlton Senior Hockey League (FCHL), suits up in Canadian collegiate hockey with the University of Sasketchewan Huskies (CWUAA) this season.
MANNY CALLS IT A CAREER
Ex-Pack and Ranger, Manny Malhotra, is now officially retired. Incredibly, Malhotra played in 991 NHL games tallying 295 points. Malhotra was a number one pick for the Rangers, 7th overall in 1998. It seems like just yesterday that he was at Wolf Pack practice when it was held at Avon Old Farms Jennings-Fairchild Arena.
Malhotra never became the type of player the Rangers hoped he would be. He was an example of drafting a talented player and heaping unrealistic expectations and projections on his skill set and assets. It was also an example of too much over-handling in a player’s development. He was really a solid second round pick, but his leadership skills remained intact throughout his playing career and was a mentor to the younger players the past few years.
He never became the big scorer the Rangers envisioned he would be. Under the Ranger GM at the time, Neil Smith, the organization could never make up its mind about him and that caused many problems.
At the end of training camp in 2000, Malhotra was told he was being switched from a center, where had played all camp, to left wing – With no notice! Malhotra was genuinely peeved.
Malhotra would evolve into one of the best checking and best faceoff centers in the NHL, let alone in New York. He led the NHL in face-off percentage in 2009-10 with a 61.4% ratio while with the Vancouver Canucks and despite suffering a near career-ending injury, he played in the Stanley Cup final for a Canucks team that went on to lose to the Boston Bruins in seven.
His eventual departure from Vancouver didn’t go well either. He still played in the NHL with both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Columbus Blue Jackets and ended his career playing for the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL) last season before being released on March 1st. He didn’t get to play for the eventual Calder Cup champions. Malhotra played in 71 AHL games in his career and scored 10 goals and 23 points overall.
He won his only championship in 2000 as a member of the Calder Cup Champion Wolf Pack. Malhotra played in all 23 playoff games that year but in his career only played 40 regular season games with the Pack. He registered 17 points on six goals and 11 assists. Malhotra also won a bronze medal with Team Canada that same year at the World Junior Championships.
Malhotra junior career was in Guelph (OHL) where he went to the Memorial Cup final in 1998, but he and his teammates failed to win a title. Despite that disappointment, Malhotra was named to the All-Tournament team with the likes of Marian Hossa and former Pack tough guy, Frankie Lessard.
After 206 games with the Rangers where he registered just 19 goals and 41 points, Malhotra was traded to Dallas along with ex-Pack Barrett Heitsten for Martin Rucinsky, and the late Roman Lyashenko.
While in juniors, Malhotra was selected number one and 17th overall by Guelph where he was coached by the Wolf Pack’s first head coach, the late E.J. McGuire during his first year. Malhotra was named the OHL Scholastic Player of the Year (Bobby Smith Award) in his second season.
Malhotra, who is of Pakistani descent, grew up in Toronto was one of the first Eurasian players to ever play in the NHL. A player following in Malhtora’s footsteps as a second generation player of sorts will skate for the Rangers this upcoming season. Mika Zibanejad is an Iranian-Swede who was born and raised in Sweden.
Malhotra was a consummate pro who was among the most thoughtful and truly articulate interviewees in the Wolf Pack’s twenty-year history.
He will make Vancouver his post-career home, but won’t be totally out of hockey. According to the Vancouver Province newspaper, Malhotra is expected to be taking a coaching position with the Canucks for the upcoming season.
If this happens, it’s possible that Malhotra would be used as a skill development coach this coming season and could be on the bench as an Assistant Coach in the 2017-18 season for the Canucks AHL affiliate in Vancouver.
OLYMPIC HOCKEY NOW SET
Norway, Slovenia, and Germany will fill out the last three Olympic spots for the 2018 Pyeongchang, South Korea Games as all three countries won the qualifying pools last weekend.
Group F saw Norway, paced by ex-Pack and current Ranger, Mats Zuccarello, beat France 2-1 in order to advance. Zuccarello, who was the top scorer for all players with five points, scored the equalizer just 5:10 after the French took the lead. They were the only host nation to win their pool.
The Germans knocked off the host Latvians 3-2 as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ Thomas Kuhnhackl scored a powerplay goal with 5:09 left in regulation to advance. The Germans, along with Norway, will be in Pool C at the Olympics.
Slovenia beat Belarus 3-2 winning Group D in penalty shot style.
Denmark, one of the tournament favorites to win Group D after a strong World Championship showing in April, didn’t win a game until their final one last Sunday placing third in the Group D pool.
Current Wolf Pack Nicklas Jensen paced a 5-2 win over Poland with three primary assists and four shots on goal. Ex-Sound Tiger Franz Nielsen had three assists for the Dames in the tournament.
Mike Cichy, the New Hartford, CT native, had one assist (primary) a backhand pass on a goal by Kamil Kalinowski for the Polish team.
DRURY NEW ASSISTANT GM
Trumbull, CT native Chris Drury has always been successful and has taken another step up the ladder in the Rangers organization. He’s done so with the same speed he had as a player coming out of Boston University.
Drury was named the team’s new assistant GM where he will gain one of the portfolios Jim Schoenfeld has held along with being the GM in Hartford. This could be a signaling of the changing of the guard in the Rangers’ organization that has been whispered about since Glen Sather stepped down as Rangers GM a year and a half ago.
Drury’s work with the young forwards of the Wolf Pack paid dividends last spring with the revitalized team having a strong second half. The team would fall short though of their goal of making the playoffs. Drury spent time with Nicklas Jensen, Marek Hrivik and the now departed Jayson Megna in developing their down low games.
Drury’s career highlights professionally are highly impressive. After being drafted in Hartford in 1993 by the Quebec Nordiques (nee Colorado Avalanche), he would shine in a 12-year NHL career. Drury skated in 892 games with the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres, and the Rangers. He registered 255 goals and 360 assists for 615 points and added 468 penalty minutes. Drury captured the Stanley Cup as a member of the Avalanche in 2000-01 when he ranked second in the NHL with 11 goals in 23 games during that team’s playoff run.
In 1998-99, Drury received the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year after registering 20 goals and 24 assists for 44 points with Colorado. Drury recorded at least 20 goals in nine different seasons in his career and recorded at least 50 points in eight different seasons.
In addition, Drury’s team reached the playoffs in nine of his 12 seasons in the NHL and advanced to the Conference Finals on six occasions. In 135 career NHL playoff games, Drury tallied 47 goals and 42 assists for 89 points, along with a plus-24 rating and 46 penalty minutes. Over his 12 NHL seasons (1998 – 2011), Drury led the league in playoff game-winning goals (17), ranked second in playoff overtime goals (four), ranked fourth in playoff goals, and ranked ninth in playoff games played.
Drury played four seasons with the Rangers (2007-2011) after signing with the team as a free agent on July 1, 2007. In addition, Drury served as the Rangers captain for three seasons (2008-09 – 2010-11) as the 25th captain in franchise history – as well as the second American-born captain in franchise history – on October 3, 2008. In 264 regular season games with the Blueshirts, Drury recorded 62 goals and 89 assists for 151 points, along with 116 penalty minutes. Over his first three seasons with the Rangers, Drury led the team in goals (61) and points (146), ranked second in assists (85), and tied for second in game-winning goals (10). In addition, the Rangers made the playoffs three times during Drury’s four seasons with the team.
Prior to joining the NHL, Drury completed one of the most impressive collegiate hockey careers in NCAA history.
Over four seasons at Boston University Terriers (1994-1998), Drury tallied 113 goals and 101 assists for 214 points in 155 games. During his collegiate career, the Terriers captured the National Championship in 1994-95, appeared in the National Championship Game twice (1994-95, 1996-97), and appeared in the Frozen Four three times (1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97).
Drury was selected as a First Team All-American on two occasions (1996-97, 1997-98), a Hobey Baker Finalist as the Top Player in College Hockey on three occasions (1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98), and he became the first Terrier to receive the Hobey Baker Award in 1997-98. Drury is Boston University’s all-time leader in goals and ranks third on the school’s all-time points list.
Internationally, Drury represented the United States in numerous tournaments and earned several medals. He participated in three consecutive Winter Olympics (2002, 2006, 2010), capturing a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. Drury was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.
Drury started his illustrious career at Fairfield Prep High school in Fairfield winning a state title his sophomore year beating an unbeaten and untied Hamden team 3-1 at the Hartford Civic Center (nee XL Center) and appeared in one other final against Greenwich which they lost. His number 18 which he and his older brother Ted, an ex-Hartford Whaler wore, is retired and a banner hangs to honor him in the corner of the Jesuits home rink, Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport.
A second generation Drury is following in their footsteps in his nephew Jack Drury’s (Ted’s oldest son) who’s playing this season for Waterloo (USHL) and is an early college commit to Ted’s alma mater, Harvard University.
*Portions of a Rangers press release was used in this segment