It’s been a while, NHL hockey’s still gone, but that isn’t stopping news from breaking around the sport. Here, I’ll do my best to cover news from around the hockey world. After a long break, here’s today’s new and improved Hockey Update.
Labour Disputes/Season Start
It looks as if the tension between the NHL and NHLPA has calmed. Frank Seravalli of TSN reports that the two sides are working towards a potential start date, seemingly moving from their original plan of starting the season on January 1st to beginning the season closer to mid-January.
Cajkovic Released from WJC’s Team Slovakia
In a surprising turn of events, Lightning prospect Maxim Cajkovic has been released from Slovakia’s World Junior Championship team. However, it’s not because of lack of talent or poor play. The press release described the move to be due to a “gross violation of sports and human values”. Matej Deraj of Dennik Sport further explained that Cajkovic had delivered a number of dirty hits during an intrasquad game for Team Slovakia. While there aren’t clips available of the incident, as the game wasn’t streamed, it’s safe to assume that the plays were severe enough that management thought the divide would be too large to keep Cajkovic on the team.
Cajkovic was a bright spot on last year’s Slovak WJC team. His stellar QMJHL play and his 9 points in 12 games in the ICE Hockey League showed that he might’ve been a larger part of the team. He is not eligible for the 2021 tournament, as he’ll be over 20 by then.
NWHL Set to Start
If you’re itching for top-level North American hockey, look no further! The National Women’s Hockey League, or the NWHL, is set to begin a condensed season at Lake Placid. They’re set to begin a 5-game season on January 23rd, followed by the playoffs and the Finals, which will take place on February 5th.
Michael Russo of The Athletic reports that Mats Zuccarello is projected to miss the beginning of the NHL season after going under surgery on his right arm this offseason, and could miss significant time depending on when the season starts.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen are not expected to be available to start the season. Tarasenko is recovering from shoulder surgery, and Alexander Steen is recovering from an undisclosed injury.
Whether it’s the pandemic taking its toll, the ongoing labour dispute between the NHL and NHLPA, or the general uncertainty around the season happening at all, it seems like nothing’s happening in terms of NHL moves at all. There are still moves to be made and there are still big-name UFAs waiting for a contract (Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Sami Vatanen, etc.), not to mention huge RFAs (Mat Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Anthony Cirelli, etc.) still negotiating. It’s a matter of when, not if.
AHL Penguins Sign Olson and Nolan
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins have signed former Anaheim Ducks draftee Kyle Olson to a one-year AHL deal and have assigned him to the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. Olson was drafted 122nd overall in 2017 by the Anaheim Ducks after a strong showing with the Tri-City Americans. However, a major knee injury proved to be a significant setback in his D+1 season, limiting him to just 36 games. He bounced back significantly in his D+2 year, with 70 points in 62 games as an alternate captain of the Americans. Even after that, the Ducks decided not to sign him, losing his rights. After accepting an ATO with the San Diego Gulls and impressing in camp with the Buffalo Sabres, Olson opted to return for one last year of junior hockey. A slow start with the Americans saw him get dealt to the Calgary Hitmen in exchange for James Maim, a 2020 2nd round pick, and a conditional 4th round pick (plus undisclosed compensation after Maim refused to report to Tri-City).
Olson signs this deal likely with the intention of climbing his way up to becoming an NHL prospect in the near future. Olson has been described as a high-energy two-way forward with great playmaking skill. His amazing work ethic allows him to overcome any disadvantages that come with his 5’11 frame.
Kyle Olson had originally committed to Mount Royal University, but it looks like he’ll pursue his NHL dream first.
The team also inked 2x Stanley Cup Champion Jordan Nolan for the 2020-21 season. After being drafted in the 7th round in 2009, Nolan beat the odds, carving his way onto the Kings roster in a bottom-six role. Nolan played parts of 6 seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, becoming a solid part of the roster that won two Stanley Cups, one in 2012 and one in 2014. In 2017, Nolan joined the Sabres, playing 69 games in a similar role before signing in St. Louis. With the Blues, the 31-year-old forward would have a lesser role, playing only 14 games in the NHL while shining offensively with San Antonio of the AHL. Nolan spent the last season captaining the San Antonio Rampage. He’ll provide a strong veteran presence for the youngsters in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton while chipping in offensively.
Kyle Olson Scouting Report from his Draft Year – The Hockey Writers
Kyle Olson trying to stick with Sabres after Ducks chose to not sign him – The Buffalo News
Swamp Rabbits Release Two
Adam Samuelsson was signed to an ATO (Amateur Tryout) just over a week ago from the time of writing, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that he’s been released. After being a surprising draft snub in 2017, it’s been a rocky road for Samuelsson. A tough seven games at Boston College ended in the 6’6 defenseman moving to Sioux City of the USHL. He spent the rest of the season and the first 10 games of the next season with the Musketeers before joining the Sudbury Wolves, who had kept his OHL rights after drafting him in 2016.
The son of 2x Stanley Cup Champion Ulf Samuelsson and brother of former NHLers Philip Samuelsson and Henrik Samuelsson, Adam’s route to the NHL seems a bit more unclear now. The Swamp Rabbits had signed him to an ATO just over a week ago, but with 10 defensemen under contract expected to show up to training camp already, it just wasn’t a fit.
The door is reportedly still open for Samuelsson to return as an overager in Sudbury, but with OHL training camps not set to start until January 23rd, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Nick Jermain is another surprising player for the Swamp Rabbits to let go of. The 24-year-old finished his NCAA career as the captain of Quinnipiac University with a career-high in goals and points and tied his career-high in assists. Jermain isn’t known as an offensive player, but he’s displayed some upside throughout his NCAA career. However, his strength lies in his all-around play. His defensive play and work ethic mean that he could likely jump right into the pros. However, Greenville seems to have decided that it’s not a fit, as they still have 17 forwards on their roster.
Rush Release Three
Gary Haden is someone who could be considered a late bloomer. He had a rough draft year, playing 37 games and only putting up 8 points. In his D+1 year, he found his footing, with 42 points in 70 games. However, a trade in his D+2 year launched him. The centre put up 62 points in 55 games on a team with the likes of Kirby Dach. In his overage season, he cooled down, but he still earned a deal from Rapid City. Haden is small at 5’10 but comes off as a skilled forward with a good shot and great playmaking skills. He could be a high potential player to take a chance on, but with 12 forwards on the roster, the Rush seem to have their lineup locked in.
Collin Saccoman is another interesting release. The 23-year-old had a nice NCAA career, finishing it off as captain of Lake Superior State University. The defenseman developed his offensive game at the university, but a rough senior year likely bumped his stock down. The Rush have 7 defensemen on their roster right now, I wouldn’t be shocked if this was a tough final cut.
Tanner Salsberry isn’t a shocking cut. The 25-year-old was signed to a tryout after three years with an NCAA Division 3 university, SUNY-Geneseo.
Airdrie’s Gary Haden keeps pro hockey options open after successful junior career – Discover Airdrie
Allen Releases Nell
The Allen Americans have released goaltender Chris Nell. After being signed by the New York Rangers following a solid NCAA career with Bowling Green State University, it’s been a rocky road for Nell. He’s shown glimpses of potential throughout his professional career, but between the AHL and ECHL, he just hasn’t had the numbers needed, with a sub-.900 SV% in both leagues. Nell has played with 7 teams in the last three years, with Allen projected to be his 8th stop. With a proven veteran in C.J. Motte and a rising young star in Zach Sawchenko, not to mention guys like Garret Sparks taking ECHL deals, it likely just didn’t make enough sense to keep Nell.
Icemen Sign Three To Tryouts
Eamon McAdam was drafted in the 3rd round in 2013 by the New York Islanders, but some may know him as the piece going to Toronto in the trade that sent Matt Martin to Long Island. He’s spent much of his professional career splitting time between the AHL and ECHL, winning the Kelly Cup with the Newfoundland Growlers in 2019. However, after a rough season in Adirondack, combined with the uncertainty around the season and a tough goalie market, McAdam will have to fight his way back up and earn an ECHL deal in camp.
Sean Bonar is definitely an interesting goalie. He’s had to work his way up from the SPHL on multiple occasions. However, after two very strong seasons with the Atlanta Gladiators, it seemed as if the 29-year-old had found his footing in the ECHL. Instead, he had a rough season, posting a .889 SV%. Jacksonville brings in Bonar hoping that he can bounce back and fight with McAdam for a spot, as well as challenge Bruins prospect Kyle Keyser.
Wheeling Brings in Two on Tryouts
Ben Freeman is a solid signing for Wheeling. The 24-year-old had a very solid NCAA with the University of Connecticut, captaining the team in his senior year. His career-high 28 points in 33 games led UConn in points. The 6’5 winger was originally inked on a standard deal with the Maine Mariners, but Maine, as well as the rest of the ECHL’s North Division, will not be playing this season, making Freeman a free agent. Freeman could be a very solid pickup for the Nailers if he performs in camp, he’s someone who could even work his way to the AHL with their affiliate, the WBS Penguins.
Hayden Hawkey is a nice pickup as well, and not just because of his elite name. After being drafted out of the USHL by the Montreal Canadiens in 2014, Hawkey went on to star with Providence College, putting up a .918 SV% in his 4-year college career. The Edmonton Oilers liked him enough that, after his junior season, they traded a 2019 5th rounder (Rhett Pitlick) in exchange for his rights. In the end, Hawkey didn’t sign with the Oilers, joining the Flames’ affiliate in Stockton for training camp, and later joining their affiliate in Kansas City after being cut. Whether it was injury or the inability to win a spot over prospects Tyler Parsons and Nick Schneider, Hawkey had a disastrous rookie season. He only appeared in three games, going winless with one of the worst SV% in the ECHL, a .843.
Everglades Sign Sills
The Florida Everglades have signed Connor Sills out of the University of Ottawa. In the OHL, the 6’4 winger carved a role for himself as an enforcer, amassing 28 fights in his junior career and spending 100 minutes in the penalty box in a season, twice. In university hockey, however, he’s found his offensive touch. His 11 goals in 28 games were good for 2nd on his team and were more than he’d scored in any season in the OHL or in previous seasons with the University of Ottawa. The 25-year-old will look to carry that offensive touch over to the pros, but the Everglades are also banking on his physicality to be a strength in the ECHL.
Thunder Sign Curran
The Wichita Thunder have signed John Curran for the 2020-21 ECHL season. After a solid NCAA career at Niagara University, Curran signed in England. With the Coventry Blaze, Curran did decently, scoring 26 points in 47 games. The Thunder will bank on the 25-year-old Curran to carry his offensive game to the ECHL. It’ll be a long road for the nephew of former NHLer Mark Botell, but he’ll be interesting to watch.
Mitchell Signs in Cherepovets
Former Minnesota Wild player Zack Mitchell has joined the Severstal Cherepovets of the KHL. After working his way up to the NHL as an undrafted prospect, Mitchell failed to make it full-time with the Wild, moving on to the Ontario Reign of the AHL before moving to Europe. His first season was a success, his 17 goals led Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk in scoring and his 26 points put him third on the team. He signed with Dinamo Riga in August, however, after a slow start, he’ll look to bounce back.
Collins Signs With Red Star
Former NHLer Sean Collins has signed with the Kunlun Red Star of the KHL. After a successful NCAA career, Collins joined the organization that drafted him in 2008, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Almost immediately, he became a key player for their AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. In his three seasons with the organization, he played 19 NHL games, scoring three points. He joined the Capitals organization for a season, playing a key role with their AHL affiliate, and appearing in two NHL games. The next season, he joined the Kunlun Red Star and starred there, his 26 points leading the team, and his goal and point total good for second on the team. After three years playing with HK Sochi, he’ll return to his first KHL team.
Murphy Moves to Ak Bars Kazan
Former Arizona Coyotes defenseman Trevor Murphy has been acquired by Ak Bars Kazan from the Kunlun Red Star in exchange for cash considerations. After taking a key role with the Nashville Predators’ affiliate in Milwaukee, Murphy was traded to Arizona along with Pierre-Cedric Labrie in exchange for Tyler Gaudet and John Ramage. After playing 8 NHL games in Arizona and starring for their affiliate in Tucson, Murphy was traded again the next season, this time to Anaheim in exchange for Giovanni Fiore. Last season, Murphy moved to the KHL, signing with the Kunlun Red Star. His 27 points in 60 games were good enough for Kunlun to give him a two-year extension. However, he’s had a rough start to the season, and Ak Bars Kazan is hoping that the 25-year-old offensive defenseman can bounce back.
DeFazio Signs in DEL
Former NHLer Brandon DeFazio has signed in the DEL with ERC Ingolstadt. After a solid NCAA career with Clarkson University, DeFazio worked his way up from the ECHL to become a solid contributor in the AHL, amassing 208 points in 435 games. He appeared in two games with the Vancouver Canucks during the 2014-15 season. After 6 seasons in the AHL, DeFazio moved to the KHL, where his 10 goals in 55 games were good for 3rd on the Kunlun Red Star. However, his offensive prowess shined the most in Finland. With Lukko, he scored 40 points in 59 games, good for 25th league-wide. The next season, he returned to Kunlun, but his 6 points in 47 games weren’t what both sides were expecting. He signed with HC Kometa Brno of the Czech league in November, but after 6 scoreless games, he’ll look to bounce back in Germany.
That’s all for today! Check back next time!
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