Hockey Update: 03/18/2020
It’s been a while, 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. Here’s my Hockey Update.
Senators Player Contracts COVID-19
An Ottawa Senators player has contracted COVID-19, the team confirmed late on Tuesday. This is big. The unidentified Senators player would become the first confirmed case of COVID-19 among NHL players. So far, the virus has infected players from the NBA, XFL, and MiLB.
There’s more to it too. James Mirtle and Hailey Salvian of The Athletic reported that there are multiple Sens players experiencing symptoms of the virus. The current belief is that they contracted it by sharing a locker room with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. They both played at the Staples Centre within a day of each other. The Nets have been hit hard by the virus, with stars like Kevin Durant contracting the virus.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Senators played the San Jose Sharks in a game AFTER the county recommended holding out on large events.
Chris Johnston reported that the Senators sent players down to “self-isolate” after the California trip. It looks like those players were Christian Jaros and Filip Gustavsson.
NHL Discussing Resuming Season
The NHL is still working out ways to resume the season. The latest proposal entails restarting training camp in July, finishing the rest of the season in late July-August, playoffs from August-September, Draft and Free Agency in October, and then the new season in November.
Obviously, there are a few glaring questions.
Does the 2020-21 season become shortened to get the seasons back on track?
Another one that’s sure to be mentioned is fatigue. Giving some players just a month off from play sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. It’s likely that will be one of the main sticking points with that argument.
Senators Will Pay Employees Amid COVID-19
The Ottawa Senators announced on Tuesday that they will pay their part-time employees for scheduled shifts that were cancelled due to COVID-19. Their statement says that Eugene Melnyk himself has personally pledged this. The Ottawa Senators’ part-time staff will be paid for scheduled shifts until the scheduled end of the NHL regular season. What sets the plan apart is their handling of the Belleville Senators part-time staff. The AHL Sens are 5th in the AHL, and would likely have made the playoffs. The team will pay staff for shifts scheduled for the rest of the regular season and round one of the AHL playoffs.
Malgin, Mueller Linked to NLA
The ZSC Lions are reportedly very interested in signing Denis Malgin and Mirco Mueller once their contracts expire this summer, per the Tages Anzeiger. Malgin is a familiar name for the Lions, he played 61 games with the big club before joining the Panthers organization. Mueller doesn’t have the same history, but they’re both Swiss players who Zurich apparently believes they can woo.
They did mention that how much they pursue the two depends on the status of three key players.
Caufield Will Stay In Wisconsin
Cole Caufield will stay in Wisconsin for the 2020-21 season, the Canadiens confirmed.
The Badgers had a season to forget, and have many key players leaving. However, GM Marc Bergevin said that the team would rather Caufield stay with the program. He also made it clear that it was a decision for Caufield to make.
Caufield has elected to stay with his brother Brock at Wisconsin, for at least another season.
Sean Dhooghe Enters NCAA Transfer Portal
Whereas Cole Caufield will stay with the Badgers, it looks like Sean Dhooghe will leave. The 5’3 winger had a down year in a season that disappointed many. As guys like K’Andre Miller and Alex Turcotte leave, it looks like Dhooghe will follow suit. The 21-year-old’s 14 points were a far cry from the 28 he scored in his sophomore season. It looks like he’ll elect to spend his senior year elsewhere. It remains to be seen if his older brother, Jason Dhooghe, follows suit.
Penguins Sign Lee
The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Cam Lee from Western Michigan University. Lee has had a successful NCAA career and capped off his senior campaign with 21 points in 26 games. The 23-year-old has been described as a smooth-skating, offensive-minded defenseman. The ELC will run through the 2021-22 season. He’s the second signing for the Penguins, who opened up the market by signing Drew O’Connor.
Bruins Sign Swayman, Wolff
The Boston Bruins signed goaltender Jeremy Swayman out of the University of Maine. Swayman had a very successful junior campaign, his .939 SV% tied him for 3rd league-wide. The Bruins picked him in 2017, 111th overall. They avoid letting Swayman go in free agency and lock him up on a 3-year ELC. He’ll likely start the year between the Providence Bruins of the AHL, and the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL.
They also landed Nick Wolff, out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Wolff, at 6’5, is a physical presence who can also put up offense from the blue line. The 23-year-old put up 18 points in his junior year and has never scored less than 10. The two-time NCAA champion was projected to be drafted in 2014 by some but went undrafted. Wolff captained his team during his senior year. He’ll look to make his mark with the Providence Bruins of the AHL during his one-year ELC.
Sabres Land Biro
The Buffalo Sabres landed Brandon Biro from Penn State University. Biro had a very successful NCAA career. The winger never scored less than 20 points and scored 40 points in his junior season. His senior year saw him take a step back offensively, but he earned the captaincy and led Penn State to the top of the Big Ten. Biro signed a 2-year ELC with the Sabres and will look to carry his offensive production over to the pros. He’ll likely start the season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL.
Pair of North Dakota Players Expected to Sign ELCs
Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported that University of North Dakota teammates/roommates Colton Poolman and Cole Smith will sign NHL deals very soon.
Colton Poolman, brother of Tucker (Winnipeg), had a very solid NCAA career in ND. He’s known as a very good two-way defenseman. His offense shined brightest during his sophomore season, as he put up 29 points in 40 games from the blue line. His defensive prowess is great as well, he’s been up for awards such as the NCHC’s Defensive Defenseman of the Year. He was also up for NCHC’s Player of the Year the same season. The 24-year-old captain of UND appears to have garnered a significant amount of interest, with Schlossman reporting that the Calgary Flames are frontrunners for the defenseman.
Cole Smith has been solid throughout his NCAA career as well. The forward has put up 10 points three times in four years and got to a career-high of 18 this year. Smith isn’t exactly known for his scoring, however. He won the Cliff “Fido” Purpur Award for showing hard work, determination and being a creator of excitement on the ice. He was named an alternate/co-captain this season and won UND’s “Iron Man competition” for the 3rd time in 4 years. The competition is based on fitness testing. There are no known frontrunners yet, but it’s clear that there is NHL interest.
CHL, USHL Cancel Seasons
The CHL (OHL, QMJHL, WHL) and the USHL have cancelled their regular seasons. The ECHL did the same, and it makes sense. The pros of resuming the season don’t outweigh the cons. Each league’s playoffs and the Memorial Cup are still on the table it seems, that remains to be seen.
KHL, VHL, MHL Postpone Playoffs
Russia’s top leagues have postponed their playoffs, in order to plan their respective playoffs amid COVID-19. This comes after multiple teams pulled out of their respective playoffs.
Tuukka Mäntylä Retires
Former LA Kings draftee Tuukka Mäntylä has retired at 38.
Adler Mannheim Release 3
Adler Mannheim of the DEL announced that they released three players due to new signings. Johan Gustafsson was a former Minnesota Wild draftee in 2010 and appeared with their AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild. He put up a .888 SV% as their 1B. Brent Raedeke spent time with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL before moving to Germany but hasn’t found the offensive touch he had earlier in his time there. Mirko Pantkowski is a young prospect in their system at 21 but has only appeared in 4 games with the club. However, he starred for Germany in the 2016 and 2017 WJC D1A.
Kölner Haie Release Kindl, 6 Others
DEL club Kölner Haie has released seven players, including NHL veteran Jakub Kindl.
Kindl was a former 1st round pick for the Detroit Red Wings in 2005. He split 334 NHL games between the Red Wings and Florida Panthers, putting up 74 points. The defenseman spent his first season in the DEL with the team last season and put up 10 points in 48 games. The 33-year-old will likely return to the Czech league, where he spent the two prior seasons with.
They also released Colin Smith. Smith was picked 192nd overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2012. The 26-year-old did well in the AHL, where he put up 203 points in 338 games. He split time in the Leafs and Avalanche system, the latter saw him appear in an NHL game. Smith has spent the last two seasons in Germany but wasn’t able to produce as much as he had the season prior.
Another notable NHL alumni released? Former 30-point scorer Justin Fontaine. Fontaine spent 3 seasons with the Wild, scoring 68 points in 197 games. He was also a very productive AHLer, with 152 points in 202 games. Fontaine spent the last two seasons in the KHL, before joining the DEL mid-January. He put up 5 points in 8 games.
Other memorable names released are Colby Genoway, Taylor Aronson, Gustaf Wesslau, and Jason Bast, who all spent a significant amount of time in the AHL or ECHL.
It’s important to note that some of these players asked to be released, it’s assumed that Wesslau is one of them.
Olivier Latendresse Retires
Former Coyotes prospect and EBEL/ECHL star Olivier Latendresse has retired at 34.
Former Canadiens’ top prospect Zach Fucale has been released by the EHC München. Fucale spent most of the season with the Orlando Solar Bears, where he excelled, with a .928 SV%. Fucale left for EHC München in February but didn’t appear in a single game.
In a surprising move, former NHLer Andrew Ebbett was released by the NLA’s SC Bern. Ebbett has been a top player with the club for 5 seasons. He finished 3rd in team scoring this season. The team cites that mutually agreed on requirements were not met. It’s also mentioned that more details will be revealed in their team magazine.
Després, 3 Others, Released
Simon Despres and 3 others will not return to their SHL squads next season. Després was able to overcome concussion issues to join the KHL in 2017. In 2018, he split time between the Laval Rocket and a DEL club. 2019 saw the former 1st round pick play 41 games in the SHL, where he tied for 3rd most points on the team. The veteran of 193 games could make his return to North America soon enough.
Another notable release for the club was Mathew Bodie. Bodie starred for the Hartford Wolf Pack, carrying the C for two seasons. He played in the KHL, where he did well, and then signed with the Växjö Lakers HC. He was only able to put up 3 points in 17 games and was moved to IK Oskarshamn, where he put up 10 points in 27 games.
I think that’s it! Let me know if I missed anything!
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