Getting Drafted…and Qualified…

Finally getting a chance to get an update in, long weekend for me after my first Yankee game of the year (planning on an entry about it this week) and work/family related stuff. But on to some updates:

Friday night and Saturday came the annual NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota. On Friday night, with the 4th pick, the Devils selected Swede defenseman Adam Larsson. The 18-year-old spent the last 3 seasons playing for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League, recording 1 goal and 8 assists in 37 games. He also represented Sweden in the last 2 World Junior Championships.

Saturday the Devils chose 5 more players in the draft:
-3rd Round: Blake Coleman, center, Indiana Ice (USHL). League’s leading scorer with 92 points (34 G, 58 A), named Player of the Year. The Texas native will be attending Miami (OH) in the fall.

-4th Round: Reid Boucher, forward, U.S. Development Team. 20 points in 24 games (14 G, 6 A). Michigan native will begin at Michigan State starting in 2012-13.

-5th Round: Blake Pietila, left wing, U.S. Development Team. 4 goals and 5 assists in 24 games. Also a Michigan native, will be attending Michigan Tech in the fall.

-6th Round: Reece Scarlett, defenseman, Swift Current Broncos (WHL). Alberta native had 24 points (6 G, 18 A) in 72 games.

-7th Round: Patrick Daly, defenseman, Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School (MN). 40 points (3 G, 37 A) in only 27 games. Will be attending Wisconsin in the fall.

Usually I don’t pay too much attention to the draft, because most of the time these players won’t be here right away. In this case, all but 2 are just starting in college, which means they’re about 3-4 seasons away from even signing. Larsson may get a chance to crack the New Jersey lineup in training camp if he signs this summer, maybe even make an appearance in Albany. We’ll just have to see about that.

Today was the deadline for NHL teams to tender a qualifying offer to their restricted free agents for next season. Out of the 11 restricted free agents on the current roster, 9 were given qualifying offers: Matt Corrente, Mark Fraser, Jeff Frazee, recent acquisition Maxim Noreau, Nathan Perkovich, Matt Taormina, Alex Vasyunov (despite signing with the KHL), Steven Zalewski, and Vladimir Zharkov. The 2 that weren’t? Defenseman Anssi Salmela (making him an unrestricted free agent) and Zach Parise (who is already scheduled for arbitration; this does not make him unrestricted). Friday the real fun begins with the start of free agency. I hope to release my 10-11 Devil player tracker at some point that day once I see all the names.

In league news, the affiliation silly season is in full effect, with 4 teams switching parent clubs. Chicago switched from Atlanta (oops…now Winnipeg) to Vancouver after the Canucks’ former affiliate Manitoba moved to St. John’s and signed on with the newly minted Winnipeg Jets. The Buffalo Sabres officially bought the Rochester Americans franchise on Friday, reuniting the Sabres and Amerks after being apart for the last 3 seasons (sounds familiar…hmmm…). Rochester’s former parent club, Florida, is expected to team up with the San Antonio Rampage after its parent club, Phoenix, signed on with Portland (Buffalo’s former affiliate). Got all that?

Now we just sit back and wait for schedule hints. Anything to hold us over till the actual schedule arrives in August…


A Little Wednesday Afternoon Reading…

The summer solstice has arrived and I’m in full baseball mode at the moment. My local team the Valleycats has started off at 2-3 but starting to show some promise. And my first Yankee Stadium visit of the season comes on Sunday, I will be at the Old Timers Day game and Yankees-Rockies (may have something up on that next week). In the meantime here’s a few stories I’ve come across to get you through to the draft and the start of free agency next week:

One of my go to sources for Devils transactions and other news is a blog out of the Bergen (N.J.) Record, Fire and Ice. There you will find the two Devils news stories of the day, the re-signing of defenseman Jay Leach to a 1 year deal (he was due to be an unrestricted free agent) and restricted free agent forward Alex Vasyunov’s decision to return to his native Russia to play in the KHL next season. Scroll down more for some possible draft pick previews.

Wilkes-Barre beat writer Jonathan Bombulie compiled a list of the top 50 AHL free agents (which turned into a list of 192) available. Some interesting names up for grabs this offseason.

The best time waster hockey wise right now? Have to love the NHL Players as Kids page on Tumblr. Baby Zach Boychuk? Classic.

A story out of New York Magazine that came across my Twitter feed the other day, about the most infamous swap in Yankees history. And it wasn’t on the field.

I’m hoping to release a player tracker entry at the start of the free agency period. I tried to get as many contracts listed as possible, but as everyone knows trying to get info out of the Devils brass is like pulling teeth, lots of Googling and going through different sites just to find what I needed. The plan is to hopefully send out an updated list once a month during the offseason months as to who’s coming and going. So stay tuned for that…and some other summer reviews as we need something to fill the void before the fall.

Going Southwest

Another week, another A-Devil hits the road. This time, it’s via a AHL trade, and one I didn’t exactly see coming. New Jersey has acquired defenseman Maxim Noreau from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward David McIntyre.

Noreau is coming off a very good season for Houston, scoring 54 points (10 G, 44 A) in 76 games, 3rd on the Aeros. He also made 5 appearances for Minnesota, going scoreless. He appeared in the AHL All Star Classic in Hershey (for the Western Conference) and appeared in 24 games during Houston’s run to the Calder Cup finals, scoring twice. From what I’ve read he is an offensive minded defenseman, something that is sorely needed here. With him and the signing of Brandon Burlon, hopefully this matter has been addressed for next season.

McIntyre just completed his first full AHL season after playing at Colgate for four years (plus a brief visit in Lowell at the end of the season). He scored 12 goals in 78 games and was a very solid two way player. He will most certainly be missed on and off the ice here.

So does this mean Albany is opening for business like their East Division counterparts? Hershey and Wilkes-Barre are already starting to lock in key parts, and it’s only mid-June. The NHL draft comes next weekend, and a week later free agency will begin. Plus we’re still working out the affiliation silly season. There may be no more on ice action till mid September, but the fun just appears to be beginning…

Sensational Calder Cup Wrapup (UPDATE)

(note: Originally published Wednesday afternoon, but a few more events happened after sending…so I’m adding to it a little.)

On Tuesday night the 75th American Hockey League season came to a close…with the crowning of a new and unexpected champion. Of all the teams in the East Division, who ever would have guessed that the fifth place team, who had to cross over to the Atlantic Division just to be eligible for the playoffs, would be the last one standing. Congrats go out to the Binghamton Senators, who dispatched the Western Conference champ Houston Aeros 3-2 in Game 6 in Texas to clinch the first ever hockey championship for the city of Binghamton (I believe it’s a 38 year run for the city). Goaltender Robin Lehner (who has his own “fan club” in Adirondack) was named the playoffs MVP and well deserved, he came up big when he needed to.

I also want to send my congrats to the many friends I have in Bingo: Kate the B-Sens media relations director (and the voice behind @B_SensHockey on Twitter), who I’ve known for about 10 years now; Joy the B-Sens beat writer for the Press & Sun Bulletin (not bad for your first year on the job eh?), who I got to know during the course of the season; Owen, former Rats broadcaster and part time color commentator for home games (worst mistake the Rats…and then the Phantoms…made was letting him go as team broadcaster), and my friends in Section 16 (even though Nate cheered for the other team most of the time…and picked on me about an alleged crush on a linesman…long story). I’m kind of hoping their first home game when they raise the championship banner is against Hershey. Just because…

I got a chance to see some video and photo from the parade in Bingo after the team returned home on Wednesday. Great idea to first visit assistant coach Steve Stirling in the hospital with the trophy in hand (coach Stirling underwent emergency bypass surgery on Sunday, a day after a Game 5 victory by the B-Sens, and was unable to make the trip to Houston for the clincher) and their custom puck board representing all 16 playoff wins. Then it was parade and rally time downtown by the arena. For some reason the song “Hot in Here” by Nelly comes to mind…sorry female moment.

Other hockey news this week:

-The Devils officially announced last week the signing of D Brandon Burlon from the University of Michigan to an entry level deal. Official release can be found here.

-In a move that I can only describe as “HUH?” our beloved turt…enforcer Louis Robitaille has called it quits as a player to become a junior head coach. See my earlier entry for a sort of tribute.

-Just this morning the AHL announced that the Manitoba Moose have been relocated to St. John’s NFLD for next season, they will be affiliated with the new Winnipeg Thrashers (we’ll call them that for now till the real name is announced). Thus begins what some writers call “silly season,” when the merry go round of affiliations between the NHL and AHL begin. Thank God I don’t have to worry about that…one advantage of the parent club owning its AHL (and ECHL) affiliate. Right now Vancouver and Chicago do not have partners, and there’s a rumor of the new Sabres ownership wanting to buy Rochester and reuniting those two teams, leaving Florida and Portland to find new affiliations (if it did come to fruition…but it’s all speculation).

Now we just sit back and wait for the Stanley Cup to be decided on…then less than a month away to free agency. And it’s only 119 days till AHL Opening Night, but who’s counting?

Tortue d’entraîneur

(if you’re not fluent in French like I am, and you want to know what my title means, there’s a wonderful site called Babelfish on Yahoo. Look it up.)

Last night an unexpected piece of news came across my Twitter feed. Louis Robitaille has decided to retire and has accepted a new position as a head coach for the Valleyfield Braves, a team in the QJAAAHL. It’s a Junior A league based in Quebec, a level below the QMJHL. Per the team’s press release that was all French (via Babelfish), “Louis will be a trainer demanding and rigorous just like the hockey player who he was, he will direct his team efficiently and constant.” If you say so.

Robitaille ends an 8 year pro career that saw him start out in the old United Hockey League, but he spent most of his time in the AHL with Portland, Hershey, Lowell and Albany, with a 1 year hiatus split between Italy and the LNAH in Quebec. He won a Calder Cup with the Bears during the 2005-06 season, along with making his only NHL appearance, 2 games with the Capitals. His final numbers: 24 goals, 53 assists, and 1,759 penalty minutes (AHL stats); no points and 5 penalty minutes with Washington (NHL stats).

Of course, he will mostly be remembered as being the “Roboturtle,” one of the biggest pains in the you-know-where the AHL has seen. Like everyone else, I too shared that opinion, especially after the one game in Albany, while a member of the Bears, he literally crawled on his hands and knees away from a fight with Trevor Gillies. Then as a result of the Devils move from Lowell, he came to Albany, and my first thought was “I have to be nice to him?” At his first Albany appearance (the preseason Fanfest that I could not attend due to work) a friend of mine went right over to Louis and basically called him out for being a turtle. He laughed and admitted that yes he can be one. He knows he’s a pest, he knows what everyone thinks of him, and he embraces the role. He actually became quite a fan favorite during his one season in Albany, always laughing and joking around with everyone at autograph sessions and meet and greets off the ice. And yes the occasional fights he actually did finish off helped (even the ones he clearly pulled a turtle move…and yes there were a few of those). And there were always the 1 or 2 fans in every road arena that would purposely sit by the visiting team entrance just to take verbal shots at him…and he’d always return the favor.

Not only did I get to know him as a player, I also saw him as a person, namely a dad. His 3 year old son Kayden is his world off the ice. Whenever Kayden was visiting, you’d always see him running around the arena with his little Robitaille Devils jersey and his hockey stick. He took him everywhere…on the ice at the Holiday Skate, the Booster Club Bowlathon, and the only extra guest at the Awards Banquet.

Bonne Chance, Louis. Hopefully this career move is a good one for you. Now anyone want to take bets on how soon into his first season he gets tossed for arguing with a ref?