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Friday, June 30, 2006

Former Sioux Kallay leaves Tech

Ian Kallay, a former UND player, resigned as a Michigan Tech assistant coach Friday to pursue private business interests.

Kallay had served at Michigan Tech for three seasons.

"It was a very hard decision for my wife and I to leave Michigan Tech," Kallay said. "A business opportunity has presented itself that we couldn't turn down. I have enjoyed my time here and value the relationships I have made along the way."

Head coach Jamie Russell said Kallay will be missed.

"The goal of every coach is to leave a program better than when they arrived," he said. "And Ian certainly accomplished that here. Not only was he a very good coach, but his work on the recruiting trail was crucial for the future success of this program.

"Although we are sad to lose an outstanding coach like Ian, we know that he is doing something outside of hockey that will provide the best future for him and his family."

Kallay, a Whitecourt, Alta., native, played at UND from 1995-97. He averaged more than a point per game, scoring 39 goals and adding 45 assists in 76 games.

A national search to fill the Michigan Tech coaching vacancy is underway.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Swimming with the Cup

Since I haven't gotten a response from Carolina, I sent an e-mail to the NHL Hall of Fame to see if they have a schedule of the Stanley Cup's planned travels.

I've heard a few rumors about what Mike Commodore may do with the Cup. Hopefully I can get a good answer soon.

On Sunday, Commodore and Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour apparently went swimming with the Cup in the Campbell River.

Interesting to say the least...

Three questions with the Panthers

Just before leaving the NHL draft at General Motors Place on Saturday, I caught Florida Panthers scouting director Scott Luce for three quick questions. The Panthers traded up to select UND recruit Derrick LaPoint in the fourth round, 116th overall. LaPoint, a defenseman from Eau Claire, Wis., will play in the USHL this year and join the Sioux in 2007-08.

Talk about your decision to draft Derrick LaPoint in the fourth round.
Luce: Derrick LaPoint is a guy who came out of nowhere this season. A couple of our scouts saw him in early October and they liked him enough to call me out there right away -- just to make sure that he was what they thought. When I saw him, I said "Guys, this guy is a pretty special kid. Lets try to keep him under the wraps. Don't be talking about him." But he was such a dominant player at his level that eventually Minnesota scouts started going over to Wisconsin to watch him. By the end of the year, you knew he was going to be a draft pick. He was invited to the combine, which means he was a prospect of interest for more than one team.

What do you like about him?
Luce: He's big, athletic, and he skates very well. He's got a lot of natural hockey instincts that you can easily see when he's playing compared to the level he's playing against. He's got a lot of upside. He's a very athletic young man.

Are you surprised he dropped to you in the fourth?
Luce: We were definitely surprised. That's why we made the trade to move up and get him. We thought he'd be a third, maybe an early fourth. When he started to go a little bit longer in the fourth, we made the move.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Wisconsin's Likens arrested

Wisconsin soon-to-be senior defenseman Jeff Likens was arrested over the weekend and cited for disorderly conduct and underage drinking.

According to news outlets in Wisconsin, the 20-year-old Likens crashed into a family's tent at a Country Fest campground and did not cooperate with authorities.

Badger coach Mike Eaves told the Wisconsin State Journal that Likens would face consequences, but those are undecided at this time. UND plays against the defending national champion Badgers on the second weekend of the season.

Likens was an assistant captain for Wisconsin last season. He scored one goal and added 15 assists in 41 games.

If you want to read more on the case, go here, here, and here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

THN gives draft grades

The Hockey News dished out draft report cards for all 30 NHL teams today.

The magazine's analysts had good things to say about Chicago selecting UND's Jonathan Toews No. 3 overall and Atlanta grabbing recruit Michael Forney in the third.

"Toews is virtually a lock to make the NHL one day, and become a star," the report reads. "He has all the tools -- offense, defense, leadership, and there is even room to add some bulk to his 6-1 frame. In Toews, the Blackhawks know for certain that a great player is on the way, unlike most draft picks where there are some question marks."

On Atlanta taking Forney in the third, the analysts say, "Michael Forney at 80th is an absolute steal -- oodles of offensive potential, but he has yet to be truly tested. Watching him in the NCAA should be interesting."

Florida's report card does not mention Sioux recruit Derrick LaPoint and Calgary's doesn't say anything about Warroad's Aaron Marvin.

If you want to read the complete report, check it out here.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

From Chicago GM Dale Tallon

After the fifth round, Chicago GM Dale Tallon chatted with a couple of reporters about Jonathan Toews. Here's what he had to say:

What do you like about Toews?
Tallon: He's got everything it takes to play the game with the new rules. He competes like hell. And he's got excellent skills. He's got a wonderful personality and a great attitude.

Did you know that he was the player you were going to be taking?
Tallon: We knew we were going to get a good player. We were hopeful that we would get someone like him -- a complete player. At the end of the year, we saw him quite a bit -- at the Frozen Four, the Final Five, and the regional. He was really good and he got better, and better, and better. The World Junior was a tough tournament for him, because it's a 19-year-old tournament and he was only 17. But as the season went on, he got stronger and stronger. And I like the fact that he makes no mistakes. He plays error-free hockey. He's good in his own end, he's good in the other end, he competes and he's a winner.

Is the offensive part of his game underrated?
Tallon: Yes. He's got good moves and he's got good skill. He's a complete player, which is hard to find at that age.

Have you ever seen an 18-year-old as easy to talk to as he is?
Tallon: Our media will appreciate that, hopefully.

How hard are you going to try to sign him?
Well, we have our prospects camp on July 5th. We'll have him there for a week and we'll see how he does.

Do you think he's ready to play in the NHL?
He's smart enough, he's smart enough. It's a matter of -- he just turned 18 in April. We don't want to rush him too soon, but if he's ready, he'll play. When he's ready, he'll play.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Chicago nabs Toews at No. 3

"It's pretty awesome. It's great to be here and at the top of the draft and to have a chance to be part of the Chicago Blackhawks is unbelivable."

--Jonathan Toews

Live draft updates

Refresh this post throughout the day to get a quick summary of notable draft picks.

Last update: 11:33 p.m.

Top 10 picks:
1. St. Louis -- Erik Johnson, D, Minnesota recruit. Comment: No surprise here. A year ago, the Blues traded away all-star defenseman Chris Pronger. Now, they nab a player many scouts call a young Pronger.

2. Pittsburgh -- Jordan Staal, F, Petersborough. Comment: After watching his brother Eric play in the NHL this year, and his other brother Marc play in the World Juniors, how could you not want a Staal on your team?

3. Chicago -- Jonathan Toews, F, UND. Comment: So, Toews goes No. 3 to Chicago. This will obviously give some Sioux fans worries that the Blackhawks will try to sign him. If so, he will join former Sioux standout Brandon Bochenski.

4. Washington -- Nicklas Backstrom, F, Sweden. Comment: He should be able to give some help to Alexander the Great in Washington.

5. Boston -- Phil Kessel, F, Minnesota. Comment: Kessel ends up dropping to five, where the Bruins take him. Boston is another team that might be more anxious to quickly sign a draft pick.

6. Columbus -- Derick Brassard, F, Drummondville. Comment: The speedy center should help add offense to the Rick Nash-led Blue Jackets.

7. N.Y. Islanders -- Kyle Okposo, F, Minnesota recruit. Comment: Many people thought the Wild were going to have a shot at taking this Shattuck-St. Mary's product. Apparently not, though. Okposo is the second Shattuck alum taken in the top seven picks.

8. Phoenix -- Peter Mueller, F, Everett (WHL). Comment: The big forward didn't get half the applause as the guy who stepped up to the mic to announce his name (Great One).

9. Minnesota -- James Sheppard, F, Cape Breton. Comment: Minnesota takes a playmaker from the Q.

10. Florida -- Michael Frolik, F, Czech Republic. Comment: Originally projected much higher than this, but his stock fell during the season. The 2005 World Junior standout still goes in the top 10.

Players with local connections:
Jonathan Toews, UND -- Selected in the first round, No. 3 overall, by the Chicago Blackhawks.

Carl Sneep, Brainerd -- Selected in the second round, No. 32 overall, by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Michael Forney, UND -- Selected in the third round, No. 80 overall, by the Atlanta Thrashers.

Aaron Marvin, Warroad -- Selected in the third round, No. 89 overall, by the Calgary Flames.

Derrick LaPoint, UND recruit -- Selected in the fourth round, No. 116 overall, by the Florida Panthers.

Left undrafted...

Tysen Dowzak, Fergus Falls
Zach Jones, UND
Kai Kantola, F-M Jets
Jordan Willert, Minot
Jeremy Beller, Lake of the Woods

Draft-day deals

As predicted by the writer I talked to last night, the deals for big-time players have started.

The Vancouver Canucks have sent forward Todd Bertuzzi to Florida for goaltender Roberto Luongo. The Panthers also get goaltender Alex Auld.

Also, Chris Pronger, arguably the best defenseman in the game, wants out of Edmonton. Could some team put together a deal for Pronger today? If so, maybe there will be one team that won't be looking to trade up to the No. 1 spot to take his young clone, Erik Johnson.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Words of wisdom

After a four-turned-seven-hour flight from Minneapolis to Vancouver, I finally have arrived in beautiful western Canadian city. Before I could even check into my hotel, I ran into a reporter and a scout and -- of course -- started talking about the draft.

Rumors have started to spread about what teams might do. The reporter, who covers the Western Hockey League and closely follows New York Rangers prospects, said he believes there will be more draft-day trades than previous years because of the salary cap.

He said he's heard rumors about teams possibly dealing big-time stars. Obviously, it is all speculation until Saturday afternoon.

His only words of wisdom about Jonathan Toews?

"If you guys like him up in North Dakota, hope for anybody but Chicago and Boston," he said.

Draft tidbits

Did you know...

UND has had a total of 123 players drafted.

UND's highest drafted forward ever is Drew Stafford (No. 13).

UND hasn't had a goaltender drafted since Toby Kvalevog was selected in the ninth round in 1993.

Since 1968, only five times has there been a draft without a UND player being selected.

The last time UND hasn't had a player selected at all was 1998.

The record for most picks in one draft is nine, which happened in 1984. Last season, seven Sioux players were picked.

From 1999 to 2004, UND has had a total of 16 draft picks. Eleven of those 16 ended up leaving school early.

From 1991 to 2004, UND has had 10 players taken in the top two rounds of the draft. All but one (Brad DeFauw) left for the pros early.

No first-round pick has ever stayed all four years at UND.

According to CBC, Jason Herter holds the distinction of being the player who took the longest to play an NHL game after being selected in the first round. Herter, a No. 8 overall pick in 1989, is UND's highest drafted player in history.

The three first-round picks UND had last year are a record.

Tomorrow's draft will likely be a historic one for UND (Jonathan Toews could be the school's highest draft pick), the state of Minnesota (Erik Johnson could be first Minnesotan to go No. 1 overall), the University of Minnesota (school could have three guys taken in the top 10) and all of college hockey (more first round picks and more top-10 picks than ever before).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Forney cleared to skate

UND recruit Michael Forney, of Thief River Falls, has been cleared to resume skating.

Forney suffered an ankle fracture in April and was forced to miss the World Under-18 Championships in Sweden. He had an operation on the ankle and skated for the first time Wednesday night.

UND coach Dave Hakstol said he was pleased with Forney's progress and that he's ahead of schedule.

Forney will play at UND beginning this fall.

Although he is expected to be picked in the first or second round of Saturday's NHL draft, Forney will not be attending. He has other family commitments.

Jonathan Toews and Sioux recruit Derrick LaPoint will be in Vancouver for the draft, though, Hakstol said.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Chop the mop

Mike Commodore is giving fans an opportunity to "chop the mop."

The former UND defenseman, who won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night, is auctioning off on eBay a chance to cut his NHL-renowned afro. Proceeds will go to pediatric cancer research.

Ten people will win the chance to participate in the activity, which will be held at Generations Salon and Day Spa in Raleigh, N.C. Winners will be able to assist in the cutting, keep a lock of Commodores hair, collect autographs and hang out with the 6-foot-5 defenseman.

The Jimmy V Cancer Foundation will benefit from the auction, which closes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Commodore, Cullen win Cup

Mike Commodore became the eighth UND player to win the Stanley Cup tonight when Carolina beat Edmonton 3-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Commodore was one game away from winning it in 2004, but his Calgary Flames fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 7. This time, he and former Moorhead High star Matt Cullen helped the Hurricanes finish the job. Cullen had two assists in Game 7 and was a key player the entire series, as was Commodore.

Former UND defenseman Matt Greene came up one game short for the second straight season. Last year, he was a member of UND's runner-up team. It's safe to say that it looks like he has a very bright future in the NHL. He was a regular throughout the playoffs and didn't miss a game after the first series. The Oilers had enough confidence to put him on the ice during overtimes, too. Not bad for a 23-year-old rookie.

I will contact the Carolina media relations department and try to find out what Commodore's plans are for his day with the Cup. I will relay them as soon as I hear. I know there are many people hoping he brings it to Grand Forks. If he does not, everybody can make the trip 75 miles south to Moorhead, where Cullen surely will bring it.

Sioux players with their names on the Cup:

2006 -- Mike Commodore, Carolina Hurricanes
2000 -- Brad Bombardir, New Jersey Devils
1999 -- Rick Wilson, Dallas Stars*
1999 -- Ed Belfour, Dallas Stars
1999 -- Tony Hrkac, Dallas Stars
1999 -- Craig Ludwig, Dallas Stars
1996 -- Troy Murray, Colorado Avalanche
1992 -- Jay Caufield, Pittsburgh Penguins
1991 -- Jay Caufield, Pittsburgh Penguins
1986 -- Craig Ludwig, Montreal Canadiens
*Wilson was an assistant coach.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Goepfert likely staying at SCSU

St. Cloud Times hockey writer Kevin Allenspach reported that Husky goaltender Bobby Goepfert recently met with coach Bob Motzko and told him that he was staying in school for his senior season.

The only way Goepfert would leave is if the Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick was offered the maximum rookie deal, Motzko told Allenspach. That is unlikely.

There is a unique twist in this story, though.

The NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement states that a player becomes a free agent during the summer, four years after enrolling in college. The rule is designed so that college players become a free agent a few months after completing their senior seasons.

Goepfert, who was named the first-team all-WCHA goaltender, is a transfer from Providence, though. And like all transfers, Goepfert had to sit out one season. Therefore, the four-year period is up this summer -- after his junior year.

The Penguins are contending that they still have Goepfert's rights. The NHLPA is contending that Goepfert is a free agent. Allenspach has continually tried to get clarification on this rule, but it seems that the NHL itself doesn't know exactly what the outcome will be.

If Goepfert remains property of the Penguins, I also would find it hard to believe that they will offer him the maximum rookie deal. The Penguins have one of hockey's biggest stars in Sidney Crosby, who will become a free agent in two years. At that point, Pittsburgh certainly will have to dish out a lot of money to keep Crosby.

Not to mention, Pittsburgh will look to sign 2004 No. 2 overall pick Evgeni Malkin this offseason. The Pens definitely will have to pay Malkin the maximum rookie deal. Malkin is widely considered the best player in the world not to be playing in the NHL. Pittsburgh also has 2003 No. 1 pick, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. He will become a free agent in the near future.

And don't forget that Pittsburgh has the No. 2 pick in this year's draft and will probably have to give that player the maximum deal in a year or two.

With the new salary cap in the NHL, I wouldn't expect the Pens to give Goepfert, a sixth-round pick, the max deal. But, if Goepfert becomes a free agent this summer, will there be a team out there willing to give him that deal? It is possible.

Right now, however, it looks like WCHA teams will have to contend with the star goaltender for another season.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Some more on Hunter Bishop...finally

Yeah, I got a little sidetracked.

There's been a couple of Stanley Cup Finals games to watch; I'm in the process of getting my twice-a-decade dose of soccer (I don't have a fantasy European Champions League team yet, so World Cup is all I watch); and the Twins started playing watchable baseball last week.

But tonight, faced with having to watch the post-Jordan era NBA, I've been chased back to the blog.

So finally, here's more on Hunter Bishop, who committed to UND last week and will come to school this fall:

The 5-11, 180-pound forward said he planned to play a second season with Vernon (BCHL), but upon landing in Mexico for a class trip in June, Bishop noticed he had a couple of voicemails from North Dakota.

After his vacation, he got in touch with Sioux coaches, who offered him a scholarship. He made arrangements to visit UND on June 6.

Bishop, from Fairbanks, Alaska, said UND was his first and only college visit. He had offers from Northern Michigan and Alaska Fairbanks, and he was getting interest from Princeton, Mankato, Quinnipiac, Maine, Brown and Union. Mankato was looking to fly Bishop in for a visit.

Bishop said UND began talking to him in early November.

"North Dakota has been my dream school," Bishop said. "It's a beautiful college. They keep up with the grass and the parks. Everything is real close on campus, too. The business program also is something I've looked into. It's just a great program. Then when I saw the rink, that place is unbelievably nice. It's a dream to play in a rink like that. I loved every bit of my visit."

Bishop said he will work hockey schools and camps all summer, then he will arrive at UND in August.

He said he already knows a couple of UND players, including Taylor Chorney and Brian Lee. He competed with Chorney and Lee at the Select 17 tournament in the Czech Republic. Bishop also said he knows Sioux recruit Evan Trupp (Anchorage, Alaska) very well, too. "Evan is one of my best friends," he said. "I grew up playing with him. We've been really good friends for a while. He's a good guy."

Bishop said he's the type of player who likes to play with speed, something the Vernon general manager agreed with.

"I like to play with a lot of energy," Bishop said. "I played left wing and I like to come up the wall with speed and take the puck to the net. I like to be the hardest working guy on the ice, and I try to make scoring opportunities."

UND will be the fifth different place in five years for Bishop. He played high school hockey as a freshman in Fairbanks. As a sophomore, he played for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (NAHL). The next year he went to Cedar Rapids (USHL), and last season he was with Vernon.

He said the step to UND is the most exciting.

"Believe me, this has been the most exciting week of my life," Bishop said. "It's definitely changed my life around. Now I have to get ready to play."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

NHL draft news

It's 10 days until the NHL draft, and coverage is starting to pick up around the country.

Jonathan Toews seems to have given conflicting quotes on whether or not he will return to UND next season. In an interview with Hockey News, Toews said: "Why not stay another year in school... even if I am ready (to play in the NHL)? It was an adjustment period for me in the first half (of the season in college). I would like to spend a whole season there, where everything is clicking and be a big part of the team and a leader."

However, he told a group of reporters in the NHL Combine: "I think for any kid, when you have that opportunity to step in, why wait? It’s been my dream to play in the National Hockey League one day regardless of who it’s with. If I am ready next year and they want me to step in and be a big part of their team, I’m all for it and I’d love to have that opportunity."

The director of NHL's Central Scouting bureau, E.J. McGuire, seems to think every player in this year's draft could use at least another year of development, including consensus first pick Erik Johnson (Gopher recruit). McGuire told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "The guys ready to step in? Not very many. Is Erik Johnson ready? Is Jordan Staal ready? I'd like to see them both play another year -- Johnson with the development team or in college, and in the case of Staal, another year of Junior. But I'm not selling tickets. I'm not the Blues' marketing director, who wants to see those players on the ice scoring goals."

..... Other items .....

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette hockey writer Dave Molinari did a Q&A, where he analyzed the top five prospects in the draft.

Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir speculated that Gopher recruit Kyle Okposo could be drafted higher than Phil Kessel. Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief says Kessel is the top forward in the draft, however.

Lots of speculation. What will actually happen? It looks like we'll have to wait until June 24 to find out... and maybe longer than that to get a definitive answer about Toews' future in Grand Forks.

For those of you living in the Twin Cities and looking for a place to watch the draft, the Minnesota Wild are hosting a party at the Oakdale Buffalo Wild Wings on the 24th at 4:30 p.m. There will be live call-ins from Vancouver and guests Kevin Falness (Wild radio host), Mike Greenlay (Wild TV color man) and Doug Woog (former Gopher coach and current WCHA broadcaster). All fans will get "comprehensive" draft information when arriving at the party, and prizes will be given out throughout the night.

The Shea Hamilton situation

Alaska Anchorage sophomore forward Shea Hamilton will transfer to UND this fall and be eligible for the 2007-08 season.

Hamilton said he was unhappy at Anchorage this season. The Winnipeg native committed to former Seawolves coach John Hill and he said his personality clashed with new coach Dave Shyiak.

Hamilton said he knew by Christmastime that this was going to be his last year in Anchorage. At the end of the season, one in which the Seawolves closed out the final three months 1-17-2, Hamilton asked for a release and it was granted to him. At that time, he faxed the release to a few schools, but UND was at the top of his list.

To his delight, UND coaches contacted him after viewing the release. He then made an official visit and committed.

"There's no doubt in my mind that North Dakota is the right place for me," Hamilton said. "I'm very excited. It's going to be a great experience for me."

Hamilton is anticipating that things will go much better in Grand Forks than they did in Anchorage. Hamilton said he sees himself as a fairly offensive player, despite his 3 goal, 4 assist total from last season.

"Those numbers aren't something I'm proud of," Hamilton said. "I don't think they show the whole story. The way our systems were, our team was in no way offensive. I think a lot of guys on that team are capable of getting 30 to 40 points in that league."

Rather, Anchorage's top overall scorers were Mark Smith and Eric Walsky (who also is looking to transfer), both of whom tallied just 15 points. The Seawolves didn't have a single 10-goal scorer last season.

By the time the second half of the season came along, Hamilton was used sparingly. He played in just two series in the final two months of the season. "Me and my coach didn't get along and he was sitting me out games," he said.

As a freshman, Hamilton played in just 19 games because of an injury, but he still led the Seawolves in power-play goals (4) and was fourth in overall goals (7).

Hamilton is ready for a new start at UND, a place only an hour and 15 minutes from his parents' home in Altona, Man. His sister also just completed school at UND.

Hamilton said he got a chance to meet a few players -- including Chris Porter, Erik Fabian and T.J. Oshie -- on his visit. He plans on living with a couple of them. He also said he is good friends with recruit Darcy Zajac and the two hang out nearly every day.

"I'm going to have to come in my first year (2007) and not make freshman mistakes," he said. "I've already gone through that. I have to come in and be an impact player."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Colontino leaving women's program

Assistant women's hockey coach Paul Colontino, who has been with the program since the start, is leaving for an associate head coaching position at his alma mater, Mercyhurst.

When asked about his decision to leave, Colontino said the associate title was an important factor.

This is yet another blow to the women's program, which is coming off a 7-27-2 (2-23-2 WCHA) season and is losing its top two players, underclassmen Cami and Cara Wooster. Although only sophomores, the sisters are leaving to play with the Edmonton Chimos of the WWHL.

Their decision to leave was in part to pursue academic endeavors not available at UND, but they expressed discontent with the direction of the program.

"If the hockey part had gone better, we probably would have stayed," Cara said. "The reason we came here was hockey."

In all, UND is losing six of its top eight scorers. Melissa Dianoski, who was academically ineligible last season after finishing as the No. 3 scorer as a freshman, will not be back either. Considering the Sioux averaged just 1.67 goals per game last season, scoring figures to be a challenge come this fall. UND also lost all three of its goaltenders from last season.

With the number of players gone from last year's team in double digits, and a mainstay assistant leaving as well, Year 5 is starting to look like Year 1.

Chat with Hunter Bishop's GM

UND grabbed a second commitment out of the BCHL's Vernon Vipers when left wing Hunter Bishop gave UND a verbal commitment Tuesday. The Sioux previously signed Vernon defenseman Chay Genoway.

Bishop scored 26 goals and had 33 assists in 66 games for Vernon last season. Bishop was on the USHL championship Cedar Rapids team in 2004-05, and he played for Fairbanks in the NAHL as a high school sophomore.

What kind of player is he? I asked his general manager at Vernon, Troy Mick.
Mick: He's one of the best skaters I've seen play in this league in a long time. His top-end speed is phenomenal. He is going to showcase his talents there. I think North Dakota got a great hockey player.

He put up good numbers last season, but they weren't as large as some guys like Erik Felde (Anchorage recruit).
Mick: He's going to take a bit to adjust. I was down there (Grand Forks) for the midget tournament last year and got a chance to see both games against Mankato. It took Matt Watkins, a guy who we had here, a little bit of time to adjust. There's usually an adjustment period for all players. One thing about Hunter, he will excel when he is comfortable. You have to remember that he is 18 years old and has already played three years of Junior A hockey. Our coach this year put him in every situation. He was able to kill penalties and play on the power play.

Can he be an impact player at UND?
Mick: No question. He's not going to score 50 points as a freshman, but he will excel every year he's at North Dakota. He has NHL speed. That's probably the toughest thing to do, is to get guys who can skate at that level. That's one area you won't have to worry about with Hunter Bishop. His forte is going to be speed. He may not be a huge point guy right away, but I can guarantee you he's going to be a huge asset to the team.

He sure is a well-spoken guy.
Mick: In his first year here, he was voted the fans' favorite player. He won over everybody. He does so many things in the community, his family is A-plus... he is everything you look for in a player when you are recruiting. He's a guy who works as hard off the ice as he does on the ice.

That's saying quite a bit, because Hunter says he takes pride in trying to always be the hardest-working guy on the ice.
Mick: If you had 21 guys who worked as hard as him, you'd be in the national championship every year. He's always working on his game. If he finds deficiencies in his game, he's a kid who will work on it. He wants to go to the next level. He wants to play pro hockey, and he's going to do what it takes to get there. I'll tell you a story. I went on a fishing trip to Fairbanks and I ended up staying in his room. All across the room, there aren't pictures of girls or anything like that. He has quotes from coaches and famous people saying how to make him better each day. You don't see that a whole lot with guys his age.

Being so young, does that mean he has potential to continue improving quite a bit?
Mick: He started the year all right and finished the year on fire. I think his development here last year is a big reason he's going to North Dakota. He made the all-star team last year, and he's just hitting the tip of the ice berg on what he can do. We thought he was coming back here next year, and we had him pinned as a 100-point guy. He is going to be sorely missed in this organization.

Sioux add forward

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed the lack of depth at forward. As expected, the Sioux have addressed that.

Vernon Vipers forward Hunter Bishop is in the process of signing a letter of intent to play hockey at UND beginning this fall. Bishop scored 26 goals and had 33 assists in 66 games for the Vipers last season.

The Fairbanks, Alaska, native is a 6 foot, 185 pound left wing who describes himself as a player who wants to be the hardest-working guy on the ice.

The 18-year-old is extremely well spoken. I'll post more from my chat with him later.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A little on Anthony Grieco

While I was spending my weekend at a wedding in the major metro area that is Ortonville, Minn., news broke that UND received a commitment from goaltender Anthony Grieco of the OPJHL.

It's easy to see what this implies -- that Jordan Parise is going to sign a pro contract. It would be a curious move to bring in a 17-year-old goaltender to be a third-stringer. Grieco will provide the necessary depth at the goaltender position, assuming Parise signs.

Parise has maintained the same thing since the season ended -- that he plans on coming back, but that it's possible that things could change. Even if he knows he's going to sign, this is the smart thing for Parise to do. Just in case something falls through, he doesn't want to forfeit his NCAA eligibility. Look for him to sign sometime next month, though. If a team signs him before July 1, they will be fined as part of the new NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, I'm told.

The situation may look like UND coaches scrambled in short order to find a goaltender to replace Parise should he leave. That's not really the case, though. The coaches had their eye on Grieco for a while. Grieco said UND coaches went to watch him play in the middle of the season (November or December), and they visited him a second time at a prospect tournament.

He made his visit to the UND campus in May and was offered a scholarship then. At that time, he told the coaches he would be coming to UND. Later, he said he signed a letter of intent, which has not been released by the university yet.

Grieco said he was considering the major junior route, but was getting interest from four NCAA schools -- UND, St. Cloud State, Union and UMass-Lowell. One of his teammates in Wellington will be going to Lowell this fall. Grieco said UND and Lowell wanted him this fall. St. Cloud State and Union wanted him for 2007. He said he wanted to play at college this season and it was a factor in his decision, as was UND's tradition and history of sending players to the pros.

Grieco describes himself as a patient goalie. "I play well in the butterfly and have sound movement," he said. "The season went really well. We made it into the second round of the playoffs and I was on the all-star team. I wasn't sure what to expect, it being my first year in the league."

He'll first come to Grand Forks in July for some training, and then he will return in August when school begins.

I'd have to double check this to make sure, but if Grieco plays in the first half of the season, I believe he will be the youngest goaltender to play for the Sioux since Aaron Schweitzer. Grieco doesn't turn 18 until November. At 6-foot-1, he will be the tallest goaltender to play at UND in some time, too.

I hope to post a chat with his coach at Wellington soon.

Friday, June 09, 2006

WJC Evaluation Camp roster

USA Hockey released the 2006 World Junior National Evaluation Camp roster Thursday. Four Sioux players are among the invitees -- defensemen Taylor Chorney, Brian Lee and Zach Jones as well as incoming freshman Michael Forney, a forward from Thief River Falls.

I apologize for not posting it yesterday as promised. It seems I am unable to log in to the blog sometimes. I was getting a heavy dose of "Cannot display page" yesterday.

Anyway, the camp roster is loaded with WCHA players. The roster breakdown: 20 WCHA players, 11 CCHA, 7 Hockey East, 5 Canadian major junior, 1 ECAC and Patrick Kane, who is expected to play in the OHL next season.

Minnesota has an incredible eight players invited to camp. Along with UND's four, Wisconsin has three, Duluth two, Colorado College two and Denver one.

The large number of WCHA players goes to show how much young talent there is in the league. Expect rookies to make significant waves again this season.

Which players will make the team? UND's Chorney and Lee are pretty much locks. For Lee, he will become a rare three-year player for the national junior team. Chorney should be a repeat selection. Zach Jones didn't make the team last year, but he was considered. If he has another solid first half at UND this fall, I would expect him to also make the team.

A lot of this will depend on Minnesota recruit Erik Johnson and Michigan's Jack Johnson. Both are outstanding pro prospects and either/both could be playing in the NHL come December. Jack Johnson already turned down one offer by Carolina and said he will be staying. Of course, that could change during the summer. (Think he is regretting not signing now that he would be two games away from the Cup?) Erik Johnson is the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the draft. No college hockey player who was drafted No. 1 overall has played in college after being selected.

If the Johnsons go pro and don't play on the junior team, that will free spots up on defense and make Zach Jones an even more likely candidate to make the team.

As for Forney, he is bubble player. He was supposed to be on the gold medal U-18 team this summer, but missed the tournament in Sweden because of an injury. Maybe he'll get to play in Sweden six months later instead.

The UND players on the team will miss the Dartmouth tournament, scheduled for late December. Keep in mind you can add Jonathan Toews to the list of players missing for that tournament, as he is a virtual lock for Team Canada.

At this point, it is a bit difficult to project the roster. It seemed that USA Hockey put a lot of stock into players' performances in the first half of the season last year. Also, it remains to be seen who will be playing in the NHL come Christmastime.

But at this point, here is my projected roster:

Goaltenders (2)
Jeff Frazee, Minnesota
Jeff Zatkoff, Miami

Forwards (13)
Bill Sweatt, Colorado College
Chad Rau, Colorado College
Ryan Stoa, Minnesota
Phil Kessel, Minnesota
Kyle Okposo, Minnesota
Michael Forney, UND
Michael Gergen, Minnesota Duluth
Jack Skille, Wisconsin
Benn Ferriero, Boston College
Bobby Ryan, Owen Sound (OHL)
Nick Foligno, Sudbury (OHL)
Peter Mueller, Everett (WHL)
Patrick Kane, TBA

Defensemen (7)
Erik Johnson, Minnesota
Jack Johnson, Michigan
Mark Mitera, Michigan
Brian Lee, UND
Taylor Chorney, UND
Zach Jones, UND
Ben Strait, Boston Univ.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Business and hockey

First of all, we have learned that Forum Communications Company is going to purchase the Herald. What does this mean? I don't think anybody is exactly sure at this point. Time will tell. It does set up an interesting dynamic. The Herald's two largest competitors, The Forum and WDAZ, now are under the same ownership. Kyle Johnson touched on this a bit in his story.

One thing the sale will probably mean is a new Web site for the Herald. Its current set up is part of a Knight Ridder theme, Real Cities. My speculation is that our Web site will end up looking more like the Forum's and the Bemidji Pioneer's. They are both well done.

As far as this blog is concerned, it is run out of blogspot and it is not part of Knight Ridder's site. Therefore, it should remain here.

OK, enough business talk. On to hockey.

Mankato: The sexual assault investigation against four Minnesota State University, Mankato players was dropped Wednesday. They may press charges against the woman who claimed they assaulted her.

Denver: Matt Carle was named USA Hockey's college player of the year Wednesday. Not much of a surprise there.

World Junior hockey: Within the next couple of days, USA Hockey is expected to announce the players it has selected for the 2006 World Junior evaluation camp. You can bet that the camp will be lined with Sioux players, especially on the blue line.

We should get a pretty good idea of who might be on the World Junior roster when USA Hockey releases the list of players invited to camp. I believe there were only two players on Team USA who were not present at the camp.

I'll post the list once it is released.

Recruiting: A pair of former Section 8 players made college commitments. Kyle Hardwick (Warroad) is headed to Bemidji State, and Brian McMillin (Roseau) is off to Colorado College. Also, the Gophers nabbed Grand Rapids forward Patrick White. White was the player who scored four goals against Roseau in the first round of the state tournament in March.

Stanley Cup Finals: Both Edmonton and Carolina have been down 2-0 so far this postseason. This time you get the feeling that it's over, and not just because Dwayne Roloson is out. The Hurricanes have been great all season, and once again look like the better team. The scary part is that Eric Staal hasn't even got going yet during this series.

Question for you all: If Carolina wins the Cup, who do you give the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) to?

I vote Chris Pronger. He has been incredible during the playoffs. Edmonton's penalty killing was crucial against San Jose and Anaheim. Neither of those teams could score on the power play, even with two-man advantages. Pronger was the best penalty killer on the team, playing a large amount of minutes. He's always in position. He always gets the puck out of the zone. He uses his long reach to perfection. And, oh yeah, he's the Oilers' leading scorer during the playoffs, too. Here's some more telling stats:

Edmonton plus/minus:
Chris Pronger +9
Mike Peca +4
Jason Smith +4
Shawn Horcoff +4

Edmonton time on ice:
Chris Pronger 594:23
Jaro Spacek 503:38
Jason Smith 437:13
Shawn Horcoff 424:51

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Another scouting service, another view

McKeen's Hockey released its final rankings for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, ranking the top 165 players. The top 10 goes like this:
1. Erik Johnson, D, U.S. Under 18 (Minnesota recruit)
2. Nicklas Backstrom, F, Sweden
3. Jordan Staal, F, Peterborough
4. Phil Kessel, F, Univ. of Minnesota
5. Jonathan Toews, F, Univ. of North Dakota
6. Derick Brassard, F, Drummondville
7. Kyle Okposo, F, Des Moines (Minnesota recruit)
8. Peter Mueller, F, Everett
9. Bryan Little, F, Barrie
10. Jiri Tlusty, F, Kladno

Other nobles are:
30. Michael Forney, F, Thief River Falls (UND recruit)
59. Derrick LaPoint, D, Eau Claire (UND recruit)
117. Aaron Marvin, F, Warroad (uncommitted)
128. Kai Kantola, F, F-M Jets (Bowling Green recruit)
158. Zach Jones, D, Univ. of North Dakota

The NHL is hosting Toews, Kessel, Johnson, Brassard and Staal in Edmonton for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The draft will take place June 24 in Vancouver.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Matt Greene's college choice

In addition to what was printed in the Herald story, Matt Greene's dad Jim had an interesting story about Matt's college choice.

Greene's hometown of Grand Ledge, Mich., is about 15 miles from the campus of Michigan State, where his mom Darcy teaches at the School of Journalism. Matt grew up a Spartans fan. He often attended games and he looked up to all the players, Jim said. It was his dream school.

Matt was set on going to school at Michigan State.

But in October of 2001 -- while Greene was playing for the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL -- Michigan State's plans for Matt had changed. After offering him a scholarship, they called him and told him they were going in another direction.

At the time, it was disappointing for the Greenes. Matt figured he was going to be able to play at his dream school. His parents figured they were going to be able to drive down the street to watch him play college hockey. Jim said that in the end, it worked out for the best.

After Michigan State told Greene they were going in a different direction, Green Bay assistant coach Ian Kallay (a former UND player and current Michigan Tech assistant) got on the phone and called UND.

Upon hearing this, UND assistant Brad Berry attended Greene's very next home game. Berry told Greene that Dave Hakstol (an assistant at the time) would be going to watch a game in Chicago on Halloween night. Hakstol attended that game and told Matt afterward that he was prepared to offer him a scholarship.

Jim said that UND ended up being the perfect place for Matt.

"Matthew loved his experience at UND," Jim said. "He loved the community, he loved the coaches... everything was perfect. It was the happiest three years of his life. We are convinced that Matt wouldn't be where he is today if it wasn't for Dean Blais, Dave Hakstol, Brad Berry and Cary Eades. Matt just thinks the world of those guys. It couldn't have worked out any better."

After his junior year, it was evident that it was time to move on for Greene. He was ready for the NHL. Jim said that everyone seemed to be sure of this except for Matt himself.

"It was hard for him. He still had some twinges about it. He just felt incredibly supported by the community and the university. The program is so important to him and will be for the rest of his life. He'll always be part of the Sioux family," Jim said.

He also said that Matt still thinks about 2005 national championship game, which UND lost to Denver 4-1. "That still haunts him," Jim said.

Even though Matt wasn't on the team this season, Jim still made trips to see UND play, too. He went to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul and the NCAA Frozen Four in Milwaukee.

Despite not getting what he originally wanted -- a spot at Michigan State -- the Greenes were happy with how things worked out.

I'm sure it's safe to say UND is too.

Friday, June 02, 2006

NHL Combine news (updated)

TSN reported that Sioux forward Jonathan Toews struggled with some physical tests at the NHL Combine this morning in Toronto, but added that it shouldn't hurt his draft status. The report said:

"Jonathan Toews struggled in the anaerobic portion of the physical testing. The North Dakota forward threw up after his stint on the stationary bike and his bench press was well below median. But as stressed earlier by Central Scouting, the physical test is only one component. Anyone who has seen Toews on the ice (with the Fighting Sioux and the 2006 Canadian World Junior team) knows his potential as a top three selection."

Earlier in the story, Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire is quoted as saying there is a push to add an on-ice component to the combine, which it currently lacks. "The physical testing doesn't affect a player's draft ranking. It gives teams a look at how he looks and how he may look in a couple of seasons," McGuire told TSN.

Update: TSN reported that stationary bike handed Minnesota forward Phil Kessel the same fate as Toews. Speculation is that the NCAA players have fared worse in the endurance testing because their season has been over for two months now. Some other prospects played into late May. As McGuire said, this shouldn't affect the draft status of either Toews or Kessel, who are likely top five picks.

TSN posted an interview with Toews at the NHL Combine here. Look on the right side of the page.

Greene vs. Commodore for the Cup

As coach Dave Hakstol puts it, "They're both character guys and they're both characters."

Two of UND's most affable big men -- Mike Commodore and Matt Greene -- will be battling each other for the Stanley Cup beginning Monday.

Commodore scored the opening goal Thursday night and helped the Carolina Hurricanes win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals 4-2 over Buffalo. It's the second consecutive season Commodore will play for the Cup. In 2004, his Calgary Flames lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Before the Buffalo series, Commodore said he was particularly excited about the possibility of playing against the Oilers for the Stanley Cup. Commodore's hometown of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., is minutes away from Edmonton.

"I'll be blocking shots with my face," he said.

Commodore and Greene never played together at UND, but they do know each other. Commodore said they hung out during summers in Grand Forks.

One of them will become the eighth UND player to have his name engraved on the Cup. Here is the complete list of UND Stanley Cup winners:

2000 -- Brad Bombardir, New Jersey Devils
1999 -- Rick Wilson, Dallas Stars*
1999 -- Ed Belfour, Dallas Stars
1999 -- Tony Hrkac, Dallas Stars
1999 -- Craig Ludwig, Dallas Stars
1996 -- Troy Murray, Colorado Avalanche
1992 -- Jay Caufield, Pittsburgh Penguins
1991 -- Jay Caufield, Pittsburgh Penguins
1986 -- Craig Ludwig, Montreal Canadiens
*Wilson was an assistant coach. (Thanks to Virg Foss for pointing this out.)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Roster takes shape

While the Sioux wait to see if goalie Jordan Parise will sign a pro deal, the rest of the 2006-07 roster is starting to take shape. Coach Dave Hakstol said Thief River Falls standout Michael Forney will come to UND this fall and recruit Evan Trupp probably won't. Trupp suffered a shoulder injury in the BCHL playoffs, a large factor in him likely going back to Penticton.

As it stands, three Sioux commitments are expected to play juniors this season -- Trupp (forward), Jake Marto (defenseman) and Derrick LaPoint (defenseman).

Coming this fall are forwards Forney, Chris VandeVelde and Darcy Zajac and defenseman Chay Genoway.

This gives UND 14 forwards and 8 defensemen. I'm tallying Scott Foyt as a forward, where I anticipate he will get most of his work this season because the Sioux have less depth there. Genoway also gives the Sioux flexibility, as he played forward when he was at Shattuck-St. Mary's. If they get short on forwards, moving Genoway up front seems logical.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Sioux signed another forward this summer. Having just two guys for depth might be a little bit of a concern, especially when three forwards (Erik Fabian, Brad Miller and Forney) have had pretty major operations in the past 16 months.

You have to figure they will lose Jonathan Toews for the World Junior tournament and Forney also is an outside possibility for Team USA. They won't be able to move Genoway up to forward during WJC either, because Brian Lee and Taylor Chorney are virtual locks to make the team. Defenseman Zach Jones nearly made it last year and is eligible again this season, as is Joe Finley.

Here's my take on the team of skaters/lines the Sioux could put on the ice this fall:

Ryan Duncan--Jonathan Toews--Michael Forney
Andrew Kozek--T.J. Oshie--Chris Porter
Erik Fabian--Rylan Kaip--Matt Watkins
Chris VandeVelde--Darcy Zajac--Brad Miller

Depth: Ryan Martens, Scott Foyt

Brian Lee--Taylor Chorney
Joe Finley--Kyle Radke
Zach Jones--Robbie Bina/Chay Genoway

Depth: Todd Alexander

I feel that Lee, Chorney, Finley, Radke and Jones all secured spots with their play on the blue line last season. It definitely will be a battle for that sixth spot in the lineup each night.

Obviously the forward lines will change throughout the season. They always do. Here's why I projected what I did.

Duncan--Toews--Forney: A big question is whether Forney can step into a scoring-line role. I have him playing Drew Stafford's role from a year ago -- a power forward to complement Toews and Duncan. Forney has good size and was easily able to push opponents off the puck in high school. He won't be able to do that as easily in college, but with his big frame he still is a prototypical power forward. I've heard some concern about his health holding up because of the injuries he suffered during his senior season. My response: In high school, he was the target of every opponent. Playing on a line with Duncan and Toews, he won't be.

Kozek--Oshie--Porter: Oshie is going to score points, and so will whoever plays with him. Kozek is ready to have a breakout year and could score 15 goals. Porter has proven he can play a physical game, and he's put together three solid seasons on the scoresheet, too. If Watkins proves he can be a consistent scorer, Porter may be moved to the third line again, where he excelled last season. If you put Porter there, you have a checking line with three players capable of putting up 15-20 points.

Fabian--Kaip--Watkins: Has anyone seen Fabian give 99 percent during a shift? He will set the tone and Kaip and Watkins will follow. All three of these guys work incredibly hard every shift. Kaip was very good at the end of last year, even before he started to get the goals to fall. Watkins quietly had a good season. This line can provide a physical presence and is extremely capable of chipping in offense consistently. They are everything you want out of your checking line.

VandeVelde--Zajac--Miller: After falling behind because of a shoulder injury, Miller was a regular by the time UND made the Frozen Four. Zajac is said to be a little bit grittier than Travis was, but he still put up marvelous numbers in the BCHL. VandeVelde came on strong at the end of the season in the USHL. That's a fourth line with definite offensive ability.

What sort of lines do you all envision? Do you like what you see?