Kelly Friesen

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Kelly Friesen is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports

  • Top 10 players to watch in 2015 Memorial Cup

    Kelowna's Leon Draisaitl is a player to watch at the 2015 Memorial Cup. (CP / Don Denton)Kelowna's Leon Draisaitl is a player to watch at the 2015 Memorial Cup. (CP / Don Denton)

    From high NHL draft picks to unsung heroes, Quebec will see some of the CHL’s top talents in the 2015 Memorial Cup. It’s a fitting way to bid farewell to the Colisée Pepsi.

    For various reasons, here is a look at the top 10 players to watch in the tourney, which kicks off tonight in a game between the Kelowna Rockets and Quebec Remparts.

    10. Alexis Loiseau, centre, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

    Loiseau is easily one of the top overagers in the tournament. The 6-foot-1, 179-pound centre, who scored 35 goals and 96 points in 68 games, along with Anthony DeLuca, led Rimouski’s offense this season. On top of his goal-scoring abilities, he has developed a reputation for being a shifty player that has the ability to adapt to any role that is laid upon him.

    9. Michael McCarron, wing, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

    After a disappointing 18-year-old season with the London Knights, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound McCarron elevated his game this year. He netted 28 goals and 68 points in 57 contests while

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  • Memorial Cup preview: Top 10 Kelowna Rockets observations

    Nick Merkley and the Rockets will represent the WHL in the Memorial Cup. (Getty Images)Nick Merkley and the Rockets will represent the WHL in the Memorial Cup. (Getty Images)

    With the King of Late Night signing off, Buzzing The Net is borrowing the Top Ten trope to profile the Memorial Cup teams. It's an homage. Or as David Letterman would say to someone who tried to slip a fancy word by him, "you mean stealing."

    Presenting the Kelowna Rockets, who are hoping to be the second WHL team in as many years (Edmonton Oil Kings won it in 2014) to win the Memorial Cup. 

    10. “Lambert forgot to lose first.”

    Someone forgot to tell Rockets head coach Dan Lambert that he isn’t supposed to be here. He was supposed to struggle as a rookie coach because of how he lacks “experience.” This is the time of the year where he should be phoning his predecessor Ryan Huska for advice on how to better prepare for next season.

    That said, it did help that Lambert had an all-star team in his arsenal, but what he’s accomplished is impressive nonetheless. He’s on the fast-track to the pros, especially if he leaves Quebec with a nice trophy.

    9. “Rally around Goulbourne?”

    The Rockets

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  • Prince Albert Raiders, Bruno Campese part ways after 8 seasons

    The Prince Albert Raiders and GM Bruno Campese have parted ways after eight seasons. (Raiders)The Prince Albert Raiders and GM Bruno Campese have parted ways after eight seasons. (Raiders)

    The Bruno Campese era has come to an end in Prince Albert as the Raiders announced today that the long-time general manager won’t be returning for a ninth season.

    Frankly, this announcement seemed inevitable. The Raiders won a total of two playoff games and didn’t muster a single post-season victory with Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Josh Morrissey and Edmonton Oilers prized pick Leon Draisaitl in their lineup in Campese’s eight years with the team. On top of that, Campese used up his two lifelines when he fired head coaches Steve Young (2013) and Cory Clouston (2014) after he relinquished his bench boss duties in his fifth year with the club.

    In the GM chair, Campese had his good and bad days. He drafted and recruited a handful of high-end stars such as Draisaitl, Morrissey and Chicago Blackhawks first-rounder Mark McNeill. He did make some questionable moves, though, like sending top 2013 bantam pick Jake Kryski to the Kamloops Blazers for then-overage goalie Cole Cheveldave two

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  • Brandon and Kelowna square off in rubber match: WHL final preview

    Jayce Hawryluk and the Wheat Kings are expected to have a slight edge on the Rockets in the WHL final.Jayce Hawryluk and the Wheat Kings are expected to have a slight edge on the Rockets in the WHL final.

    By Kelly Friesen and Scott Sepich

    For the first time since 2011, the Edmonton Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks won’t square off in the Western Hockey League’s championship series. The Brandon Wheat Kings and Kelowna Rockets fittingly knocked them out of the playoffs before capturing their conference titles.

    As the clear-cut favourites in their conferences, it seemed inevitable that Brandon and Kelowna would meet up in the final. The two clubs separated themselves from the rest of the league because of their deep offenses and stacked back ends. Moreover, they showed there is nothing overrated about them in their conference final victories over the Calgary Hitmen and Winterhawks. Brandon only dropped one game against Calgary while Kelowna knocked off Portland in six matches.

    It’s inevitable that this is going to be a high-scoring series. The two clubs not only have some of most talented scorers in the league in their lineups such as Edmonton Oilers prized pick Leon Draisaitl and

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  • The Chiefs chose Alberta defenceman Ty Smith first overall in the 2015 WHL bantam draft. (Delta Hockey Academy)The Chiefs chose Alberta defenceman Ty Smith first overall in the 2015 WHL bantam draft. (Delta Hockey Academy)

    Courtesy of the Saskatoon Blades, the Spokane Chiefs kicked off the 2015 WHL bantam draft by selecting Lloydminster, Alta., native Ty Smith with the first overall pick. The Chiefs landed the lottery pick in a 2013 trade deadline deal that sent Collin Valcourt to the City of Bridges.

    Smith, who notched nine goals and 28 points in 16 games with the Delta Hockey Academy Bantam prep team this past season, headed into the draft regarded as the top prospect. He has been hyped as one of the top young blueliners to come out of Western Canada since Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf.

    “Ty has a unique combination of elite vision and can control the pace of the game which is extremely rare for a bantam aged defenseman,” says Tyler Neisz, owner of Western Elite Hockey Prospects. “He has excellent skating ability with the best agility of any player in the draft. Ty is a true power-play quarterback.”

    Based on his comments in past interviews, it seems the Chiefs won’t have any trouble signing

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  • WHL bantam draft: A foot in the door, but not the be-all and end-all

    Bruins star Milan Lucic, like many NHLers, was passed over in the WHL bantam draft. Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY SportsBruins star Milan Lucic, like many NHLers, was passed over in the WHL bantam draft. Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    The annual Western Hockey League bantam draft coming on May 7 will be full of mixed emotions for hundreds of Grade 9 kids in Western Canada and parts of the United States. For some, it will be the first step towards playing major junior hockey, but others will feel the disappointment of having 22 teams pass them over.

    The fact of the matter is that being drafted into the WHL isn’t as big of a big of a deal as it may seem and getting passed over isn’t as devastating as it may seem. Look no further than how 20 per cent of the players currently in the WHL weren’t drafted into the league for proof of that. Moreover, getting passed over in the draft didn’t stop the likes of Jarome Iginla, Dan Hamhuis, Milan Lucic and Shea Weber from going on to make millions in The Show. On the flipside, many former No. 1 picks like Chris Nielsen (1995), Ryan Hollweg (1999) and Ryan Kerr (2004) didn’t exactly go on to become stars in the pros.

    That’s not to suggest WHL scouts get it wrong more often than

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  • Wheat Kings have Hitmen on the ropes: WHL playoff roundup

    Travis Sanheim and the Hitmen are down 3-1 against the Wheat Kings in Round 3. (Brad Watson, Calgary Hitmen photo)Travis Sanheim and the Hitmen are down 3-1 against the Wheat Kings in Round 3. (Brad Watson, Calgary Hitmen photo)

    The Western Hockey League’s conference final series have been great, but the outcome will even be better. The major junior league will have a new matchup in its championship series for the first time since 2011. Either the Brandon Wheat Kings or Calgary Hitmen will take the Edmonton Oil Kings’ spot out of the Eastern Conference while the Portland Winterhawks are battling the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Conference for a fifth straight trip to the finals.

    Here is a recap of the WHL’s conference final series.

    Eastern Conference

    Brandon vs. Calgary (Wheat Kings up 3-1, host Game 5 on Friday)

    From the refs kicking Hitmen head coach Mark French out of Game 1 to a handful of highlight-reel goals, there has been no shortage of excitement in the Eastern Conference final.

    Even though he was outstanding in Round 2 against the Medicine Hat Tigers, the Hitmen made it evident that Mack Shields is on a short leash after he let in five goals on 22 shots in Game 1. The club didn’t go back to the

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  • NHL draft tracker: Paul Bittner, Portland Winterhawks

    Portland's Paul Bittner (No. 7) racked up 71 points in his draft year this season.(Winterhawks)Portland's Paul Bittner (No. 7) racked up 71 points in his draft year this season.(Winterhawks)

    It is easy for Portland Winterhawks winger Paul Bittner to stand out in a crowd because of his imposing 6-foot-4, 202-pound frame. His size alone makes him an appealing prospect, but it’s his tenacious style of play, speed and hockey smarts that has led to him being projected as a future first-round draft choice.

    Albeit there’s still room for improvement, Bittner made strides as a more consistent player in his third season with the Winterhawks this year. He didn’t go more than two games in a row without a point in the regular-season after going through a five-game pointless streak in October. It led to him finishing the season with 34 goals and 71 points in 66 games.

    “I think it’s just a mental thing to bring it every night,” says Bittner, whom NHL Central Scouting Service ranked 26th among North American skaters in its final ranking. “At the beginning of the season I wanted to strive to be a more consistent player and I knew I needed the right mental attitude to do that. I need to go

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  • Nolan Patrick and the Wheat Kings take on the Hitmen in Round 3. (Brandon Wheat Kings)Nolan Patrick and the Wheat Kings take on the Hitmen in Round 3. (Brandon Wheat Kings)

    The Eastern Conference’s two best teams in the regular-season haven’t skipped a beat in the playoffs. The Brandon Wheat Kings only lost two games in their series against the Edmonton Oil Kings and Regina Pats while the Calgary Hitmen dropped four contests against the Kootenay Ice and Medicine Hat Tigers.

    Brandon hosts Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday. Here is a preview of the Eastern Conference final.

    (1) Brandon Wheat Kings (53-11-4-4, 114 pts) vs. (2) Calgary Hitmen (45-22-1-4, 95 pts)

    Season series: Wheaties 3-1-0-0. Final Dynamic Dozen rankings: Wheaties 4th, Hitmen 7th. Post-trade deadline rankings: Wheaties 24-2-1-2, Hitmen 22-7-0-1. Prediction: Wheaties in 6.

    Series in a sentence: Calgary stands in the way of Brandon’s banner season.

    Even though five of Brandon’s eight playoff wins have been one-goal games, they haven’t really been tested yet. The Oil Kings and Pats simply didn’t have the star power to knock them off. Moreover, there wasn’t a point in either series where

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  • Prince Albert Raiders bring back Marc Habscheid as head coach

    Marc Habscheid signed a four-year extension as the head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders. (WHL.ca)Marc Habscheid signed a four-year extension as the head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders. (WHL.ca)

    Exactly a month after their season ended, the Prince Albert Raiders announced today that Marc Habscheid will be back behind the bench next season. He signed a four-year extension in Hockey Town North.

    Habscheid became Prince Albert’s interim head coach last season after Cory Clouston was canned just 15 games into the year. He finished the season with a respectable 24-28-2-2 record, including a 7-2-1-0 run to end the year, when considering the Raiders were sellers at the trade deadline.

    “I very much enjoyed my first five months in Prince Albert,” Habscheid said in the release. “The community and organization was very welcoming. I am very pleased to continue that relationship over the next four years.”

    Time will only tell whether Habscheid is the right man for the job, but his impressive hockey resume suggests that he has the know-how to get the Raiders back on their feet. He led the Kelowna Rockets to the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2003 and has 10 years of coaching experience in the WHL. He

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