Kelly Friesen

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Kelly Friesen is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports

  • 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

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Paul Bittner, Portland Winterhawks
  • 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

    Read More »from Brandon Wheat Kings slightly favoured over Calgary Hitmen: WHL Eastern Conference final preview
  • 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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  • Wheat Kings, Hitmen and Rockets inch closer to Round 3: WHL playoff roundup

    Tim McGauley and the Brandon Wheat Kings are up 3-1 on the Regina Pats. (Wheat Kings).Tim McGauley and the Brandon Wheat Kings are up 3-1 on the Regina Pats. (Wheat Kings).

    Just like that, three of the WHL’s second-round playoff series are potentially close to wrapping up. The Brandon Wheat Kings, Calgary Hitmen and Kelowna Rockets are up 3-1 in their respective series. The fourth matchup between the Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks, meanwhile, is only two games deep because Portland’s barns have been occupied. Garth Brooks booked the Moda Centre from last Sunday to today and there was a Craft Brewers Conference in the Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Here is a look at a roundup of all four WHL playoff series.

    Eastern Conference

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

    Following dropping the first two contests and being outscored 10-3 in Brandon, the Queen City Kids came to play at home to make it a series. They took the third match 3-2 before falling in Game 4 by the same score in overtime.

    Jordan Papirny has kept up his solid play in the crease against the Pats. He has only allowed eight pucks by him in the

    Read More »from Wheat Kings, Hitmen and Rockets inch closer to Round 3: WHL playoff roundup
  • Kootenay Ice, coach Ryan McGill part ways after 3 seasons

    Kootenay Ice won't be bringing back Ryan McGill next season as the club's bench boss.Kootenay Ice won't be bringing back Ryan McGill next season as the club's bench boss.

    In a bit of a surprise move, the Kootenay Ice announced today that Ryan McGill won’t be back behind the bench next season. The team won’t be renewing his contract when it expires this June.

    Kootenay made the playoffs in all three of McGill’s seasons, but that goes without saying since the Ice are yet to miss the post-season in the club’s 18-year history. There wasn’t a year where the Cranbrook-based team seemed to underachieve under McGill. They were the underdog in both years that they were ousted in the first round in 2012-13 and this year at the hands of the Calgary Hitmen. In 2013-14, meanwhile, McGill led his club over the Hitmen before falling to the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

    That said, it wouldn’t be fair to point a finger at McGill for Kootenay’s shortcomings in the second season. He seemed to get the most out of squads, but could only do so much because of a lack of offensive depth, star power on the back end and goaltending issues at times.

    Read More »from Kootenay Ice, coach Ryan McGill part ways after 3 seasons
  • Everett Silvertips’ Carter Hart proving to be special rookie goalie in playoffs

    Carter Hart has asserted himself as one of the WHL's top goalies as a rookie. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)Carter Hart has asserted himself as one of the WHL's top goalies as a rookie. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

    Everett Silvertips freshman Carter Hart has defied the odds to get where he is today. He not only wasn’t selected in the 2013 WHL bantam draft until the eighth round, but also played sparingly at the major midget level last season in the Alberta ‘AAA’ Midget Hockey League.

    Yet in Round 2 of the WHL playoffs, the 16-year-old has solidified himself as one of the top young goaltenders in the league. He started to hit his stride in the second half of the season following a typical transition period in the first half. He stole veteran netminder Austin Lotz’s starting job when he went 11-2-0-3 and posted a .924 save percentage in his final 18 regular-season games. He has carried over his strong play to the post-season, maintaining a 1.99 average and .937 save percentage throughout eight games.

    “We’ve thought all year long that we have two good goalies and we still think that, but Carter has stepped up in the second half of the year and we've decided to go with him,” says Silvertips head

    Read More »from Everett Silvertips’ Carter Hart proving to be special rookie goalie in playoffs
  • Baie-Comeau Drakkar’s Philippe Cadorette makes 61 saves: Friday’s 3 Stars

    Drakkar's Philippe Cadorette made 61 saves in a 3-2 win over the Foreurs on Friday night.Drakkar's Philippe Cadorette made 61 saves in a 3-2 win over the Foreurs on Friday night.

    No. 1 Star: Philippe Cadorette, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)

    Cadorette single-handedly put Drakkar up 1-0 over the Val-d’Or Foreurs in their second-round series. He turned aside 61 shots while his team put 33 pucks on net at the other end of the ice in a 3-2 double overtime win.

    The undrafted 19-year-old goaltender stood on his head straight out of the gate as he stopped 22 shots in the opening frame. He made 25 saves in the following 40 minutes to close out regulation play. He went on to pave the way for a double-overtime goal from Simon Chevrier (1G, +1) by making 14 more stops in the first frame of extra time.

    To some extent, the effort was a bounce-back game for the 5-foot-11, 193-pounder. He allowed four goals on just 22 shots in his previous showing against the Saint John Sea Dogs in Round 1.

    Of all the Foreurs Cadorette frustrated, Jan Mandat has to be near the top of the list as he put 10 pucks on net, albeit one did find mesh. Alexis Pepin, Jeremie Fraser, Nicolas Aube-Kubel,

    Read More »from Baie-Comeau Drakkar’s Philippe Cadorette makes 61 saves: Friday’s 3 Stars
  • Ivan Provorv's Brandon Wheat Kings take on the Regina Pats in Round 2. (Wheat Kings)Ivan Provorv's Brandon Wheat Kings take on the Regina Pats in Round 2. (Wheat Kings)

    With the top two teams in each division winning their series, Round 1 went as expected in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. The script should stay the same in the conference’s second set of matchups, but it’s not near as cut and dry as the previous round.

    The Brandon Wheat Kings are set to square off against the Regina Pats for the second straight year. The Wheaties are heavily favoured to take the series again, but it seems unlikely that the Pats will go out four straight like last season.

    After ending Sam Reinhart’s junior career, the Calgary Hitmen have a date with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Albeit it’s hard to bet against the red-hot Marek Langhamer, this seems to be Calgary’s series to lose.

    All four of the WHL’s second-round series begin today.

    East Division

    (1) Brandon Wheat Kings (53-11-4-4, 114 pts) vs. (2) Regina Pats (37-24-5-6, 85 pts)

    Season series: Wheaties 5-2-1-0. Final Dynamic Dozen rankings: Wheaties 4th, Pats not ranked. Post-trade deadline records: Wheaties 24-2-1-2,

    Read More »from Wheat Kings, Pats set for a playoff rematch: WHL Eastern Conference second-round preview
  • NHL draft watch: Players rising, falling in Central Scouting’s final list

    Ottawa's Travis Konecny is one of Central Scouting's biggest risers.(Aaron Bell, OHL Images)Ottawa's Travis Konecny is one of Central Scouting's biggest risers.(Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    To the surprise of no one, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel topped NHL Central Scouting Service’s final 2015 draft ranking. There were, however, some eyebrow-raisers beyond the two phenoms. Some prospects saw their draft stock spike while others were on the other end of the spectrum.

    Here is a look at some of Central Scouting’s notable risers and fallers.

    Rising

    Travis Konecny, centre, Ottawa 67’s (OHL) – Konecny has seen his stock fluctuate throughout his draft year quite a bit. He was ranked surprisingly low at 26 among North American skaters in CSS’ mid-term rankings even though some scouts regarded him as a potential top 10 pick earlier in the year. He fittingly jumped up to 14 in the scouting organization’s final ranking. It seems to be a fair spot for an undersized (5-foot-10, 176-pounds) sniper who scored at over a point-per game (68 points in 60 contests) and possesses oodles of skill.

    Noah Juulsen, defence, Everett Silvertips (WHL) – The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Juulesen has

    Read More »from NHL draft watch: Players rising, falling in Central Scouting’s final list
  • The Friesen Files: McDavid, Eichel inch closer towards championship banners

    McDavid lifted the Otters over the Sting in the first round of the OHL playoffs. Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images.McDavid lifted the Otters over the Sting in the first round of the OHL playoffs. Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images.

    Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel took one-step closer towards wrapping up the 2014-15 season with championship rings on their fingers last week. McDavid led the Erie Otters past the Sarnia Sting in the first round of the OHL playoffs while Eichel helped the Boston Terriers advance to the semifinals of the NCAA’s Frozen Four championship.

    After dropping Game 1 at home, Erie came out on top of their next four contests against Sarnia, including a 7-0 shellacking in the last game. McDavid, of course, put his name on the stats sheet in every match, racking up three goals and nine points. The Otters take on the London Knights starting Thursday in Round 2.

    Even though he missed 21 games because of a hand injury and the world juniors, the Newmarket, Ont., native finished third in OHL regular-season scoring with 44 markers and 120 points in 47 contests. Fellow 2015 draft prospects Dylan Strome, who’s also an Otter, and the Knights’ Mitchell Marner finished ahead of him in that respective order.

    Read More »from The Friesen Files: McDavid, Eichel inch closer towards championship banners

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