Kelly Friesen

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Kelly Friesen is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports

  • Leon Draisaitl hopes he will end his WHL career with a championship this year. (Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)Leon Draisaitl hopes he will end his WHL career with a championship this year. (Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

    Leon Draisaitl thought he put his junior hockey days behind him when he stayed with the Edmonton Oilers after the nine-game mark in October. He believed he traded in his $200 a month paycheck and seat on a charter bus for a six-figure salary and a first-class spot on a jet.

    But when Oilers architect Craig McTavish and Prince Albert Raiders GM Bruno Campese worked out an agreement that sent the 19-year-old centre’s WHL rights to the powerhouse Kelowna Rockets near the trade deadline, his immediate future quickly changed. His NHL dream was put on hold while his junior career picked right back up again.

    “At first it wasn’t easy; you dream of playing in the NHL and you want to stay there,” says Draisaitl, who scored two goals and nine points in 37 games with the Oilers. “But I’m not worried about the money right now. I’m only 19 and have a lot of years ahead of me. This is a good opportunity here and this is where they want me to be right now.”

    The first-place Rockets were a strong

    Read More »from Kelowna Rockets’ Leon Draisaitl aims to end WHL career on winning note
  • Charlie Graham stole a win for the Bulls with a 51-save performance over the Generals. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)Charlie Graham stole a win for the Bulls with a 51-save performance over the Generals. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

    No. 1 Star: Charlie Graham, Belleville Bulls (OHL)

    Outshot 52-22, the Bulls didn’t deserve a win over the Oshawa Generals. But Graham turned the game upside down with an incredible 51-save performance.

    The 19-year-old goaltender opened up the match by only allowing one of 18 shots by him in the first period to keep it knotted at one. Following turning aside 11 pucks in the second, he went on to stand on his head in the final 20 minutes of play. He stopped over a puck a minute with 23 saves while his club managed to light the lamp three times to take the game 4-1.

    This is the second time on the year that the Toronto, Ont., native has posted 50 or more saves, but it's the first time he can relish a victory after his effort. The Bulls lost 2-1 to the Guelph Storm in November despite having their netminder post 50 saves in front of them.

    Graham’s outstanding effort shows the Bulls shouldn't be counted out as a team that could pull off an upset in the post-season. The victory puts

    Read More »from Belleville Bulls’ Charlie Graham posts 51-save effort against Oshawa Generals: Saturday’s 3 Stars
  • NHL draft tracker: Andrew Nielsen, Lethbridge Hurricanes

    Lethbridge's Andrew Nielsen has garnered attention from NHL scouts in his WHL rookie season. (Cindy Adachi)Lethbridge's Andrew Nielsen has garnered attention from NHL scouts in his WHL rookie season. (Cindy Adachi)

    Andrew Nielsen wasn’t considering a possible hockey career two years ago. The Lethbridge Hurricanes rookie defenceman was in a situation where the game was more or less a pastime to him. He wasn’t even playing in Alberta’s top midget league, let alone the Western Hockey League.

    “The NHL definitely wasn’t in the picture back then,” says Nielsen, who turned 18 in November. “When you’re playing ‘AA’ midget, you think this probably isn’t going to work out – time to look at other options for a career.”

    Nielsen’s fortunate started to shift the following season in 2013-14. He turned heads as a big-bodied rearguard for the Red Deer ‘AAA’ midget Chiefs and was subsequently listed and signed by the Hurricanes. Following earning a roster spot with Lethbridge this year, he started to garner attention from NHL scouts largely because of the combination of his imposing 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame and quality offensive abilities such as a good first pass and a strong slap shot.

    “When I came here (to

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Andrew Nielsen, Lethbridge Hurricanes
  • NHL draft tracker: Parker Wotherspoon, Tri-City Americans

    Parker Wotherspoon is one of the WHL's top draft eligible blueliners. (John Allen/Arid/Acres)Parker Wotherspoon is one of the WHL's top draft eligible blueliners. (John Allen/Arid/Acres)

    It is not hard to find an accurate comparison for Tri-City Americans defenceman Parker Wotherspoon. His calm, cool and collected style of play is quite similar to how his older brother, Calgary Flames pick Tyler Wotherspoon, played the game while he was a Portland Winterhawk.

    “I’m my own player, but we do have some similarities,” says Wotherspoon. “I try to be in position and be hard to play against and he played like that when he was in Portland. I guess it is expected that we would have some things similar being brothers.”

    Similar to his brother, the 6-foot, 170-pound Wotherspoon is projected to be selected anywhere from high second round to high third round in the 2015 NHL entry draft. He hopes to hear his name called before the 57th selection so that he has some bragging rights as the highest drafted Wotherspoon in his family.

    “I definitely want to go ahead of him,” says the 17-year-old sophomore, whom NHL Central Scouting Service ranked 46th among North American skaters in its

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Parker Wotherspoon, Tri-City Americans
  •  Chiefs wing Kailer Yamamoto is blossoming into a star in his WHL rookie season. (Gary Peterson/Action Sports Images) Chiefs wing Kailer Yamamoto is blossoming into a star in his WHL rookie season. (Gary Peterson/Action Sports Images)

    Kailer Yamamoto has stolen some of the spotlight away from his peers in the highly regarded 2013 WHL bantam draft class. The Spokane Chiefs winger has asserted himself as one of the top rookies in the league even though 104 players were selected ahead of him in his draft year.

    Yamamoto didn't take long to find his offensive grove following an adjustment period at the start of the season. Largely because of a hot streak around Christmas, when he racked up nine goals and 20 points in just 11 games, he now sits fourth in rookie points with 17 goals and 43 points in 52 games. Top 2013 bantam pick Tyler Benson and fifth overall selection Brett Howden are among those in his rear-view mirror on the stats sheet.

    “It wasn’t easy at first this season,” says Yamamoto. “I had a rough start to the season, but I’ve gotten more confident and comfortable. The more I’ve played the more confident I’ve gotten and I’ve adjusted to everything.”

    The skilled sniper clearly appears to be a late-round steal,

    Read More »from Spokane Chiefs’ Kailer Yamamoto becoming late round steal in stacked WHL bantam draft class
  • Brandon Wheat Kings rookie Nolan Patrick on path to stardom

    Brandon's Nolan Patrick has been turning heads in his rookie WHL season. (Wheat Kings images)Brandon's Nolan Patrick has been turning heads in his rookie WHL season. (Wheat Kings images)

    Brandon Wheat Kings centre Nolan Patrick is anything but a typical 16-year-old rookie trying to learn the ropes in the Western Hockey League. Just 52 games into his freshman season, he has already asserted himself as one of the top forwards in the league. He has racked up 26 goals and 49 points while using his smooth skating ability, superb vision and imposing 6-foot-3, 192-pound frame to his advantage.

    “I didn’t really set any big goals for this year,” says Patrick, who shares the rookie spotlight in Brandon with blueliners Ivan Provorov and Kale Clague. “I knew what to expect because of the games I played last year (as an underage call-up) and wanted to get better and better this year. I started off a bit slow, but my confidence went up around Christmas and that’s when I started playing better (11G-19P-17GP in 2015).”

    Brandon GM-head coach Kelly McCrimmon hasn’t been taken off guard by Patrick’s impressive season. The Winnipeg, Man., native was expected to be an impact player

    Read More »from Brandon Wheat Kings rookie Nolan Patrick on path to stardom
  • Moncton's Conor Garland leads the QMJHL in points with 27 goals and 101 points. (Ghyslain Bergeron / CP)Moncton's Conor Garland leads the QMJHL in points with 27 goals and 101 points. (Ghyslain Bergeron / CP)

    No. 1 Star: Conor Garland, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)

    Garland (1G-2A, +2) hit the 100-point plateau and added one more for good measure as the Wildcats defeated the Victoriaville Tigres 3-2. He has an 11-point lead on Blainville-Boisbriand Armada centre Danick Martel in the QMJHL’s scoring race.

    The Scituate, MA., native connected with Ivan Barbashev (2G-1A, +3) in all three of Moncton’s goals. He set up the St. Louis Blues second-round pick in the latter half of the first period for the first goal of the game. After Samuel Blais put Victoriaville up in front with a pair of markers, he found Barbashev for a second time just 1:11 into the final frame. The Russian wing returned the favour roughly six minutes later by setting up Garland for the game-winning goal.

    It seems safe to say that Garland, who turns 19 in March, won’t be passed over in the NHL draft for a second time this June. His incredible skill, which is made obvious in his 27 goals and 101 points in 56 contests on the year,

    Read More »from Moncton Wildcats’ Conor Garland reaches 100-point plateau in close win: Sunday’s 3 Stars
  • Guelph Storm goaltender Justin Nichols made 58 saves in a 4-3 shootout win over the Sarnia Sting. Guelph Storm goaltender Justin Nichols made 58 saves in a 4-3 shootout win over the Sarnia Sting.

    No. 1 Star: Justin Nichols, Guelph Storm (OHL)

    Nichols could justify filing a complaint to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board after his monstrous 61-shot workload in a 4-3 shootout win against the Sarnia Sting.

    The 5-foot-9, 163-pound netminder posted a new career high with a 58-save effort, not including his two shootout stops. He was busy right off the hop as he faced 20 shots, stopping 19, in the opening 20 minutes of play. He turned aside 17 of 18 pucks in each of the following two periods before making five saves in overtime. He let Nikita Korostelev (1G) sneak one by him on his first shot in the shootout, but he turned away the next two shots to ensure the victory.

    How the Storm put 34-fewer pucks on net than the Sting is a true testament to why Nichols was practically the only reason his club won the game.

    With the London Knights also capturing two points tonight, the win kept Guelph one-point back of them for third spot in the OHL’s Eastern Conference playoff race.

    Read More »from Guelph Storm’s Justin Nichols posts 58-save effort in shootout win: Friday’s 3 Stars
  • Lightning pick Adam Erne has six goals in four games this month for the Remparts. (CP)Lightning pick Adam Erne has six goals in four games this month for the Remparts. (CP)

    No. 1 Star: Adam Erne, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)

    The Tampa Bay Lightning second-round draft choice (2G-1A, +4) kept his hot start to the month going in a rival matchup against the Victoriaville Tigres. It was the third time that he posted a two-goal night in his last four contests.

    Starting with the first marker of the game near the halfway point in the first frame, Erne was in on a goal in every period in the 6-4 contest. He scored his second of the night in the middle frame to give the Remparts a commanding three-goal lead. He wrapped up his performance by notching the primary helper on his club’s final goal of the game from Massimo Carozza (2G, +1).

    The victory was Quebec’s fifth in a row. They are now tied with Baie-Comeau Drakkar with 69 points apiece and are only three-points back of the Rimouski Oceanic for top spot in the QMJHL’s East Division.

    No. 2 Star: Anthony DiFruscia, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

    DiFruscia, a rugged 19-year-old wing, had one of his best 60-minute efforts on the

    Read More »from Lightning pick Adam Erne’s 3-point night lifts Remparts to 5th consecutive win: Thursday’s 3 Stars
  • Connor McDavid says it would be a dream come true to be a Maple Leaf. (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)Connor McDavid says it would be a dream come true to be a Maple Leaf. (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    In the midst of going through one of the worst stretches in the history of the storied franchise, Connor McDavid preached music to the ears of Toronto Maple Leafs fans. The Erie Otters superstar talked about how he grew up dreaming about one day playing for the Maple Leafs in a recent interview.

    “That would be an absolute dream come true,” McDavid told Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun on the possibility of being drafted by the Maple Leafs. “It’s pretty crazy to even think about.”

    Unfortunately for Toronto hockey fans, it seems quite unlikely that McDavid will don a blue and white sweater at the 2015 draft. Albeit the Leafs’ odds will go up if the team continues to struggle, they currently only have a 6.5 per cent shot at winning the draft lottery according to 2015 NHL Draft Lottery Simulator. The Buffalo Sabres (20 per cent), Edmonton Oilers (13.5 per cent) and Arizona Coyotes (11.5 per cent) lead the way in the sweepstakes.

    In the meantime, the 6-foot-1, 187-pound McDavid has

    Read More »from The Friesen Files: McDavid dreams of being a Maple Leaf; Eichel’s chance at Beanpot title delayed

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