Neate Sager

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Neate Sager is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • NHL draft tracker: Alex Nedeljkovic, Plymouth Whalers

    Nedeljkovic was 2nd in the OHL in saves and save percentage (OHL Images)

    All Alex Nedeljkovic did this season, on a team with 15 rookies, was post a better save percentage for the Plymouth Whalers than Malcolm Subban did in the OHL two seasons ago when he became a Boston Bruins first-round pick.

    While not a direct comparison per se, that might partially illustrate how far Nedeljkovic has come in two seasons as the Whalers' starting goaltender. The 18-year-old from Parma, Ohio managed to have the OHL's second-highest save percentage (.925) while facing the second-most shots (2,207). Nedeljkovic, who was NHL Central Scouting's fifth-ranked North American goaltender at midseason, led the Whalers to their 23rd consecutive playoff berth. Nedeljkovic has shown a prescience for tracking pucks that wasn't obvious two years ago, when Plymouth snapped him up in the seventh round of the priority selection draft.

    "I think my big advantage is how well I see the ice," Nedeljkovic said prior to the start of the OHL playoffs. "I can almost see what's going to happen. I think that's one the biggest things you need while playing hockey. It just makes the job easier.

    "What I want to work on, is being more aggressive," the 6-foot, 182-pounder added. "I don't like to play three feet outside my crease like some guys do, I like to kind of stay back, stay under control. But at the same time, it's something I need to learn to do."

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Alex Nedeljkovic, Plymouth Whalers
  • Guelph Storm forward Robby Fabbri (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

    Rathgeb's hit on Fabbri (Rogers Television image)With the Guelph Storm's No. 1 centre Robby Fabbri set to miss his second game since being checked in the head on Friday, Plymouth Whalers defenceman Yannick Rathgeb has learned his fate.

    The Ontario Hockey League has handed down a 10-game ban — pretty standard, really — to Rathgeb for the illegal check that occurred during the second period of Game 1 of the Western Conference playoff series. After losing the puck on a drive to the net, Fabbri got entangled with goalie Alex Nedeljkovic and was balanced on one foot as he tried to retrieve the puck behind the Whalers net. Fabbri was bent over and appeared to be focused on regaining full control of the puck when Rathgeb, the backside defenceman, caught him with a blindside hit. It's impossible to know what Rathgeb's intent actually was, especially when it involves players and split-second decisions. On the slow-motion replay it looks like the classic hit on a vulnerable player, which is what the OHL frowns upon.

    Read More »from Guelph Storm’s Robby Fabbri remains out; 10-game headshot ban for Plymouth Whalers’ Yannick Rathgeb
  • NHL draft tracker: Julio Billia, Chicoutimi Sagueneens

    Billia made strides this season in 41 games for a young Sags squad (Ghyslain Bergeron, The Canadian Press)

    Julio Billia has had ample opportunity this season to endear himself to those who pull for the underdog.

    It's rare for a goalie in his age-17 season to get the 30-40 games many experts believe is necessary for proper development. The soft-spoken St-Léonard, Que., native got that with a young Chicoutimi Saguenéens team that struggled in the second half after moving star Montreal Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon to contending Baie-Comeau for a package of draft picks. That led to Billia, who's on the small side at a listed 5-foot-11 and 168 pounds, often dealing with a heavy shot volume.

    Billia, whose Saguenéens are presently down 2-0 to Rimouski in the first round of the playoffs, is well-aware of the NHL's preference for bigger goalies. He's determined to show there's no stigma on smaller masked men.

    "For sure the scouts and everybody they say, 'ah, your size' and everything," says Billia, who had a 3.52 average and .894 save percentage while averaging 33.3 shots per night across 41 regular-season games. "I don't think about that. In the NHL you see that there are still some goalies who are 5-foot-10, 5-11. There will always be those goalies. You just have to be better and work harder than everyone else.

    "The tall goalies have it easier because the puck can just hit them, almost. I have to be square and also I use my speed to my advantage. And also, I have a good play reading. I add that to my game."

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Julio Billia, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
  • Desperate times for teams trailing 2-0: the coast-to-coast

    Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Will top NHL draft prospect Leon Draisaitl be able to get away from the Edmonton Oil Kings checkers now that Prince Albert has the last change for the next two games of its Eastern series? (Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun)

    Mock draft time: is Jake Virtanen ahead of Draisaitl in the pecking order? (NHL.com)

    The #FreeJaedon report: Jaedon Descheneau set Kootenay Ice club records for assists (5) and points (6) in a playoff game on Monday, even though the Calgary Hitmen won 7-6 for a 2-1 series lead. (Taking Note, Cranbrook Daily Townsman)

    Vancouver Giants coach Don Hay is trying to wave a wand to crack the labyrinth that is the Portland Winterhawks' defence. That is the nerdiest sentence ever written on BTN, sorry but not sorry. (The Oregonian)

    Payton Lee is showing the potential to be Vancouver's man in goal when (should we even write if) it hosts the 2016 Memorial Cup. (Vancouver Sun, Metro Vancouver)

    Up 2-0 on Regina, does Brandon have a taste for the jugular, especially with the Pats' Dyson Stevenson playing hurt? (Luber's Lounge)

    Whatever Lucas Punkari writes, you stop and read it. (Rocky View Weekly)

    OHL

    Cory Butzin and Ken Campbell have must-reads about how the Saginaw Spirit is processing its grief and guilt over the death of Terry Trafford. Cody Payne's OT winner cut Erie's series lead over Saginaw to 2-1. (The Hockey News, Saginaw News)

    Edmonton Oilers first-rounder Darnell Nurse practically teleported across two zones to finish off a 2-on-1 short-handed rush for the backbreaker goal in Sault Ste. Marie's Game 3 win at Owen Sound, and had this to say: "I had a chance to jump in and he [Tyler Gaudet] got it to me. I had a little bit of puck luck and it went in." (Owen Sound Sun Times, Sault Star)

    Read More »from Desperate times for teams trailing 2-0: the coast-to-coast
  • University of Alberta won its record 14th national title in Saskatoon on Sunday (Liam Richards, CP)

    A simpler format will not make more of the country care about the CIS University Cup, but it's on the way.

    Men's hockey has long resisted falling into step with the rest of Canadian Interuniversity Sport by having a single-elimination national championship, rather than the current setup where a team can split its round-robin games and make the final based on goal differential. However, with CIS now in partnership with Sportsnet, almost all team sports (save football) are set to switch to an eight-team, one-and-done format.

    So much of one of CIS hockey's charms. It will lose its safeguard against seeing a team's season-long dominance declared null and void due to one neutral-site loss à la the Wichita State basketball team, which was bounced from the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at around the same time on Sunday the Alberta Golden Bears won their record 14th University Cup with a 3-1 win over the host Saskatchewan Huskies. On Sunday, CIS men's hockey coaches association president Kevin Figsby told canadawest.tv it is a "done deal" that the tournament will expand from six to eight teams. Sources have confirmed that the change also extends to CIS women's hockey, where McGill won the national title on March 16 by defeating Montreal in overtime.

    Read More »from CIS University Cup switching to single-elimination, but case for its unique format remains strong
  • Plymouth Whalers averaged 2,478 in attendance this season (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    With baseball season right around the corner, there's a relocation rumour that seems directly out of left field.

    To Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, owning the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers has always been more of a side project than a licence to print money. The Whalers currently have the OHL's longest playoff appearance streak at 23 seasons and have an enviable roll call of alumni who are established in the NHL. Moreover, being located on the U.S. side of the Detroit river and in a major urban area makes the club more attractive to many American players who might not otherwise consider coming to the OHL and improving the quality of the league.

    The trade-off is that the Whalers, who averaged 2,478 in attendance this season, have to shout to be heard in a Detroit-area market that has teams in every major league and two nearby big-time NCAA programs in Michigan and Michigan State. Plymouth has long been willing to grind it out and be a model OHL franchise in many respects, which would tend to make one dubious of any talk of a change.

    Read More »from Plymouth Whalers stand for more than fans in stands, speculation about OHL team’s future just sounds off
  • McDavid a saviour, Regina reeling: the coast-to-coast

    Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Tim Bozon is up and moving, so this is automatically a good day. (raiderhockey.com)

    The injury-bedraggled Minnesota Wild are exploring whether it is possible to bring Mathew Dumba back from Portland on an emergency recall. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

    Vancouver Canucks pick Anton Cederholm is going a bang-up job of being the sobering yin to Derrick Pouliot's occasionally raging yang on Portland's blueline. (Vancouver Province)

    Will Radel Fazleev, who missed half the season with a chronic wrist ailment, score a big goal for Calgary against the Kootenay Ice? Can Sam Reinhart elevate a depleted Ice crew? (Calgary Sun)

    Vancouver Giants owner Ron Toigo is pretty overt about his intentions to host the 2016 Memorial Cup: "We have to convince [the rest of the WHL] that as the host team we’ll be competitive enough to be considered a threat to win it." Vancouver hosted in 2007; who ever heard of a team hosting the Memorial Cup twice in 10 years? (Vancouver Sun)

    The Regina Pats are getting a shellacking for being down 0-2 to Brandon. All three Saskatchewan teams in the playoffs are trailing 2-0. (The Blair Necessities, Slap Shots, Taking Note, Regina Leader-Post)

    One problem with Eric Cormie's repertoire for Tri-City: the Winnipeg Jets-drafted goalie can't score goals, too. (Regan's Rant, Tri-City Herald)

    Why Prince George Cougars goalie Ty Edmonds is a Guy You Should Know. (The Hockey Writers)

    Kamloops' Matt Bellerive is just the first in a line of an impressive hockey family. (Vancouver Province)

    OHL

    Connor McDavid might be the reason the Erie Otters are staying put, writes Patrick King. (Sportsnet)

    Via Mike Davies, the two sides of the coin after Kingston had eight more power plays than Peterborough and won in overtime. Petes centre Hunter Garlent: "We have to keep playing the same way. There is nothing we can do different. We play a physical game and we have to continue to do that." Frontenacs coach Todd Gill: "We're allowing them to take the dumb penalties they are taking." (Peterborough Examiner, Kingston Whig-Standard)

    Today's should-read: Jeff Seidel on Terry Trafford's last days. (Detroit Free Press)

    Read More »from McDavid a saviour, Regina reeling: the coast-to-coast
  • Leafs pick Carter Verhaeghe had two points in the IceDogs' series-tying win (OHL Images)

    It was Last Shot Wins Sunday in three Eastern Conference games, as that literally happened in every game. Toronto Maple Leafs pick Carter Verhaeghe's last-minute winner pulled pesky Niagara level with North Bay. Favourites Kingston and Oshawa cashed in on overtime power plays to go up 2-0 respectively on the hard-luck Peterborough Petes and Mississauga Steelheads.

    On with the post-game questions.

    Read More »from Niagara IceDogs nab home-ice advantage on Carter Verhaeghe’s late snipe: OHL post-game questions
  • Leipsic and Portland are aiming to repeat as WHL champions (CP)

    For wetting his whistle, Brendan Leipsic got whistled off for unsportmanslike conduct. On Saturday night, the Nashville Predators prospect who's long thrived on hacking off opponents and fans of opposing teams with his brazenness took it another level by sipping from the water bottle on top of Vancouver Giants goalie Payton Lee's net during a stoppage in play.

    That's a no-no, of course, what with concerns about communicable illnesses. Leipsic got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for stealing a sip of Lee's Adam's ale, although it didn't affect the Portland Winterhawks during a 3-0 win in Game 1 of their Western Hockey League playoff series.

    Read More »from Portland Winterhawks’ Brendan Leipsic sips from opposing goalie’s water bottle, gets 2-minute penalty (VIDEO)
  • Jason Fuchs is in his first North American season (Ghyslain Bergeron, The Canadian Press)You've seen hockey players search the ice for lost contact lens, but rarely do you see them searching for part of a player's finger. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies' forward Jason Fuchs is going to be okay, but there was a not-for-the-squeamish moment on Saturday night after Fuchs had the tip of his left pinky shredded after it was struck by a slapshot.

    Fuchs sped to the bench while the play was ongoing. After the whistle, according to La Presse hockey writer François Parenteau, Fuchs' teammates were looking on the ice "in search of a potential fingertip." It took more than 45 minutes to stanch the bleeding and sew the wound shot. In a release, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League said that Fuchs' finger is broken but he was able to rejoin the Huskies for their trip home to Rouyn-Noranda following the game.

    The video isn't gory, but one can get a sense how serious the freak occurrence was. It looks like the Huskies' medical staff is poking around in Fuchs' glove for the fingertip.

    Read More »from Rouyn-Noranda Huskies’ Jason Fuchs has fingertip ripped off by shot (VIDEO)

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