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

    WHL

    Rehabbing after knee surgery last season also firmed up Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Morgan Rielly's resolve. (National Post)

    Reigning junior hockey authority Damien Cox has concluded Team Canada will need sound goaltending at the world junior championship next month. (Toronto Star)

    The Kelowna Rockets' grinders have pushed them up the Western Conference pecking order. (Kelowna Daily Courier)

    Winnipeg Jets prospect Adam Lowry is thriving as the team leader in Swift Current, writes Ken Wiebe. (Winnipeg Sun)

    The Brandon Wheat Kings  could have D-man Rene Hunter and forward Jason Swyripa back from injuries for Tuesday's tilt vs. Seattle. (Brandon Sun, paywall)

    Moving out Nathan Burns, David Musil and disgruntled Austin Vetterl (the first two were presumably gruntled) shows the Vancouver Giants are in full rebuild, likely with an eye toward bidding to host the 2016 Memorial Cup. (Everett Herald)

    A 'crash course' in staying healthy has done wonders for Kamloops' Cole Cheveldave, the league's stingiest netminder. Tonight Chevelave and the Blazers get a visit from defending champion Edmonton. (Calgary Herald)

    OHL

    Brampton Battalion alumnus and North Bay, Ont., native Ken Peroff on his old team moving to his hometown: "As a former Battalion it's very sad to hear about the team's decision ... On the other side, I know North Bay's love for hockey and have no doubt in my mind they will be supported." (Bay Today, North Bay Nugget)

    Reports suggest 16-year-old forward Brendan Lemieux (former NHLer Claude Lemieux's son)  is set to join the Barrie Colts after starting the season with Green Bay in the USHL. (Green Bay Press-Gazette)

    Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenceman Darnell Nurse is showing he can do more than just be a shutdown guy. (Toronto Star)

    Read More »from Battalion ship out for The Bay: Tuesday’s coast-to-coast
  • Team Russia's Nail Yakupov

    Team Russia won their first game of the Subway Super Series in a 6-2 blowout over the QMJHL in Game 1 on Monday night. While it's still way too early in the series, some points can be made about Russia's performance. Here are a few thoughts:

    • After years of butchering Russian national anthem, it was nice to hear a proper version of the song performed by a native speaker and a good singer. It's a rare combo really.
    • Last season Nail Yakupov played on the same line with Alex Khokhlachev and Ivan Telegin at both the Subway Super Series and the world junior championship. Telegin is not eligible anymore, so he was replaced in August at the Canada-Russia Challenge by Anton Zlobin on the left wing. This time around, though, Zlobin was put on the fourth line with other QMJHLers — Mikhail Grigorenko and Valentin Zykov — while Kirill Kapustin was moved to the first line.
    • What do you remember about Nail Yakupov's goal? The shot, right? That's good. Rewind the play, though. Who battles against the
    Read More »from Russia takes control in Game 1 of Super Series
  • Russia's Andrei Vasilevski (Getty Images)No. 1 Star - Andrei Vasilevski, Team Russia

    Vasilevski is, unfortunately for Team Canada fans, no stranger to audiences this side of the pond. We got re-acquainted with "Vasya", now a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, right at the end of the first period when Jean-Sebastien Dea was robbed by the left pad of Vasilevski, sliding across and taking away a clear open net. That held Russia's 2-0 first period lead, and they would go on to win 6-2 for a Game One victory in the Subway Super Series. Later in the third right after Russia had made it 5-1, Nathan MacKinnon set up Anthony Mantha on a quick break but Vasilevski stopped him with the glove making it look effortless.

    The QMJHL team only had a couple of lines rolling. There was Jonathan Huberdeau and Nathan MacKinnon's, who saw time with both Dea and Mantha, and the second unit composed of Phillip Danault, Charles Hudon and Francis Beauviller. Hudon had a couple of good chances in the second, but they failed to get the puck high on Vasilevski, who worked the bottom of the net all game, displaying excellent lateral movement and challenging the Canadian shooters to pick spots on him. He stopped 28 of 30.

    No. 2 Star - Nail Yakupov, Team Russia

    Sure, the play in his own end was suspect, and sure, he was trying a little too hard to force the fancy play in the offensive zone, but this whole tournament may be Yakupov's show, and he looked excellent breaking through the neutral zone and set up a number of clear-cut opportunities thanks to his speed and quickness. He set up the game's first scoring chance with a feather soft saucer pass to Alexander Khokhlachev splitting the "D" for a breakaway for the former Windsor Spitfire, and Yakupov, the No. 1 overall selection to Edmonton, scored the 2-0 goal midway through the first period on a slap shot from the top of the circle.

    Read More »from Vasilevski steals show early in Russia’s Game One win: Monday’s Three Stars
  • The Brampton Battalion have a tentativea agreement to move to North Bay (OHL Images)

    Well, that was quick. Fewer than two weeks after rumours of the Brampton Battalion moving intensified, city officials in North Bay, Ont., announced the attendance-starved Battalion have a tentative agreement in place to relocate for next season.

    Given the stagnancy of the attendance for the team we'll informally call the Zombie Battalion, it's no shock at all that owner Scott Abbott and president Mike Griffin were so aggressive about exploring a move to a city where the major junior team was the only game in town. The North Bay Centennials' heyday in the 1980s and '90s is enough of a track record. The city's plan to finance $12-million in upgrades to the Memorial Gardens also addresses concerns about playing in a facility that isn't up to league standards. That could help with convincing the league's board of governors to approve the move, once a season-ticket drive has been completed. North Bay, of course, lost its Centennials to Saginaw, Mich., in 2002.

    Read More »from North Bay returning to OHL as Battalion make deal to move
  • Russian star Nail Yakupov

    Team Russia had never been a real competitor at the Subway Super Series before 2010. It wasn't until they finally won the series prior to winning the world junior tournament in Buffalo that they started sending better teams.

    Last season they split the series with the CHL teams 3-3 but the ultimate win went to the hosts much to confusion of the Russians. Still, they went on to the world junior final, where they lost to Sweden.

    This season, Valeri Bragin, who had been Team Russia's head coach for two years, landed a job working for CSKA. It's tough to apply for a job when your predecessor has made it to the final game of the U-20 championship three times in three years winning two gold medals.

    Regardless of the challenge, Mikhail Varnakov was up for it.

    Varnakov faced Canada four times in his first tournament with the Russians in August. Team Russia split the series with two regulation wins, though they eventually lost in overtime as Ryan Strome beat Andrei Vasilevski.

    A few weeks later

    Read More »from Team Russia looks strong heading into Super Series
  • Nathan MacKinnon is moving to right wing for Team QMJHL (Getty Images)

    As recently as two seasons ago, the Subway Super Series felt more contrived and cynical than the latest Hollywood remake.

    The six-game, east-to-west showdown between the Russian Selects and a cast of many from the Canadian talent pool in major junior hockey was kind of mishmaw. It serves a purpose to Hockey Canada as an audition for the national junior team selection camp, for sure. But it's not series in the conventional sense. The CHL essentially has a fresh lineup for every game (more than 30 players will rotate through for Team OHL), whereas Russia has to play six games in 11 days in 4-5 time zones with the increasingly burning legs, save for using North American-based players.

    Russia also used to regularly play possum, leaving main cogs for its world junior tournament squad home and sending over players who were as faceless as the easily outwitted extras in the original, can't-be-outdone Red Dawn. It came off as a cash grab by times.

    That all changed in 2010, when the Russian Selects won the series for the first time. Point being, the Super Series can produce compelling viewing and it's the only puck fix locked-out NHL fans might get, although hope  springs eternal with the big league's game of CBA chicken. The Super Series a chance to form an opinion on how a 17-year-old prodigy such as Nathan MacKinnon could fit into a lockout-year edition of Team Canada, or how far away 15-year-old wunderkind Connor McDavid is from wearing the Maple Leaf at Christmastime.

    Here's a primer of what to look for with Game 1 set for this evening in Blainville-Boisbriand, Que. (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, Sportsnet/TVA Sports/NHL Network USA).

    Read More »from Subway Super Series starts Monday, here is what to expect
  • Oscar Dansk (via ottershockey.com)The Erie Otters don't have the worst defence in the Ontario Hockey League, by a certain measure, but they're pretty close. Much of this is in an attempt to determine why Oscar Dansk, the highly-touted Columbus Blue Jacket-select who was drafted 3rd overall in the CHL Import Draft, has had such a rough start to his OHL career.

    Officially, Dansk is listed as having a 4-9-0-2 record with a 4.04 goals against average, though a more puzzling .894 save percentage, which would put him last in the OHL among starting goaltenders.

    Unfortunately, though National Hockey League blogs have have fans dutifully count the number of scoring chances going for and against each team, the amount of quality shots recorded for and against each net is not a luxury many of us statistically-inclined junior hockey writers are not privy to.  All we have to work with are the shots for and against each team, and while the number of shots on goal usually gives us some indication of the amount of quality shots a team gives up, at the NHL volume its shown to be more of an indicator of overall volume and not by rate.

    Read More »from Reconciling Oscar Dansk’s early season struggles in Erie’s net
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Kamloops Blazers forward Dylan Willick might miss the rest of the first half with a broken ankle. (Kamloops Daily News)

    This is the end of the organization code-named chalupa. Although its Twitter account is three-quarters as entertaining as The Iron Sheik's. (The Pipeline Show)

    Readers might wince at what happened to Medicine Hat's Elgin Pearce in a game last weekend. Let us just say he sang soprano for a while. (Medicine Hat News)

    Tri-City Americans overage Justin Feser has the rare feat of having had a hat trick in all five of his WHL seasons, but never two in the same campaign. (Tri-City Herald)

    Kelowna Rockets goalie Jackson Whistle had a shutout in his first home start at Prospera Place. (Kelowna Daily Courier)

    Should a team with a feline-derived name really have Dog Night? Poor cats never get to go anywhere. (HQPrinceGeorge.com)

    Our own Kelly Friesen expounds on the MasterCard Memorial Cup-host Saskatoon Blades being four points out of a playoff berth, the David Musil trade to the Edmonton Oil Kings and the chalupa. (The Pipeline Show)

    The Prince Albert Raiders are having trouble winning away from home. (Prince Albert Daily Herald)

    OHL

    Prospective Team Canada defenceman Ryan Murphy made critical mistakes the cost the Kitchener Rangers a regulation win over Owen Sound on Sunday, but he made up for it in overtime. (Rangers Report, Waterloo Record)

    Is anyone surprised Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Scott Harrington is shepherding the young London Knights through a valley of darkness? (London Free Press)

    Read More »from Nail Yakupov makes North American return: Monday’s coast-to-coast
  • Shea Theodore's 12 points is third among WHL draft-year defencemen (Derek Leung, Getty Images)

    Standing 6-foot-2, 175-pounds, Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman Shea Theodore definitely doesn't have any trouble getting on any amusement park rides. He does, however, look vertically challenged next to his defensive teammates such as 6-foot-6 Jared Hauf and 6-foot-7 Taylor Green.

    "It's great playing with guys with that size," says the 17-year-old Theodore. "I'm not sure if they make me look small, but I definitely don't look big next to them."

    Playing alongside towering blueliners has been to Theodore's benefit. His lanky linemates have opened up space and garnered some attention away from him.

    "They make my job a bit easier," says Theodore. "Guys like The Twin Towers (Hauf and Green) are very big and physical. So they can throw bodies around and make big hits to pop out loose pucks. I think it gives me a bit more time to make offensive plays."

    Theodore is poised for a breakout sophomore season in the Western Hockey League. He has already potted as many goals, four, in 16 games this year as he did in his entire 69-game season last year. He has added eight helpers to boot, putting him close to the top 10 in defenceman scoring.

    "I didn't go into the season with a point that total I'd like to reach," says Theodore. "I decided I'm just going to play my game and take it one game at a time. I know the points will come as long as I keep on working hard."

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Shea Theodore, Seattle Thunderbirds
  • Dallas Stars second-rounder Brett Ritchie (OHL Images)No. 1 star: Brett Ritchie, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

    To say Ritchie has a hot stick would be an understatement. The Dallas Stars prospect followed up his outstanding four-goal, six-point effort against the Guelph Storm on Saturday by potting five goals in the IceDogs' 6-4 win over the Peterborough Petes. This outstanding effort earned him BTN's No. 1 star in back-to-back nights.

    Ritchie's nine goals in his last two games almost doubles the five goals he scored throughout the first 17 games of the year. Although he is not really a hot-and-cold player, it is safe to say he has hit his peak for the season.

    Similar to last night when Ritchie overshadowed Boston Bruins first-round pick Dougie Hamilton's career four-assist night,  the 6-foot-4, 215-pound winger took the spotlight away from New York Islanders first-round pick Ryan Strome, who is listed as an honourable mention after notching a goal and four helpers.

    Ritchie didn't get on the boards until 15 minutes into the first period when he

    Read More »from Niagara IceDogs’ Brett Ritchie pots 5 past the Petes: Sunday’s 3 stars

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