Buzzing The Net

  • The Wellington Dukes have worked some magic to make the Dudley Hewitt Cup final, never more so than when Joe McKeown had the puck on a string while scoring an eye-popping short-handed goal.

    The Bowling Green recruit delivered a highlight moment of the round-robin of the Central Canada Junior A championship. During host Wellington's 3-0 win over Fort Frances Lakers on Wednesday, McKeown saw an opportunity when Fort Frances made an "awkward line change" during a power play. Instead of dumping the puck into a corner, he undressed the defender and then got goalie Jordan McCartney to bite on the fake before roofing the shot.

    Read More »from Bowling Green recruit Joe McKeown scores sick goal in Dudley Hewitt Cup (VIDEO)
  • Since 2012,the Oil Kings and Winterhawks are both 1-1 in the WHL Finals (Greg Southam:Edmonton Journal)

    —BY CAM CHARRON AND KELLY FRIESEN

    It's rare that two teams meet in the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, let alone in the final, yet for the third consecutive season the Western Hockey League championship features the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Portland Winterhawks.

    In 2012, the Oil Kings dispatched the Hawks in seven games after leaning on veterans Rhett Rachinski and Jordan Peddle for multi-goal games late in the series. The Winterhawks responded last season, winning in six on the back of goaltender Mac Carruth as well as top scorers Oliver Bjorkstrand and Ty Rattie.

    The continued success for each organization since that original series reflects both clubs' ability to recruit and add quality players to the lineup. Of the 36 skaters who dressed for the team's Game 7 match in 2012, only six return for the Winterhawks and just five for the Oil Kings. Neither of the clubs' leading scorers (Bjorkstrand for Portland and Brett Pollock for Edmonton) were around for that original series. The starting goaltenders in this series, Brendan Burke and Tristan Jarry, were green backups back in 2012.

    This year could be the last time these two squads meet for a while, however. The series is the sunset WHL action of some longtime, key members for both squads such as Henrik Samuelsson and Griffin Reinhart on Edmonton's side, while longtime 'Hawks Brendan Leipsic, Taylor Leier and Derrick Pouliot will likely make the jump to pro hockey in September. For the 13 players on either roster that have been around for all three series, the 2014 iteration is for more than the Ed Chynoweth Trophy, but also to determine which team gets to claim overall dominance during the most recent WHL era.
    —Charron

    Read More »from Portland and Edmonton square off for rubber match: WHL final preview
  • Baie-Comeau's Charles Hudon, left, leads his team in scoring with 15 points in as many games, while Anthony Mantha, right, leads all QMJHL playoff goal scorers with 18 goals. (Ghyslain Bergeron / CP)Baie-Comeau's Charles Hudon, left, leads his team in scoring with 15 points in as many games, while Anthony Mantha, right, leads all QMJHL playoff goal scorers with 18 goals. (Ghyslain Bergeron / CP)

    Val-d’Or Foreurs vs. Baie-Comeau Drakkar

    Season series: Drakkar (2-0-1-0). Odds favour: Val-d'Or 56 per cent. Most mathematically likely outcome: Val-d'Or in 6. Prediction: Baie-Comeau in 6.

    Tuesday was judgement day for the QMJHL’s four final teams, with two game 7s and final berths on the line.

    The Baie-Comeau Drakkar were able to nurse a quick lead to its limit, escaping with a narrow 2-1 win to advance over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, while the Val-d’Or Foreurs hung on by virtue of the play of netminder Antoine Bibeau to escape the Halifax Metro Centre with a 3-2 win.

    The Mooseheads didn’t make it easy, outshooting the Foreurs 41-16, including 17-3 in the third period, but Bibeau preserved the victory.

    So it comes down to Drakkar-vs.-Foreurs for the President’s Cup and a trip to London, Ont.

    "Each team has its identity,” Drakkar head coach Eric Veilleux said.

    "Surely they're going to stick to theirs and we'll stick to ours. We're in the final for a reason, so we'll keep going in the same direction."

    "Our defencemen have been contributing on offence, and we have forwards with a lot of speed and skill," said Val-d’Or Foreurs coach Mario Durocher. "All our lines have taken turns contributing in the playoffs."

    It is the second time in as many years for the Drakkar in the President’s Cup final. They are hoping to reverse the results from last season. They have never played in a Memorial Cup tournament.

    The Foreurs are making their fourth trip to the final. They advanced to the Memorial Cup in 1998 and 2001.

    Read More »from Drakkar-Foreurs series rekindles age-old offence-vs.-defence debate: QMJHL final preview
  • Dickinson got the winner 57 seconds into overtime (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

    A short overtime need not lead to a short series. Jason Dickinson snapped in the game-winner in the first minute of overtime for the Guelph Storm, preempting any chance the North Bay Battalion had to continue outplaying and outshooting the favourites like it had over the second and third periods.

    Dickinson's decider salvaged a night where the sluggish Storm failed to record a shot on goal for the first 10 minutes of the third period. Zack Mitchell scored through a screen with 7:37 left in the third and first star Justin Nichols came up with an acrobatic toe save on a subsequent power play to get the Storm into the sudden-victory session.

    Now the question is whether North Bay was denied its best chance to steal one on the road after failing to finish off Guelph.

    "I don't know if we played the way we want to approach this series, but I think that we realized there's a good team on the other side of the ice," Nichols, who made 32 saves, told Rogers Television. "We're going to learn from this game and hopefully improve."

    Storm coach Scott Walker was much more direct about his dissatisfaction.

    "They're a quality team," he told a post-game press conference. "Our first period was fine. We weren't even close after that."

    The Storm host Game 2 on Friday (7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet). On with the post-game questions:

    Read More »from Jason Dickinson gets OT winner, Guelph Storm take opener: OHL post-game questions
  • Reports indicate Don Hay is returning to Kamloops, where he ws part of a 1990s dynasty (Jason Franson, The Canadian Press)

    So much for Don Hay being behind the bench at the 2016 Memorial Cup that many anticipate will be in Vancouver, unless the Kamloops Blazers turn around their fortunes very quickly.

    Anyone can be traded in junior hockey is the price is right, and that includes coaches. On Thursday, speculation began to pick up that a Western Conference team in the Western Hockey League was poised to make a coaching change. The bombshell is now official, with the league's sibling general managers, Vancouver's Scott Bonner and Kamloops' Craig Bonner, having made an arrangement that will see three-time Memorial Cup-winning head coach Hay rejoin the Blazers. He still had one year left on his Giants contract.

    From Marty Hastings (@MarTheReporter):

    KTW learned on Thursday (May 1) that Hay will indeed take the reins, with the official announcement expected to be made on Friday, May 2.

    ... The revered bench boss posted his 600th win as a WHL head coach when his Vancouver Giants thumped the hometown Kamloops Blazers 6-2 at Interior Savings Centre on Jan. 17. He is in the last year of his contract with the Giants.

    Kamloops has reportedly struck a deal to acquire his rights. (Kamloops This Week)

    Read More »from WHL legend Don Hay returning to Kamloops Blazers
  • Wheat Kings chose Stelio Mattheos with the first pick in the bantam draft. (WHL.ca)

    The Brandon Wheat Kings looked to their own backyard with the first overall pick of the 2014 WHL bantam draft, as they selected Winnipeg Monarchs forward Stelio Mattheos.

    Mattheos, who scored 53 goals and 103 points in 32 games, came into the draft as the best bet to go first overall. The 6-foot-1, 174-pound forward was considered to be in a two-horse race with NSWC Winterhawks centre Jordy Bellerive, who subsequently was selected second overall by the Lethbridge Hurricanes. But since Mattheos is a Manitoba product, it was believed that Wheat Kings GM-head coach Kelly McCrimmon would go with the local kid in a tossup situation.

    Of course, the Whet Kings didn’t have to fall to the bottom of the standings to snag the draft’s top selection. McCrimmon acquired the pick by putting in a clause to have the option of swapping draft choices with the Saskatoon Blades in a 2012 offseason deal involving Brendan Walker.

    Albeit a lot can happen in junior hockey in two years, Mattheos seems to

    Read More »from Wheat Kings pick Stelio Mattheos first overall; Blades acquire Alex Forsberg: WHL bantam draft recap
  • Jonathan Drouin recorded a point on more than half of Halifax's goals scored in the playoffs (CP)

    Monday night, with an assist on Luca Ciampini's goal at 11:27 of the first period, 18-year-old Jonathan Drouin recorded his 99th career Quebec Major Junior playoff point, moving him to second place all-time and ahead of Hockey Hall of Famer and QMJHL legend Mario Lemieux.

    Drouin's season ended a night later as the Val-d'Or Foreurs beat the defending champion Halifax Mooseheads 3-2 in the seventh game of the tight semifinal series. Drouin also recorded his 102nd career playoff point and most likely his last, with an assist on Nikolaj Ehlers' 11th. It was Drouin's 28th assist of the playoffs, and to put that in perspective, Foreurs forward Louick Marcotte is second in the playoffs with 29 points.

    It's not too surprising to see the complete dominance of Drouin this season. He was projected as a reasonable choice to go No. 1 in the National Hockey League draft last spring. Former teammate Nathan MacKinnon scored 24 goals and 63 points with Colorado this season, and the second overall selection Aleksander Barkov scored 24 points in 54 games. If Drouin is good enough to be in that calibre, he's effectively a top six NHLer playing against junior players, and to further add to the potential for ridiculous numbers, he plays in the defensively- and goaltending-challenged Quebec league.

    Drouin scored 41 points this postseason. Baie-Comeau, one of two teams playing for the Presidents' Cup in the championship series, has scored 48 goals total.

    Read More »from Jonathan Drouin bested Mario Lemieux’s career playoff points total in legendary 2014 run
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    It is draft day, which is about the worst day to be teaching Grade 9 in Western Canada. Kelly Friesen will have more in-depth coverage later; Brandon, of course, took Stelio Mattheos with the first overall pick. (Winnipeg Free Press)

    John MacKinnon and Chris O'Leary break down the Edmonton-Portland matchup. (Edmonton Journal)

    Alberta was a cradle of coaches when Portland coach-GM Mike Johnston was a 23-year-old neophyte behind the bench at some place called Camrose Lutheran College. Future NHL coaches Dave King and George Kingston were both working in the province. (Edmonton Sun)

    Omen? Nino Niederreiter scored the Game 7 overtime goal last night for the Minnesota Wild. Three years ago he was a teammate in the WHL final with several of the current Portland Winterhawks. (Portland Tribune)

    Duelling league awards for Victoria's GM-coach tandem of Cam Hope and Dave Lowry. (Victoria Times-Colonist)

    The Regina Pats' sale is official. (Regina Leader-Post)

    Does the Calgary Flames moving their AHL team from Abbotsford, B.C., to Glen Falls, N.Y., make Abby a viable WHL market? (Arena Digest)

    Coach Mark Holick has the vote of confidence from the new Prince George Cougars ownership. (Prince George Citizen)

    OHL

    Guelph scribe Paul Osborne is calling for a Storm sweep. If North Bay wins Game 1 tonight, then he has to buy everyone a Coke. (Guelph Tribune)

    Storm captain Matt Finn received some wise counsel from his NHLer cousin Carlo Colaiacovo when he was at his lowest. (Toronto Star)

    Read More »from Mooseheads move on, it’s WHL draft day: the coast-to-coast
  • A superfan transformed; Battalion-turned-Storm supporter only slightly conflicted

    Steve McLean, then and now during this OHL season (supplied photos)

    Steve McLean was a superfan of the Brampton Battalion to the bitter end when the team moved to North Bay. He took his talents as a supporter to the Guelph Storm, buying season tickets. Life was good, until it dawned that his first OHL love and his current beloveds were on a collision course to meet for the league championship, giving people an opening to use the B-word: bandwagon! In his own words, the Brampton, Ont., resident explains how it came to be, and why one has to learn to move on.

    They say time heals all wounds. I cannot say if it heals all wounds but it sure helps with the loss of your favourite junior hockey team. Well, that and having another team close by to adopt.

    Thirteen months ago, the day I had long dreaded arrived. The Brampton Battalion were no more. Even though their move to North Bay became official in late 2012, I had continued to cheer for them in and soak in all I could. An overtime loss to the Sudbury Wolves ended their season and sent me on an emotional roller coaster that I had wondered if I ride out with dignity. Battalion play-by-play man Doug Anderson put it best later that night as several of us shared drinks one last time, as we usually did after home games: "Steve, regardless of what happened here tonight the sun is going to come
    up again tomorrow." You might think, "Wow, Steve, get a grip it's only a hockey team. The world isn't over." Feel free to think that, but it was still devastating to me.

    Enter the Guelph Storm.

    Read More »from A superfan transformed; Battalion-turned-Storm supporter only slightly conflicted
  • Kerby Rychel (centre) leads the OHL in playoff assists (OHL Images)

    North Bay Battalion vs. Guelph Storm

    Season series: Storm 2-0. Odds favour: Storm 95 per cent. Most mathematically likely outcome: Storm in 5. Prediction: Storm in 5.

    Scott Walker, all at once, seemed to convey the standard pre-series respect and burgeoning confidence of the heavy favourite.

    The difference in the degree of difficulty between the Guelph Storm and North Bay Battalion's path to this OHL final is distinct. The Storm finished first overall while playing in the stacked Midwest Division without amassing a ton of individual honours, then needed just more than one more game than the minimum in both the second and third rounds vs. 100-point London and Erie teams. The rub is the Storm have been running out front all season. So Walker isn't making much of the fact the 26-point gap in the regular-season showings is the largest between OHL finalists since 2007. North Bay did have to play desperate in order to play in May.

    "You're playing hard hockey and quality teams all the time," the Storm coach says of life in the Midwest. "But it's no different [in the Eastern Conference, where North Bay resides] just because the point totals are different, They might have been a lot closer in points on the other side so you're still playing quality opponents. There are always places that, regardless of the standings, are hard to get a win out of.

    "They [North Bay] are a solid group, They play a real strong team game, really well-coached, really structured. They'll be all that we can handle, for sure."

    The combo of Guelph hailing from the power conference that has produced the OHL's last seven champions (and 11 of the last 12) and grading out higher on most of the advanced metrics means there is high potential for a short series. Of course, the Battalion's "renowned conservative game" can work wonders in the short run. One playoff series is but a small sample, even if it goes seven games.

    "We're not a team of superstars, we're just a team that works extremely hard," Battalion captain Barclay Goodrow says. "We're going to need all four lines and all six defencemen to be playing their best."

    Guelph hosts the first two contests on Thursday and Friday, followed by a three-day break before back-to-back games in the North Bay Memorial Gardens.

    Read More »from Will Guelph Storm get push from North Bay Battalion? OHL final preview
  • Blades' Nikita Scherbak was snubbed of the WHL's rookie honour. (WHL.ca)

    There was an eyebrow-raising moment at the Western Hockey League’s annual awards luncheon in Calgary.

    It seemed Saskatoon Blades winger Nikita Scherbak was a lock to take home the Rookie of the Year award. The Russia native, who turned 18 in December, had a commanding 19-point lead on Everett Silvertips forward Ivan Nikolishin for the rookie scoring title with 28 goals and 78 points in 65 games. In addition, he managed to rack up his impressive stats on a rebuilding Blades club with sparse high-end talent.

    Nonetheless, Kelowna Rockets soon-to-be 17-year-old Nick Merkley won the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy despite Scherbak’s compelling case. Just to be clear, this isn’t meant to diminish Merkley’s superb rookie season. The 5-foot-10, 176-pound centre, who notched 25 goals and 58 points in 66 contests, deserves praise and was more than worthy of the Western Conference’s nomination. The point is Merkley’s rookie season was clearly a shade behind Scherbak’s. The 6-foot-2, 174-pound

    Read More »from Saskatoon Blades’ Nikita Scherbak snubbed of rookie honour, and other WHL awards notes
  • The Storm and captain Matt Finn have not had back-to-back regulation losses since Oct. 5-6 (OHL Images)

    It is out with the new, in with the old-time hockey atmosphere for this OHL final.

    Just as it is the Eastern Conference vs. the Western Conference for the J. Ross Robertson Cup, the North Bay Battalion-Guelph Storm championship series also has a throwback element. In an OHL that, in many markets, has grown to a scope that would have been unimaginable a generation ago, the Battalion play out of a Memorial Gardens that fuses that cozy bandbox feel with most of the modern amenities that are mandated in major junior hockey. The underdog Battalion are 7-1 at home in the playoffs, where they feed off the noise of 4,200-plus fans packed into a tight space.

    It's an increasingly rare atmosphere in a league that has benefited from a building boom over the last decade and a half. Guelph's experience with enemy crowds has mostly come in the more contemporary puck palaces.

    Read More »from Guelph Storm gird to ‘tune the crowd out’ once North Bay gets home ice in OHL final
  •  Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Minnesota Wild prospect Mathew Dumba was not part of the first two Edmonton-Portland championship series, but has plenty of experience against the Oil Kings. (Calgary Herald)

    About that series, here's Andy Neal. (The Pipeline Show)

    Dylan Purcell has more details on former assistant coach Brad Lukowich's lawsuit against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. (Lethbridge Herald)

    What is Kootenay's outlook for next season if Sam Reinhart sticks in the NHL? (Cranbrook Daily Townsman)

    The Saskatoon Blades "couldn't have asked for a better draft" to have three second-round picks. Wait, didn't they win the draft lottery? (Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

    With high picks in each of the first two rounds of the bantam draft, Moose Jaw has a chance to chart a new course. (Moose Jaw Times-Herald)

    OHL

    Who improved his standing with Hockey Canada during the world under-18 championship? (The Pipeline Show)

    Tony Saxon previews the North Bay-Guelph matchup. Spoiler: it could be a walkover. (Guelph Mercury)

    Read More »from Dumba knows Oil Kings well: the coast-to-coast
  • Leafs pick Antoine Bibeau came up big in Game 7 on Tuesday (Ghyslain Bergeron, CP)

    Toronto Maple Leafs-drafted goalie Antoine Bibeau, who spent a week in the visitors' net on many a night when he played in the Halifax Mooseheads' division, helped deliver a cold dish of comeuppance to the now ex-champs.

    For the first time since 2009, the President's Cup winner will hail from the province mentioned in the name of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, while the CHL is guaranteed a new Memorial Cup champion after the Val-d'Or Foreurs held off Halifax 3-2 in Game 7 of the semifinal on Tuesday. In front of a Metro Centre sellout of 10,595, Val-d'Or got the payoff it sought at Christmastime when it coughed up a first-round choice to the Charlottetown Islanders for Bibeau. The veteran goalie, who spent parts of three seasons on the East Coast with the P.E.I./Charlottetown franchise, made 39 saves to deny superstar Jonathan Drouin and cohorts a return trip to the final.

    "I'm proud of our team — I don't think, at the beginning of the season, anyone was talking about our team going to the final because we're still a young team," said Foreurs coach Mario Durocher, whose team won 3-of-4 games at the Metro Centre during the series with the lone loss coming in overtime. "We showed a lot of character. The depth of our team made the difference. Our fourth line scored the winning goal tonight. Defensively, all the guys made the commitment before the playoffs. Again, Bibeau was outstanding tonight but defensively we were great."

    The win guarantees an all-Quebec final, with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar having the home-ice edge over the Foreurs. Philippe Cadorette's 24 saves and two special-team goals, including a power-play salvo from Montreal Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon, lifted Baie-Comeau to a 2-1 win over Blainville-Boisbriand in the night's other Game 7. Hudon's goal was his first in five games.

    Read More »from Val-d’Or Foreurs, backed by Antoine Bibeau, oust Halifax from QMJHL playoffs; Drakkar outlast Armada
  • McIvor was ranked by NHL Central Scouting two seasons ago (OHL Images)

    For all the focus on a surefire NHL first-rounder such as Guelph Storm centre Robby Fabbri, an OHL final does have this Hunger Games-ish aspect to it for a certain kind stay-at-home defenceman trying to stand out from the multitude and make it to the next level.

    Phil Baltisberger has helped the Storm D function like a Swiss watch (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)The Guelph Storm and North Bay Battalion wouldn't be in this position without top-rank talent, but both finalists can also do a good reading of Howl of the Unheralded when it comes to their pillars on the blueline. Four of the Storm's six regulars on the blueline are NHL draft picks. Phil Baltisberger, an 18-year-old Swiss native who represented his country at the past two world junior championships. The 6-foot-1, 214-pound Zurich native has gradually adapted to the North American game, wielding his stick judiciously to disrupt attackers while helping Guelph go 12-3 through the first three rounds. Baltisberger's growth has given Guelph the bona fide six-man unit that a team needs to win in May.

    "Phil Baltisberger, you wonder why more scouts don't look at a guy like that," says Storm coach Scott Walker, whose charges host games 1 and 2 vs. the Battalion on Thursday and Friday. "Yeah, his numbers aren't flashy but he blocks shots, he plays hard and does all the little things that a coaches like to see. You like to see those guys get more recognition because you think those are the guys you can win with."

    Read More »from Guelph Storm boast ‘as good a group of six D as I’ve seen,’ says Stan Butler ahead of OHL final
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Portland Winterhawks coach-GM Mike Johnston is trying to create some plausible deniability regarding his goaltending plans for Game 1. Brendan Burke or Corbin Boes? (Portland Tribune, CKLQ)

    Meantime, it's the first league final where Edmonton's Tristan Jarry will be a principal figure instead of a backup goalie. (Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun)

    Did commissioner Ron Robison just put the Lethbridge Hurricanes on double (not so) secret probation? The franchise that's missed the playoffs for five years in a row is being monitored by the league. Robison: "Just because it’s a community owned team that’s no excuse." (Global News)

    Meantime, Brad Lukowich, whom the Hurricanes discharged in February, is suing the team for wrongful dismissal. (Global News)

    Looking at Thursday's bantam draft, from a college hockey-oriented vantage. (SBN College Hockey)

    Does Peter Maher's retirement open up a big-league broadcasting job for long-time Calgary Hitmen play-by-player Brad Curle? (Calgary Sun)

    OHL

    London Knights stars Max Domi and Nikita Zadorov are not yet back at practice with just more two weeks to go before the Memorial Cup. (London Free Press)

    The series has some extra significance for Guelph's Tyler Bertuzzi, a Northern Ontario native. (Sudbury Star)

    Read More »from QMJHL semifinals go the distance: the coast-to-coast
  • Winnipeg Monarchs forward Stelio Mattheos could be the top 2014 bantam pick.

    Fifteen-year-old hockey players across Western Canada and some parts of the United States will be faking sick on Thursday to stay home from school and watch the WHL bantam draft play out on their computers. Of course, with the hope of seeing their names pop up next to an appealing major junior destination.

    The Brandon Wheat Kings hold the top selection of the draft because GM-head coach Kelly McCrimmon added a clause to have the option of swapping picks with the Saskatoon Blades when he dealt Brendan Walker to them in the 2012 offseason. The Blades, though, don’t hold their first-round pick as former GM Lorne Molleken traded it to the Vancouver Giants for Nathan Burns last year. Therefore, the Wheat Kings, who originally held the No. 10 selection, swapped picks with the Giants.

    The Lethbridge Hurricanes, Kamloops Blazers, Moose Jaw Warriors and Prince George Cougars round out the top five selections.

    The 2014 bantam class seems to be a shade behind the last two drafts in high-end talent. There isn’t a slam dunk pick like last year with Tyler Benson, whom the Vancouver Giants selected first overall, or in 2012 with Mathew Barzal, whom the Seattle Thunderbirds snagged with the top pick.

    “I wouldn’t say there is a franchise player in this draft,” says a WHL scout, who asked to remain anonymous. “I think there’s two or maybe three kids that have separated themselves from the rest; all three should be big pieces for the teams that get them. But this draft doesn’t have a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (top 2008 bantam pick) or someone like that.”

    Read More »from WHL bantam draft preview, as broken down by scouts
  • Amadio is ranked No. 68 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    As a centre who's toning up his two-way game, Mike Amadio could not have asked to have his work more cut out for him.

    The Sault Ste. Marie native has fit well into his role of second-line centre with the North Bay Battalion, helping the club reach the OHL final in its first season since moving north. Now Amadio will be trying to match up in the final with the powerful Guelph Storm's rotating cast of premier pivots, including fellow 17-year-old Robby Fabbri and Dallas Stars first-rounder Jason Dickinson.

    "I think it's going to be a great challenge that's definitely going to bring the best out of me and all of our guys' games," says Amadio, who was No. 68 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. "We know they're a very skilled and talented team and we're just going to have to work that much harder going into this series.

    "I would say my offence is my biggest asset, my playmaking ability," adds the 6-foot-1, 192-pound Amadio, who had two points in North Bay's critical Game 3 win over Oshawa in the Eastern Conference. Being able to find the open man all over the ice. I'm working on very responsible in my own end and just being consistent game in, game out. Just providing consistent offence."

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Mike Amadio, North Bay Battalion
  • Vellucci was OHL coach of the year in 2012-13 (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    When Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos called Mike Vellucci "a better coach today than three or four guys now coaching in the NHL," the clock started ticking on the end of his time with the OHL's Plymouth Whalers.

    On Monday, as part of a long-rumoured front office reshuffling where Hall of Famer Ron Francis was installed as Carolina general manager, Vellucci was named the Hurricanes assistant GM and director of hockey operations. While it's not the coaching job many foresaw the 47-year-old two-time OHL coach of the year ascending to sooner rather than later, it's a coup for Vellucci. It also sounds as if the Hurricanes coveted Vellucci's versatility acumen with player development.

    "Mike's actually a former teammate of mine," Francis said during a press conference in Raleigh, N.C.. "He's been very successful running the Plymouth Whalers in the Ontario Hockey League for years. He's dabbled in all facets of their business from the draft to their coaching to being their general manager. I think he even ran the building up there. He's got a lot of, not only hockey experience but business experience. I'm looking forward to working with Mike as he's eager to take on the next challenge in his career."

    Read More »from Plymouth Whalers lose Mike Vellucci to NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Remember, Griffin Reinhart missed Oil Kings-Winterhawks II due to a cut foot tendon. (Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun)

    Nashville Predators prospect Brendan Leipsic will miss Game 1 of the final after being disciplined for his spearing major/game misconduct in Portland's clinching win over Kelowna. (WHL)

    Portland is selling T-shirts to commemorate winning four conference championships in a row. Terry Jones is far too nice to point out that evokes the 1990 Buffalo Bills. (Edmonton Sun)

    Just when you thought Blake Orban must have given up hockey to compete in the World Series of Sand Castles, there he was, back on Edmonton's blue line. (Edmonton Sun)

    Since teenagers cannot be evaluated and ranked enough these days, the WHL is introducing scouting combines that employ a cutting-edge testing system prospective players can cross-check: "They can compare themselves against an athlete from Manitoba, a kid from Ontario, Anaheim, Denver — see where they're at and know where their areas of focus should be from a development standpoint." (Regina Leader-Post)

    Calgary Hitmen defenceman Travis Sanheim: from needing an extra season of midget AAA hockey to being named one of Canada's top players in the world under-18 championship. (Winnipeg Sun)

    Graduating centre Curtis Valk will leave a huge void behind in Medicine Hat. (Medicine Hat News)

    Wait, under Russ Parker's ownership, the Regina Pats did not have a centre-ice scoreboard or a decent replay screen? (Regina Leader-Post)

    There will need to be patience in Lethbridge. Uh-huh. Heard that one. (Lethbridge Herald)

    OHL

    The league's rookie of the year, Travis Konecny, is also rather prolific.

    Fans were lining up at 6:10 a.m. to snap up any and all available tickets in North Bay for the OHL final. (North Bay Nugget)

    Read More »from Mooseheads look to advance, Reinhart factor huge in Dub final: the coast-to-coast