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  • Speers (right) with Greyhounds captain Darnell Nurse (Twitter)Some of Blake Speers' early hockey memories involve watching another hometowner bear the expectations of being a Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds first-rounder.

    After having the No. 4 overall pick in successive OHL priority selection drafts — and 17-year-old centre Jared McCann and 18-year-old defenceman Darnell Nurse are each panning out well — the Soo went local this spring by selecting the speedy, skilled McCann. The centre who had a 50-goal season for the Soo Thunder midgets is confident

    "Me and my dad actually had season tickets when I was growing up," "I can remember that last Soo boy that was taken in the first round, Tyler Kennedy, watching him play. It's pretty cool that I can be the next guy to do that."

    "I'm just going to have it to take it as it comes. I don't know how I'm going to be treated by the fans. I'm just going to play hockey and see where it goes. There will be ups and downs, but I'm doing to have a good support system with my family [parents Karen and Mark Speers] around, all the guys looking after me."

    Read More »from Soo Greyhounds’ Blake Speers ready to sweat the small stuff: Making The Jump
  • Jordan Boyd of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan/Facebook photo

    Acadie-Bathurst Titan forward Jordan Boyd was pronounced dead at a New Brunswick hospital after collapsing on the ice during individual workouts on Monday, the first day of training camp. Boyd was 16 years old and attending his first QMJHL camp.

    According to the Titan, he was skating Monday morning and suffered some sort of discomfort. Boyd then collapsed and fell to the ice, where the Acadie-Bathurst medical staff tried to revive him several times. He was brought to hospital and his death was confirmed.

    The QMJHL in a release said Boyd underwent a full medical evaluation prior to camp opening Monday, and there were no red flags that would have prevented the Bedford, N.S., native from participating. The team and family are awaiting autopsy results to determine exact cause of death.

    Boyd was a fourth-round pick of the Titan in the 2013 QMJHL entry draft. Last season he had 39 points in 41 games for Rothesay Netherwood School in Rothesay, N.B., just outside of Saint John, as well as three points in five games with Cole Harbour Major Midgets in Cole Harbour, N.S.

    According to the QMJHL, the Titan have decided to resume their training camp as scheduled on Tuesday, with grief counselors on hand for the players. 


    Read More »from Titan prospect Jordan Boyd, 16, dies after collapsing on ice
  • The Spitfires are still hoping Jacob de la Rose heads to Windsor this season

    LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — When Warren Rychel talks about Swedish star Jacob de la Rose, it’s hard for the Windsor Spitfires general manager to hide his frustration.

    Rychel selected de la Rose with the 11th overall pick in the CHL import draft and had been given assurances the centre would report to Windsor, despite having a year left on his contract with his Swedish team in Leksand. That, however, was not case when Leksand GM Tommy Salo balked at the idea of letting the 18-year-old leave the Swedish club early.

    "Obviously it's been disappointing how it went down," said Rychel. "It's been frustrating, but I'm going to stay positive on this one."

    De la Rose said he spoke to Salo about trying to leave, but was told in no uncertain terms he’d have to honour his contract.

    “Of course we talked about it, but he was clear to me that he wanted me to stay,” said de la Rose of his discussions with Salo. “He said I would be getting a big role in Leksand, so it’s going to be a good.

    “It was all

    Read More »from Windsor Spitfires still holding out hope for Sweden’s de la Rose
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    How does Seth Jones being in the Nashville Predators' top four sound? (NHL.com)

    Calgary Flames-drafted D-man Brett Kulak says he bore a lot of the burden for the Vancouver Giants' last-place showing in 2012-13. (Vancouver Province)

    What should one expect from recent Edmonton Oilers signing Jujhar Khaira once the 19-year-old forward joins the Everett Silvertips? (Copper & Blue)

    Kelowna Rockets defenceman Madison Bowey talks about his preparation ahead of the Washington Capitals' rookie camp next month. (Rinkside Update)

    Meantime, Bowey's blueline mate, Jesse Lees, has a rookie-camp invitation from the Boston Bruins. (Kelowna Daily Courier)

    That poor start that graduating Saskatoon Blades captain Brenden Walker had last season doesn't matter now that he's signed an AHL pact with the Phoenix Coyotes organization. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

    Portland Winterhawks centre Preston Kopeck drew plenty of motivation from being injured and unable to contribute during May's MasterCard Memorial Cup. (Medicine Hat News)

    OHL

    After the London Knights' Michael McCarron, who is the highest-profile U.S. newcomer in the league? (OHL Prospects)

    Reminder: don't get in a legal row with the Kitchener Rangers. Josh Brown tells of how John Cosman, who sued the team after it yanked his season tickets, now has to pay the Rangers' court costs. (Waterloo Record)

    Read More »from QMJHL clubs open training camps: the coast-to-coast
  • Connor McDavid knows he has his work cut out for him if he wants to make Canada's world junior team.

    LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — It might not have been the end Brent Sutter was looking for – a 5-1 loss to the host U.S. – but considering the game was part of a friendly mini-camp, the head coach was able to put it in perspective.

    “It’s like Day 5 or Day 6 of a training camp,” said Sutter. “There are kids that have had two practices that are coming in here and playing three games in four days.”

    It was the first time Canada has participated in the four-team world junior summer evaluation camp. And the new arrangement drew rave reviews from both players and coaching staff alike.

    “The change was great,” said Sutter of the new international tournament format. “You get a better feel and a better read of guys. From my perspective, you’re right with the group all the time. You’re coaching the group and you get a better feel on the bench where guys are at and who might fit better with whom.

    “I thought the whole week was great.”

    The players liked it too, since it broke up the monotony of the typical

    Read More »from End of camp means real work begins for Team Canada’s hopefuls
  • Team Canada skates off the ice at their summer evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.

    LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Head coach Brent Sutter does not mince words when it come to talking about the kind of team he wants to take to the 2014 world junior championship this winter.

    At the team’s summer evaluation camp at the Herb Brooks Arena – shared with Team USA, Sweden and Finland – Sutter’s message is clear the moment his squad hits the ice. By design, there are no identifying names on the backs of jerseys. Instead, the nameplates all feature the same moniker: CANADA

    “We’re Canada’s team,” said Sutter, who coached the nation to gold in 2005 and 2006 with undefeated records. “That’s who we are. We’re all one.”

    The short, intense summer camp has been challenging for a number of players in terms of getting back into hockey mode after the off-season, but Sutter said he’s been happy with the way they've been progressing.

    “We’re really happy with the progress in the short few days we’ve been together here,” said Sutter. “We just want to continue on that path. That’s what we’ve talked

    Read More »from Sutter putting his stamp on ‘Canada’s team’ early
  • Brett McKenzie with Battalion owner Scott Abbott (North Bay Battalion photo)

    Brett McKenzie is planning to pick up some jam when he hits the ice with the North Bay Battalion.

    The passing and spatial sense that McKenzie displayed last winter with the OHL Cup-champion Oakville Rangers set him apart from other big-bodied forward prospects. The 6-foot-2, 194-pounder elicited comparisons to Dallas Stars prospect and Team Canada alumnus Brett Ritchie. With the Battalion, he'll be joining an organization whose calling card under coach Stan Butler is a well-structured, check-till-the-cows-come-home brand of hockey. In McKenzie's mind, being a dues-paying rookie is conducive to learning to complement his evident strength and skill with a higher compete level in puck battles. That might mesh well with any designs the Battalion have on making the refurbished Memorial Gardens a tough place for visiting teams, not unlike in the Centennials' heyday.

    "They're not just physical but they're a defensive team, so that will definitely help my defensive skills," says McKenzie, whom the Battalion selected No. 10 overall in April's OHL priority selection draft. "I know have I have offensive skills but I need to improve in my end. Putting that together will definitely help me in the future.

    "The biggest areas I need to work on are definitely my hands and definitely my physical attributes," adds McKenzie, who hails from Vars, Ont., a village of 1,000 people west of Ottawa. "If I had those I'd be a better all-around player and people would be scared of me so I could go into the corners more to get the puck... I'll try to play my game and put that in as well."

    Read More »from North Bay Battalion’s Brett McKenzie ready for any role in Troops’ transition: Making The Jump
  • Matthew Spencer led his midget team to the OHL Cup and was the first D-man taken in the OHL draft (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    The Peterborough Petes won't push for top pick Matt Spencer to play in their top four immediately. The first defenceman to see his name called in this spring's OHL priority selection draft is pushing himself hard enough as it is.

    At the time, the Petes caused a stir by using their No. 3 overall pick on the 6-foot-1, 192-pound Spencer, who captained his Oakville Rangers midgets to both Ontario and OHL Cup titles, rather than exceptional-status blueliner Sean Day. Skipping ahead to the present, Spencer is bent on showing that Petes GM Mike Oke made the logical pick. For now, that means adapting to the faster pace of the major junior game.

    "There's a couple aspects I need to work on," says Spencer, who counts former OHLer Alex Pietrangelo as a role model at the next level. "Just my overall quickness, not so much skating speed, but with how fast the game moves. I want to know that if I receive a pass, I can dish it off as fast as any of the 20-year-olds. I'm always trying to remind myself during summer drills to make everything as quick as possible and as hard as possible. The mental aspect is also important. It's tough playing that many games in a season, plus playoffs hopefully."

    Read More »from Peterborough Petes’ Matt Spencer getting up to speed: Making The Jump
  • Stefan Matteau after scoring his first NHL goal in February (The Associated Press)

    LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — One of the most talked about stories in all of junior hockey last year involved New Jersey Devils first-round pick Stefan Matteau and his dismissal from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

    Seemingly the only person not interested in discussing what happened is Matteau himself.

    "I haven't gone into detail about what happened and I won't" said Matteau at Team USA's world junior camp on Thursday. "It wasn't a good fit from the start."

    The bizarre details included the top prospect being suspended by the team for taking a bad penalty, getting into a heated argument with head coach Jean-François Houle and then leaving the team during their playoff series against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar -- on a fan bus. Making matters worse, his father, former NHLer Stéphane Matteau, was a member of the team's coaching staff.

    Before being re-assigned to the Armada, Matteau had played 17 games in the NHL for the Devils scoring a goal and adding two assists.

    Despite the way things went down

    Read More »from Matteau has ‘no regrets’ over tenure in QMJHL
  • Doug Gilmour (centre) is entering his third season as the Frontenacs' GM (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    If Doug Gilmour had included a 17-year-old named Jake Wilkinson in a minor transaction instead of his son, Jake Gilmour, it probably would not have rated much attention.

    Of course, it is unusual to see this happen in major junior hockey, where there's often an understanding among teams that a club be allowed to draft the son of a general manager, coach or owner. Since August is a slow time for hockey news and Gilmour had a Hall of Fame playing career before becoming the Kingston Frontenacs coach in 2008 and moving upstairs to become GM, sending 17-year-old Jake Gilmour and surplus goalie Blake Richard (who was probably the key to the deal) to the Niagara Ice Dogs was considered a "stunner" by the U.S. media. No doubt one could just imagine the awkward father-son conversation.

    Lampooning it misses the point, though. The reality that Doug Gilmour broke with custom and moved his son to Niagara might signal how the Frontenacs, once the OHL's lovable underachiever, have become more

    Read More »from Kingston Frontenacs’ Doug Gilmour trading own son not unusual; more a sign of OHL team’s progress

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