As Stars battle Marlies in Western Final, Hedden rumour swirls

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

Mike Hedden is in the midst of his best professional season to date, but a rumour out of the KHL has Hedden connected to Medvescak Zangreb.

Hedden, 29, potted 23 goals this season and racked up 55 points in 74 games. Those 74 games were a career-high for the undrafted Hedden, who played his NCAA career with Division-III Neumann University. In 10 games in the Calder Cup playoffs, Hedden’s tallied five goals and four assists.

The report, which appeared on KHL.hr, says that Hedden moving to Zangreb is “almost a sure thing”.

For three consecutive seasons, the Dunville, Ont. native has signed one-year deals with Texas, but without an NHL deal, he could be on his way to Russia.

While nothing has been firmed up as of yet, the certainty with which Hedden’s deal in the KHL is being reported raises a few eyebrows.

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Olver leaving Lake Erie for Sochi

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

Following a career year in the American Hockey League, it appears that Lake Erie Monsters forward Mark Olver is heading to the KHL Sochi Leopards.

Darryl Wolski, an agent with 2112 Hockey Agency, tweeted this afternoon that Olver has signed a deal with the KHL’s expansion franchise for 2014-15.

Olver, 26, is coming off of the best AHL campaign of his career, tallying 15 goals and 49 points in 65 games in 2013-14. A point-per-game player in the NCAA with Northern Michigan, Olver came to the Avalanche organization in 2010-11. Drafted in the fifth round, 140th overall, in 2005, Olver has 74 games of NHL experience, but couldn’t stick with the club this season.

With a youth movement taking place in Colorado, and a glut of young forwards coming through the ranks, it became apparent this season that Olver would likely need to move on to get to the NHL. A restricted free agent this summer, it appears that, instead of trying to get another NHL deal, Olver will head to the KHL.

Nikolai Prokhorkin leaves CSKA; Manchester bound?

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

According to a report from Russian news site All Sport, 20-year-old winger Nikolai Prokhorkin could be on his way to the Los Angeles Kings last season.

The report, which can be found on the All Sport website, suggests that Prokhorkin had asked for his contract to be restructured to increase the forward’s salary. It goes on to say that both Prokhorkin and his agent had not heard back from CSKA Moscow, where the Kings 2012 fourth round pick was playing.

In 52 games with CSKA in 2013-14, the 6’2″, 185 lb. forward posted 19 goals and 18 assists, good for the team lead in points, three points ahead of former Nashville Predator Alexander Radulov. In Spengler Cup action, Prokhorkin tallied four points in five games, finishing tied for the top-10 in points for the tournament.

Prokhorkin has already suited up for the Monarchs in his career, appearing in eight games in 2012-13, registering just one assist.

Report: Mastumoto making the move to Germany

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

American Hockey League veteran Jon Mastumoto has, according to a report from player agency group Markovic & Binder, signed a contract with a team in the German DEL.

Drafted by the Flyers in the third round of the 2006 NHL entry draft, Mastumoto hasn’t been able to translate his game to the NHL. With his contract expiring, now seems as well-timed as this move could have been for the 27-year-old Ottawa native.

A tremendous college player, Matsumoto registered over a point-per-game while playing for the NCAA’s Bowling Green, and was able to carry his play over to the AHL. In 486 regular season AHL games, Matsumoto has racked up 145 goals and 179 assists for 324 points.

After spending three seasons in the Philadelphia system, the centreman signed a deal with the Hurricanes and spent the better part of his two years in Charlotte with the Checkers. Following his stint in Carolina, Matsumoto jumped around, spending time in San Antonio, Worcester, AHL Chicago, before playing out last season back in San Antonio.

In 29 games in 2013-14, Matsumoto tallied six goals and four assists.

UPDATE: The Schwenningen Wild Wings have announced the signing of Matsumoto. Terms of the deal have not been released.

From the Wild Wings release — and roughly translated — the team will bring him in to fill a top-six role.

 

After disappointing season, Emmerton heads to KHL

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

Not long into 2013-14, when the Detroit Red Wings were facing injury trouble, it became clear that the Wings’ plans for Cory Emmerton weren’t what the 2006 second rounder had hoped.

Now, just under a month after the Red Wings season came to a close, it appears Emmerton is heading to one of the KHL’s expansion franchises.

In a release this afternoon, the Sochi Leopards announced they have signed the 25-year-old forward to a one-year deal.

In 2011-12, half a decade after his draft year, Emmerton finally cracked the difficult Red Wings lineup, appearing in 71 games and registering six goals and 10 points. The following season, the lockout shortened 2012-13, Emmerton suited up for each Wings game, but didn’t show much progression. In ’12-’13, the St. Thomas, Ont. native registered five goals and three assists.

It could have been expected that Emmerton would have stayed with the Wings this season, but when injury trouble struck the team, Emmerton was left off the big club in favour of younger prospects like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco. By season’s end, Emmerton had suited up for only 18 NHL games, playing another 53 in the AHL.

In his 139 total NHL games, Emmerton has tallied 21 points (12-9), but was consistent in the AHL, racking up 50 goals and 107 assists in 270 AHL contests.

A restricted free agent this summer, Emmerton’s signing in the KHL signals that he was either frustrated with where he was being slotted in the lineup, or was told by the team that he would not be tendered an offer.

On an expansion KHL roster, Emmerton will likely get the minutes that were so hard to come by in Detroit.

If rough translations are to be believed, Sochi fans are already excited for the now-former-Red Wing to suit up:

Emmerton Love

 

Devils ink pair of prospects

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

The New Jersey Devils have announced the signing of two prospects from the Ontario Hockey League.

Both forwards, Ben Johnson and Ben Thomson — no, really, those are their names — spent time in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires and North Bay Battalion, respectively. Both set career highs in the OHL this season; Johnson with 53 points in 59 games (28-25), Thomson with 45 points in 55 games (27-18).

Johnson, a Michigan native, suited up for five games with the Albany Devils on an amateur tryout, registering an assist in that span.

From the release:

Johnson, who turns 20 next month, finished tied for third on Windsor (OHL) this past season with 53 points, including 28 goals and 25 assists, in 59 games played. The 6-0, 190-lb. forward led the Spitfires with four goals/six points during the 2014 OHL playoffs, then joined Albany (AHL) upon completion of his junior season. Johnson’s three-season junior totals showed 66 goals and 62 assists for 128 points in 191 games.

Born June 7, 1994 in Hancock, MI, he spent part of the 2010-11 season with the United States Development Program and Fargo in the USHL. Johnson was New Jersey’s third choice, and 90th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Thomson, 21, split the 2013-14 OHL season between Kitchener (12 games) and North Bay (43). The 6-3, 215-lb. forward totaled 27 goals and 18 assists for 45 points and 90 penalty minutes in the regular-season and added five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 22 playoff appearances en-route to the OHL Finals. Born January 16, 1993 in Brampton, Ont., his five season OHL totals showed 65 goals and 84 assists for 149 points and 483 penalty minutes in 303 games. Thomson was New Jersey’s fourth choice, and 96th overall selection in the 2012 draft.

Stars welcome Marlies, hope to hand them first loss

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

If everything really is bigger in Texas, a Marlies win tonight — which would be their eighth straight — would certainly prove huge for the Maple Leafs farm team’s chances of advancing to the Calder Cup Final for the second time in three seasons.

The problem for the Marlies, however, lies in the trouble they’ve had with their opponent, the Texas Stars. In their last game at the Cedar Park Center, the Marlies were shutout by the Stars, 6-0, in one of their worst losses of the season.

Christopher Nilstorp, who got the start and the shutout in that contest, will be backstopping the Stars again, and he has seemingly had the Marlies number all season. Posting a 1.31 GAA and .949SV% against the Marlies in the regular season, Nilstorp only allowed four goals to the Baby Buds, and helped his team take three of a possible six points from Toronto in the three games he started.

The Stars’ netminder is going to have to look to slow down a Marlies powerplay that is on a torrid pace, moving at a 25% clip these playoffs, and hope to put the brakes on the streaking Peter Holland and Jerry D’Amigo.

A mainstay on the Marlies roster over the last three seasons, D’Amigo’s play has been inspired during these Calder Cup playoffs. The 23-year-old Binghamton native has registered a point in each game this post-season, contributing four goals and eight assists, and powering the Marlies to their unbeaten streak.

Holland, who was brought into Toronto from the Anaheim Ducks’ early in 2013-14, was a huge part of the Marlies sweep of the Chicago Wolves in the second round. In the sweep, Holland registered at least a point in each contest, racking up four goals and two assists over that span.

The Stars, who battled their way out of the first round with two consecutive overtime wins over the Oklahoma City Barons, make their way to the Western Conference Final after an impressive 7-1 game six defeat of the defending Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins.

Regular season scoring champion Travis Morin has been impressive for the Stars, and will be called upon to make an impact if the Stars are to move on to their second Calder Cup Final.

It appears that this series could simply come down to a battle of which team can pot three in a night. Over the course of the playoffs, Texas has allowed two goals in seven of their nine games, with Toronto allowing two-or-more in five of seven.

Tonight’s contest kicks off at 8:30 ET (7:30 CT) at the Cedar Park Center.

AHL Today: St. John’s stopped at six, Abbotsford takes division lead

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.

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To Watch:

  • CHARLOTTE at ABBOTSFORD: One day after the Heat absolutely dismantled the Checkers 7-1, the two faceoff again with Charlotte needing to get a few stops on the penalty kill in the rematch. The Heat powerplay went 3-for-8 in last night’s contest, with Max Reinhart, Blair Jones, and Markus Granlund picking up the tallies. In his AHL debut, Olivier Roy made 25 stops in the win, while the Checkers tandem of John Muse and Mike Murphy got shelled by the Abbotsford offense. With the win, Abbotsford moved into first place in the West Division and second in the Western Conference.
  • SYRACUSE at ROCHESTER: In a game that is a story of two teams going in opposite directions, the Crunch travel into Rochester to take on the Americans. The Amerks, winners of their last seven, could push their streak further and move into sixth place in the West with a win over the slumping Crunch, and getting some help in the form of a Milwaukee loss. The Crunch, who have only a single point in their last seven games, will have goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis back for the contest. John Parks, we hardly knew ye.

Last Night:

  • PROVIDENCE 3, ST. JOHN’S 2: You win some, you lose some — and fortunately for the IceCaps they haven’t lost many lately. The IceCaps had their winning streak snapped at six games thanks to strong play by the Providence Bruins. In the third period, Bruins forward Craig Cunningham picked up a shorthanded tally to put the Bruins in front and, not long after, Anthony Camara potted one of his own to make put the Bruins in front 3-1. The ‘Caps Ben Chiarot would pull St. John’s within one just over a minute later, but it wouldn’t be enough. Malcolm Subban picked up the win, as Michael Hutchinson lost to his former team — the first loss he’s suffered in his last seven starts.
  • SPRINGFIELD 4, ALBANY 0: On a day when the Godfather of Springfield Falcons hockey decided to step back from his role with the franchise, Bruce Landon got to watch the Falcons go to work on the visiting Devils. It started early with an Alex Aleardi snipe just under five minutes into the first frame, and a three goal second period buried the Devils before they could get anything started. Mike McKenna was outstanding for the Falcons, stopping all 25 pucks that came his way. Helping Springfield to the win was their penalty kill, which went a perfect 4-for-4.

Moves:

Abbotsford Heat
Evan Trupp (F) To: Alaska Aces
Turner Elson (F) To: Alaska Aces
Milwaukee Admirals
Simon Moser (F) To: Nashville Predators
San Antonio Rampage
Anthony Luciani (F) From: Cincinnati Cyclones
Toronto Marlies
Mike Duco (F) From: Orlando Solar Bears
Utica Comets
Pascal Pelletier (F) To: Vancouver Canucks
Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins
Harry Zolnierczyk (F) To: Pittsburgh Penguins
Andrew Ebbett (F) From: Pittsburgh Penguins
Worcester Sharks
Eriah Hayes (F) From: San Jose Sharks
Chris Crane (F) To: Ontario Reign

News & Notes:

    • A bit of sad news, as Keith Allen has passed away. The longtime Philadelphia Flyers GM had a hand in the creation of the AHL’s Maine Mariners, the only team to ever win back-t0-back Calder Cups in its first two years of existence. [The Modesto Bee]
    • From the Lewiston Sun Journal, the press conference for the Pirates can be seen below.

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After over 30 years, Bruce Landon steps away from Springfield Falcons

After over a quarter-century in the front office of Springfield hockey, Bruce Landon, the Springfield Falcons president, part-owner, and general manager, has decided to step away from the game.

In a press conference this afternoon, the 64-year-old London, Ont. native spoke to the media, fans, and friends who had assembled to hear what the Falcons were calling a major announcement. Landon, who won a Calder Cup as a member of the Springfield Kings during the 1970-71 season, has been a steadfast figure in the hockey landscape of Springfield. After suffering a career-ending injury as a member of the Springfield Indians in 1977-78, Landon, then 28, was brought on to work the Kings broadcasts and work in an executive role with the team.

Landon would be honoured as the league’s top executive in 1981, and would go on to become the franchise’s general manager the following year, a role he held until today.

When the Indians, in 1994, were sold to a new ownership group that had intentions to move the team out of Springfield (they became the Worcester Ice Cats), Landon rallied together an investment group that secured ownership of an expansion team. That team, now known the Falcons, will celebrate their 20-year anniversary next season.

At the conference, Landon said he will remain on with the team as the director of hockey operations, but won’t maintain any other roles with the team, instead working with them during the transition period. Katharine McCarthy, who was on hand at the event, tweeted that Landon cited “hitting a brick wall a couple months ago and not being able to give what he felt was his all.”

According to McCarthy, management from Springfield will conduct a search for a new president, but filling the position is not of paramount concern.

From MassLive.com:

“(Owner) Charlie Pompea accepted the challenges of making this franchise successful. I feel comfortable in the direction this franchise is going to go,” Landon said in a true torch-passing moment.

Pompea has owned the team since late 2010. But the face of the franchise has always been Landon.

Landon said he will devote more time to his family. He cited at least one Christmas morning that he spent working when he could have been home.

His successor, at least on an interim basis, said filling Landon’s shoes will be a challenge.

“There is a lot to do, but the goal is still for us to keep moving forward,” said Sarah Pompea, whose role to this point has been highlighted by her supervision of the Falcons’ growing charitable foundation.

Charlie Pompea reiterated the team’s commitment to a city that has hosted AHL hockey for most of the last 78 years.

“The Springfield Falcons will be there for you, just as Springfield has been there for us,” Pompea said.

(Cover image courtesy BusinessWest.com)

Portland Pirates, Cumber County Civic Center reach agreement

After being jettisoned to Lewiston, ME. and playing half a season away from their home building, the Portland Pirates have reached a lease agreement with the Cumberland County Civic Center that will see the team head back home.

Maine Hockey Journal’s Chris Roy broke the story, and the Pirates are set to make an announcement at 2 p.m.

The lease agreement, which was previously approved by the CCCC’s Board of Trustees by a 6-2 margin, was submitted to the Pirates with the explicit direction to have a response by Monday. Majority owner Ron Cain and his team have come to a decision that will see the team back in Portland at the beginning of next season.

The agreement will keep the Pirates in the CCCC for the next five years, beginning with the 2014-15 season with this current lease expiring in 2019-20.

Playing in Lewiston has severely hurt attendance for the Pirates, who went from drawing an average of 4,444 fans per game last season to roughly 2,400 a night in Lewiston.

From Roy:

The lease will take effect beginning for the 2014-’15 season and potentially keep the team at the Civic Center where the team has played since it relocated from Baltimore in 1993. The hockey team has played this season at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston since the dispute broke out in August.

The Pirates were originally scheduled to play 13 games in Lewiston, while the Civic Center underwent a $37 million renovation that is mostly complete. The Civic Center will begin hosting events next weekend with the Maine Home Show, scheduled for Feb. 15.

The Pirates, however, will not return to the Civic Center until next season due to its current lease with Firland Management, owners of the Colisee, and the logistics of moving the team to Portland with less than three months left in the season.