Ladue Leaves

According to John Hoven (The Mayor), Fighting Hawks defenseman Paul Ladue is signing a one year Entry-Level pact with the Los Angeles Kings. The Grand Forks native was drafted in the fifth round by the Kings in the 2013 draft. Paul has improved on his game each year and became UND’s most reliable two-way defenseman this year. Throughout his three year career, Ladue has averaged a point every other game at UND. Rarely did Ladue end up in the box as well.The Fighting Hawk defender was very rarely caught out of position and made a lot of nice passes to set up his teammates throughout the year.

As Hoven notes, Ladue will most likely spend a year with the Ontario Reign in the AHL next season to further refine his game. He is taking a path similar to former UND defenseman Derek Forbort who made his NHL debut this season. Forbort left after his junior year, played in the AHL for a while and had a chance to come up and make a brief impact on the Kings this year. Forbort will compete for roster time with the Kings this fall. Given some time,expect Ladue to play at the NHL level. If Ladue can replicate his solid all-around game at the next level, he will have a long and prosperous NHL career. We expect to see Ladue in the NHL as soon as the 2017-2018 season.

 

Cam Johnson Returns

A few days ago, Brad Schlossman confirmed that UND goalie Cam Johnson would be returning to UND for his junior season.The Michigan-born goalie had a fantastic year, including setting a consecutive minutes scoreless record for UND. Johnson’s total was second all time, and only ended on a fluky goal against Alabama Huntsville. Johnson is a big goalie that plays fairly aggressive. He likes to come out to the top of the crease and cut down the angle for a lot of his opponents. Johnson’s return gives UND superb goal tending depth headed into next year. Johnson will be the starter next season. UND has senior goalie Matt Hrynkiw as its backup. Matt played outstanding in Johnson’s absence only losing once. Later in the season, Humboldt Bronco alum steadied UND against Colorado College where they had to battle for a tie and a shootout win.The future in net for UND looks bright as highly touted Slovak goalie Matej Tomek will have another year under his belt and a chance to compete for the backup job. The Fighting Hawks just got stronger in the net for next season and years to come thanks to Johnson’s descision.

Wentz vs Goff:Who is Going First?

The Los Angeles Rams made a big trade this year to get to the number one pick, not that I can blame them, The Titans’ walked away with Los Angeles’ next top four picks (first, two second and a third) plus the Rams’ first and third round picks in 2017. They need to pick up a franchise quarterback and with options Carson Wentz (North Dakota State University) and Jared Goff (California), both are a shoe in for first round picks. The Rams have been lacking in the quarterback spot since Marc Bulger left town. This team is trying to compete in the NFC West with teams that have QB’s like Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer.

Carson Wentz is a good fit,because he is a very athletic and knows how to make plays in and out of the pocket. He also came from playing in a program that runs a very similar offence to what they already run. Wentz has a lot to prove coming from an FCS school. Many are questioning if Wentz can hold up under professional spotlight. One big question is how his wrist is going to hold up. Wentz was out starting in October for a broken wrist that needed surgery and only returned in January. Although he had a remarkable performance during the FBS championship game, was that just pure luck and does he have the ability to stop staring down his targets allowing defenses to read his passes?  Since the Rams did not pick up a free agent QB,Wentz has to step in right away and compete.This is a lot to handle as  starter in his rookie year.

Overall, I think that the Rams will take Wentz, he fits better into what the offense is already doing and they need a quarterback that they can develop into a franchise leader in a quarterback-laden NFC West.

Philadelphia Eagles (From the Cleveland Browns)

Jared Goff has been playing as starting QB for California since he was a true freshman and has been in scouts’ eyes since than. The Golden Bear signal-caller has the experienced the pressure that competing at a Pac 12 school provides. Goff has the ability to pick apart defenses and spends a good amount of time in the pocket allowing the receivers time to free up. He does come with some concerns, a big one is his frame at 6’4” and only 215 pounds, the question is if he can stand up to being hit by the large defensive players on a pro level. Goff also has a bad habit of not planting his feet when he throws.

The Eagles will pick Goff because they are looking to turn around a poor performing franchise . They also have a QB that has a few more years to play that would give Goff sometime to bulk up and to learn more.

Five Final Thoughts-U18 Worlds

Finland played an outstanding game to win the gold, while the USA played a great game to win the bronze. Here are five final thoughts about everything from the games to my experience at the Ralph.

1.Jesse Puljujarvi is an amazing player. He made so many great passes in his short time at the tournament. His hands are Nick Backstrom’esque. The Finnish winger has a shot that rivals Alex Ovechkin. The team that team drafts him will not be sorry. Puljujarvi could play as a scoring winger on an NHL team’s third line next year.

2.Minus the final game against the Americans, Evan Fitzpatrick was superb. He was cool and calm in net for team Canada. He kept them in every game he started. The Canadian goalie made some nice saves while displaying a strong rebound control.He also made some nice outlet passes during the tournament as well. Look for him to be drafted by the end of the third round.

3.The fan experience at the Ralph was great. I enjoyed the Lamplighter lounge setup from its buffet to its copious concession options. The buffet for ten dollars was an outstanding value. The hockey hot stove series was also well done. General Manager Jody Hodgson should be commended for the work he put in to make the fan experience world-class. The Ralph showed that it can host events like these, and hopefully is able to host more of these international events in the near future.

4.Kudos to the TSN team. Brian Mudryk and Craig Button are consummate professionals and did an excellent job broadcasting the games.They conveyed a reasoned amount of excitement for all teams involved.I learned a lot of background on all of the players they talked about.They made the upcoming draft even more interesting thanks to their copious amounts of research. The entire broadcast team did an excellent job of promoting Grand Forks,The Ralph Englestad Arena, and the University of North Dakota. In addition, the team did a superb job covering all of the different teams and backstories throughout the tournament.

5. North Dakota Fighting Hawks commit Tyson Jost was outstanding during this tournament. He elevated his draft stock to the top half of the board for sure. He could go top ten. Jost is an outstanding two way player and setup his line mates multiple times throughout the tournament. As Craig Button would say, his “Ice Q” or his hockey intelligence on the ice is very high.North Dakota fans would rejoice if Jost stayed at UND for more than one year. If Jost had to, he could play in the AHL tomorrow.

 

Mareks Mitens Interview

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Recently, we had a chance to catch up with Latvian Under-18 National Team goalie Mareks Mitens. He had one of the most eye-opening performances of the tournament with a 43 save effort in an overtime loss to Sweden. His Latvian side was nineteen seconds away from beating an Alex Nylander lead Swedish side in regulation. A win there  probably gives the Latvian side a quarterfinals entry. Mitens helped his side avoid relegation with a shootout win over Denmark in the deciding game three.He came off of the bench just to play the shootout which is quite impressive. Check out some highlights of his work at the link below.

Latvia vs. Sweden

Here are the Latvian netminder’s answers to our questions.

What is your favorite memory of the season?

“1) I had a serious groin injury this season,so i didn’t play a lot. And because of that this championship is the best memory i have for this season.”

What was a high and a low of the tournament?

2) “One of the best moments for sure was game against Sweden. Sadly that we lost it,but that game gave as confidence. But the best moment was last game against Danes. Where we came back from being down by 2 goals and won it in SO. It was an amazing feeling when I stopped the last shot. That game showed that we are a really team and we are going to stand up for each other.”

“Lowest points for us was probably games against USA and Russia. Probably we were too confident and those teams put us back in place where we belong. For me,the game agais Russia was the weakest. Not sure why,but that day just was unlucky for us.”

What was favorite thing you did in Grand Forks besides playing hockey?

3)”We didn’t do anything much besides hockey. Just went shopping and that’s it. But it was much different than Europe. It was nice to see a college lifestyle,just like in movies.”

What are your pro hockey goals for next year and beyond ?

4)”Not sure right now about my future, when i get back home, i will talk with my agent and then know something more. But for sure my goal is to make NCAA Division 1 Hockey and after that to play in NHL,as every hockey player”.

What where your thoughts on the overall tournament experience in Grand Forks ?

5) “It was a great tournament with a highly skilled players and teams. I played last year in U18 too, and thought this year it wont surprise me,but teams were really good, enjoyed watching other games and most important thing, playing against some of the best teams and future NHL stars. It was an amazing experience. ”

What NHL goalie do you model your game after?

6) “It is not like I’m watching one goalie and trying to play like him. I try to watch every goalie and pick a bit from everyone. I love the watching old goalies like Hasek and Brodeur. Cause these goalies were battling for every puck,and it doesn’t matter for them how they stopped the puck.”

What was your favorite aspect of your team at the tournament this year ?

7) “I really liked that we were like a family, there was a connection with us. But players really helped each other. They blocked so many shots, if someone made a mistake, other ones was trying to cheer them up. The team spirit is what i liked the most.”

What is your favorite non hockey hobby?

8) “Besides hockey I love travelling. I’ve been in so many countries and there is a lot of countries I still want to visit. In free time I watch a lot of movies or tv series. I’m a big fan of Blacklist. And i like solving puzzles or doing some brain games.”

What is the biggest improvement to your game you have made the past year ?
9) “The biggest improvement for me,this season, was that I started playing and practicing smarter. I didn’t rush on anything. Hard work can lead you to injuries. Thats the reason I had an injury. After the injury I started practicing smarter, and Im feeling better now. and I became mentally stronger.”

 

Poolman Flies..Back to the Nest

Yesterday, Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald announced that defenseman Tucker Poolman would be returning to the UND Fighting Hawks for his junior season. The Winnipeg Jets draft pick has developed exceptionally well for UND becoming a two way player that can do everything from kill penalties to fire a wicked slapshot from the point. Poolman has even played forward when called upon for UND. During UND’s run to the Frozen Four in Boston Poolman would routinely hound the best team’s players as a forward while killing penalties. Poolman has a strong hockey sense and knows where he needs to be.

Since Poolman will be four years removed from his draft year he could chose to become a free agent next year in August. I think that Jets fans should not worry. I feel as though Poolman is coming back to play with his brother, Colton, for one year. After that I fully expect him to sign with the Jets and not test free agency. Poolman has to be aware of the contract situations of  the Jets’ defensemen. Paul Postma will be a UFA and the Jets will have three RFA’s headlined by Jacob Trouba that will get raises or be released. Having the entry level deal replace Postma’s will end up saving the Jets money if Poolman plays for the AHL side in 2017. Poolman will have a chance to start out a Jet next season, if not he will see a lot of time with the Moose in 2017.

Note:All  contract info is from the general fanager website

Semifinal Thoughts

After a quarterfinal round that was highlighted by a fantastic tilt between Finland and Russia, we are set for a stupendous semifinal Saturday at the 2016 IIHF U 18 Men’s World Championship at the Ralph Englestad Arena. Finland Takes on USA in the matinee game, while Canada will battle a Sweden in the nightcap.

Here are our predictions for each game:

Finland-USA

First,one statement. Wow! Jesse Puljujarvi is utterly fantastic. He has the shot that reminds me of Alex Ovechkin and the hands of Nick Backstrom. Several times I saw him set up on the Finnish powerplay where Ovechkin would be. Also, Eeli Tolvanen will be drafted in the first round of the CHL Import Draft with his performance at this tournament. The fast Finnish forward had a hat trick Thursday and is a strong threat for the Finns this weekend. The Americans,on the other hand, have not faced a single test all tournament. This team has outscored all opponents 38-4 in total. Clayton Keller is angling to be a top 15 pick while Kiefer Bellows and Logan Brown may end up joining them there. I think Brown would be an excellent top ten pick and could even make the jump to the NHL next season. This will be a close game, and Finland will come out strong,but a late Clayton Keller tally will give the Americans the victory.

Prediction:4-3 USA

Sweden-Canada

Alex Nylander plays like his twitter handle,Snipeshow98. Nylander saved the Swedish side from the upset of the tournament vs. Latvia. Sweden has shown a strong powerplay this tournament and its goaltending lead by Filip Gustavsson has improved throughout the tournament. Canada has played a strong physical game all tournament long and Saturday looks to be no different.Tyson Jost has made everyone on his team look even better,and whatever team ends up drafting him is going to enjoy his style of play. The Canadian defense is backstopped by Evan Fitzpatrick who may be playing himself into the second if not the first round in this tournament. Canada’s physical play style and Jost’s superb setups will propel them to the gold medal match.

Prediction: Canada 3-1

Keaton Thompson Inks Deal with Ducks

Today, defenseman Keaton Thompson signed a three year entry level deal with the Anaheim Ducks.The Devils Lake,ND native was drafted in the third round by the Ducks in 2013 (87th overall). The contract is effective at the beginning of the 2016-2017 season. This year Thompson improved on his statistics from the previous seasons. Thompson is a stay at home defenseman with a decent shot, every year Thompson played at North Dakota he continuously improved. Since all entry level deals are two way, Thompson is most likely going to start out plying for the San Diego Gulls, the Ducks AHL affiliate.The Ducks have a fairly strong defense corps so any call up will be earned. Thompson should be a key contributor on that team next year and have the chance to earn an NHL call up.

Here is a link to one of Thompson’s goals from this season, an absolute beauty of a wrist shot.

http://www.undsports.com/mediaPortal/player.dbml?id=5090861

Best of luck to Keaton with the Ducks organization next year.

 

Five Games Five Predictions-U18 Worlds

After a competitive preliminary round at the U18 World Championships we have the quarterfinal and relegation round match ups set. Eight teams remain in the battle for the gold medal, while Denmark and Latvia are fighting to remain in the top division for the 2017 U18 World Championships. Here are some thoughts/predictions for each game in these rounds. I will also predict the result of the relegation series.

Denmark-Latvia

First, a credit to both teams. Each team had its high points in the preliminary round despite not winning a game. Denmark nearly upset Slovakia losing a close one goal game. Latvia lost two heartbreakers in overtime to Switzerland and Sweden. Latvia was 19 seconds away from upsetting perennial power Sweden. Based on what I have seen in this tournament, I think Latvia will come away victorious. The Latvian side has blocked a high amount of shots, and goalie Mareks Mitens kept them in the Sweden matchup with a 43 save performance.

Prediction: Latvia wins the series in two games 2-1, and 3-1 to stay in the top division.

Finland-Russia

Both sides have gotten better as the tournament has gone on. After an 8-2 loss to the USA side, Russia’s play has improved. Goalie Danil Tarasov has played well for the Russian side throughout the tournament, and has kept them in the games he has started. Pavel Dyomin has played exceptionally well this tournament, and helped the Russian side win in OT over the upstart Swiss side. Finland has gotten better thanks to the addition of top three 2016 NHL Draft pick Jesse Puljujarvi. The fantastic Finnish forward has an outstanding shot and a knack for finding the right spot to be on the ice no matter the situation with high situational awareness. Forward Eeli Tolvanen has showcased his skills and will be a player to watch as well. Tolvanen is a pure sniper and some of his goals this tournament have been outstanding. His effort against Denmark was one to watch. In addition, the Fins play an outstanding defense. The best example of this is their complete shutout in the third vs. Denmark. The Finnish side gave up no shots on net during this period. Finland has the better top-end talent with a strong defense backing it up.

Prediction: Finland wins 3-1.

Canada-Switzerland

Canada fought off Finland in their last game of group play to win group B. They did so with a strong two goal first period and superb goaltending from Evan Fitzpatrick. In this quarterfinal round it will be key for Canada to start strong. If Canada can win the first then they will win the match. Switzerland hung with the American side on Tuesday for most of the match thanks to decent goaltending from Phillip Wuthrich who made 33 saves. If the Swiss hang around like Denmark did for a period (2-2 after one) this one may get a little too interesting for the Canadians, if not then I expect the Canadians to win handily thanks to their strong all around play keyed by UND commit Tyson Jost who is battling Alex Nylander of Sweden for the tournament scoring title.

Prediction: Canada wins 5-1

Sweden-Slovakia

Slovakia rallied against the Czech side to win Tuesday evening. The Swedish side has looked strong since its defeat against the United States. The Slovak side has the best penalty kill in the tournament. In 19 chances the Slovaks have allowed only one power play tally. This reliance on defense will play a key role in this matchup. In addition, goaltender Roman Durny has kept his side in every match he has played in. For the Slovaks to pull off the upset they will need to block a lot of shots and give Durny a chance. If they do this one could get interesting. I see Sweden, led by Alex Nylander, winning this match although it will be the closest of any of the quarterfinal games due to the strong Slovak defense.

Prediction: 2-0 Sweden

USA-Czech Republic

The American side has been dominant for the majority of its time in this tournament. Logan Brown is playing like a higher-skilled version of Milan Lucic and very rarely gets knocked off of the puck. Keiffer Bellows and Clayton Keller have been phenomenal. Both are fast high skilled players with great hockey IQ’s and outstanding shots. The Czech side will need huge contributions from the likes of Ondrej Vala to have a chance in this one. He has impressed me with his net-front presence throughout the tournament, and Czech goalie Josef Korenar will have to be perfect for the Czechs to have a chance. This one will start close, but the American side will prevail in the end.

Prediction: USA 6-1

 

 

Seamore Sports On AIH20416

Tonight I had the chance to participate in the AIH20416 podcast with two excellent hosts Phillip Alver and Alan. We talked about UND Hockey, the fan experience at the Ralph Englestad Arena, and various NHL Draft prospects eligible for this year’s draft in Buffalo. The Seamore sports segment is the last one but this is an excellent podcast and this episode is worthy of a full listen. Thanks again to Phillip Alver and to Alan for inviting me and Seamore Sports on the podcast.

http://www.cyberears.com/index.php/Browse/playaudio/29521