Bellemare says ‘au revoir’ to Flyers and ‘viva Las Vegas’ to Golden Knights

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Can a Frenchman find a good cheesesteak in Las Vegas?

Former Philadelphia Flyers LW Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is about to find out. The Philadelphia Flyers left wing was chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights to fill out its inaugural roster for the 2017-18 season.

The Flyers left Bellemare, a fourth-line forward and penalty kill specialist who scored 4 goals and 4 assists in 82 games, exposed to the draft and the Golden Knights happily plucked him for their roster Wednesday night.

He’s tallied 17 goals and 17 assists in 237 National Hockey League regular season games and 1 assist in five Stanley Cup Playoffs contests.

Bellemare, the ninth NHL player born in France, had a memorable 2016-17 season that began with him playing a key role on Team Europe in September’s World Cup of Hockey and ended with him being a catalyst on the French national team at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship played in Paris and Cologne in May.

 

The Flyers didn’t make the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season but the team rewarded Bellemare, 32, for his play by re-signing him to a two-year deal at $1.45 million per year and by making him an assistant captain, sharing the honor with high-scoring right wing Wayne Simmonds.

 

Bellemare was the only player of color chosen by the Golden knights out of 17 minority players that were draft-available. They were among a host of forwards, defensemen and goaltenders exposed to the draft by the NHL’s 30 teams.

 

More than a dozen players of color are eligible for Vegas in NHL expansion draft

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Some of the National Hockey League’s players of color are feeling a draft.

At least 17 minority players are among the players left unprotected by the NHL’s 30 teams for Wednesday’s Expansion Draft to help form the inaugural roster for the Vegas Golden Knights.

The players of color made available – a nicer phrase than “unprotected” – include a likely future Hockey Hall of Fame inductee,  three multiple Stanley Cup winners, three Olympians, and a few minor league prospects.

Here’s a summary of the players available:

ANAHEIM DUCKS

Emerson Etem, left wing. The 29th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Etem has bounced from the Ducks to the New York Rangers to the Vancouver Canucks and back to the Ducks. And he’s boomeranged between Anaheim and its American Hockey League affiliate in San Diego.

He only appeared in three games for the Ducks in 2016-17 and was held scoreless. He does have 22 goals and 24 assists in 173 NHL regular season games and 6 goals and 2 assists in 23 playoff games.

BOSTON BRUINS

Malcolm Subban, a Boston Bruins’ 2012 first-round pick. Could he be Vegas-bound?

Malcolm Subban, goaltender. Subban was 24th player picked in the 2012 NHL Draft but has been unable to secure a spot on a Bruins roster that features Tuuka Rask between the pipes. Rask won the Vezina Trophy in 2013-14 as the NHL’s best goaltender.

The younger brother of Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban, Malcolm Subban appeared in 32 games last season for the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL farm team. His stats: 11 wins, 14 losses, a 2.41 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. He had 2 losses in the AHL playoffs and sported a 2.12 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Johnny Oduya, defense. Oduya was a member of the 2013 and 2015 Chicago Stanley Cup teams and the Swedish team that won the Silver Medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. He had 2 goals and 7 assists in 52 regular season games for the Blackhawks last season. He has 37 goals and 145 assists in 798 career regular season contests and 6 goals and 22 assists in 106 career playoff games.

Jordin Tootoo, right wing. The diminutive dynamo of Inuit heritage was limited to 2 goals and 1 assist in 50 regular season games in 2016-17. He has 65 goals and 96 assists in 723 games with Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, and the New Jersey Devils.

DALLAS STARS

Forward Gemel Smith, the Dallas Stars’ 2012 fourth-round pick..

Gemel Smith, center. The Stars took the 23-year-old in the fourth round with the 104th overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. He hasn’t seen much time in Big D.  He scored 3 goals and 3 assists in 17 regular season games for Dallas in 2016-17.

His younger brother, forward Giavani Smith, was taken by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round with the 46th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

EDMONTON OILERS

Jujhar Khaira, center. Khaira was one of the feel-good stories of the 2016-17 season when he scored his first NHL goal –  a source of pride for North America’s South Asian community. The Oilers took Khaira in the third round with the 63rd overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. His one goal and 2 assists were his only points in 10 games for the Oilers in 2016-17.

LOS ANGELES KINGS 

Jarome Iginla, right wing.  Iginla, 39, is one of hockey’s most-decorated players. He’s a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner, and a recipient of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer in 2002 and 2004 and the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer in 2002. He won the Lester B. Pearson Award – the most valuable player award voted by the players – in 2002.

Iginla, a sure-fire Hall of Famer when he retires, had 14 goals and 13 assists in 80 games for the Kings in 2016-17.

Jordan Nolan, center. A proud member of the Ojibwe Nation, Nolan played for the Kings’ Stanley Cup championship teams in 2012 and 2014. Nolan, the son of former Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Ted Nolan, appeared in only 46 games for the Kings last season and tallied 4 goals and 4 assists.

MINNESOTA WILD

Matt Dumba, defense.  Of Filipino heritage, Dumba posted a career-best 11 goals and 23 assists in 76 games. His plus/minus – an indicator of defensive responsibility – improved from plus-1 in 2015-16 to plus-15 in 2016-17.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Al Montoya, goaltender, Montreal Canadiens

Al Montoya, goaltender. The well-traveled Cuban-American goaltender could be on the move again. A 2004 first-round of the Rangers,  Montoya has strapped on the pads for the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers,  Phoenix Coyotes, and Winnipeg Jets before he seemingly settled in as Carey Price’s backup in Montreal.

Montoya appeared in 19 games for the Habs, posted an 8-6-4 record with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Devante Smith-Pelly, right wing. Devo is coming off a down season in New Jersey, his third team since the Ducks chose him with in the second round with the 42nd overall pick in the 2010 draft. He scored only 4 goals and 5 assists in 50 games.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Christopher Gibson, goaltender. The black Finn didn’t play a minute in Brooklyn in 2016-17 and had a short season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Isles’ AHL team. There, he appeared in seven games and won 6. He had a 2.52 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

Gibson played in four NHL games in 2015-16, posted a 1-1-1 record with a 3.40 goals-against average and an .882 save percentage.

 

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Philadelphia Flyers LW Pierre Edouard Bellemare

Pierre-Edourard Bellemare, left wing. The French player probably enjoyed his most memorable season in 2016-17. It started with the World Cup of Hockey, where the fourth-line Flyers player became a key contributor for Team Europe and ended with him playing before his countrymen at the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in Paris.

In between, Bellemare had a solid enough year for the Flyers that the team re-signed him to a two-year deal at $1.45 million per year and made him an assistant captain. The 32-year-old checking line forward scored 4 goals and 4 assists in 82 regular season games. He has 17 goals and 17 assists in 237 career NHL games.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Trevor Daley, defense. Daley is experiencing the cruel business side of hockey. Win a Stanley Cup one week, get exposed to the expansion draft the next.  The 33-year-old offensively-talented and defensively-responsible player began his NHL career with the Dallas Stars in 2003-04. Daley reached the 20-point mark seven times during his tenure with Dallas.

He had 5 goals and 15 assists in 56 games for the Penguins in 2016-17 and tallied 1 goal and 4 assists in 21 playoff games that ended with him winning a second Stanley Cup. Daley 78 goals and 200 assists in 894 career NHL regular season games.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

Joel Ward, right wing.  Injuries in 2016-17 hampered the 36-year-old wing who earned a reputation as a clutch playoff performer during his NHL career. He scored 10 goals and 19 assists in 78 regular season games and 1 goal and 3 assists in six playoff games.

He’s tallied 22 goals and 30 assists in 83 playoff games for San Jose, Nashville, and the Washington Capitals.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

J.T. Brown, right wing. A tough player who isn’t afraid to speak his mind on social issues, Brown had 3 goals and 3 assists for the Lightning last season. He has 18 goals and 39 assists in 262 NHL regular season games.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

T.J. Oshie, right wing. Why in the world would the Capitals expose a player who notched 33 goals and 23 assists in 68 games last season? Our friends at the Russian Machine Never Breaks Capitals fan site break it down to money and uncertainty. Oshie needs a new contract and the NHL currently isn’t sure what the league salary cap will be next season. And Oshie could become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.  All that might be enough for the Golden Knights to pass on him, leaving the Caps to move forward with a new deal once the 2017-18 salary cap is set.

Introducing the All-Time Color of Hockey team

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We’ve picked the 2016-17 Color of Hockey All-Star team, but who would be on the greatest team of players of color of all time?

My choices span eras – from a time when goalies stood up and sticks were actually made of all wood – to today’s fast-paced, high-tech game. You’ll recognize some of the players chosen for the team while others named may not be familiar to new hockey fans.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t affirmative action on ice. These current and former players have distinguished themselves at hockey’s highest levels – their Stanley Cup rings, NHL awards, Olympic medals or Hockey Hall of Fame inductions prove that.

So who would you choose for your all-time team? Share your picks via the Color of Hockey Facebook page or Twitter @ColorOfHockey.

In the meantime, let the debate begin!

Grant Fuhr, goaltender. Owner of five Stanley Cup rings, a seven-time National Hockey League All-Star,  the first black player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003, and one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players, Fuhr is a no-brainer to be the All-Time team’s starting netminder.

 

Fuhr won all five Cups with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s and early 1990s. But he also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs,  Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, and Los Angeles Kings in an NHL career that spanned from 1981-82 to 1999-00.

A 1988 Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s best goaltender, Fuhr is only one of six NHL goalies with over 400 wins.

His stats: 403 wins, 295 losses, 114 ties and a 3.38 goals-against average in 867 NHL games. Not bad for a player who many thought was washed up after a season with the Kings in 1994-95.  His career was resurrected by a trade to the Blues and hooking up with fitness guru Bob Kersee, husband and trainer of Olympic Gold Medal sprinter Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Fuhr gave a special shout-out in his Hall of Fame induction speech to another person who influenced his life and career – Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first black player.

“It just shows that hockey is such a diverse sport that anybody can be successful in it,” Fuhr said in 2003. “I’m proud of that, and I thank Willie for that.”

Jarome Iginla become the NHL’s second black captain as a member of the Calgary Flames.

Jarome Iginla, right wing. Iggy will be the second black NHL player in the Hall of Fame after he retires. He should be a first-ballot inductee just for the length of his full name: Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tij Junior Elvis Iginla.

Iginla, whose father is Nigerian, is one of Canada’s most-decorated and loved players. He scored two goals that helped power Canada to a 5-2 win over the U.S. at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City that gave the True North its first Olympic hockey Gold Medal in 50 years.

He scored 5 goals at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, but he’s best known for his assist on Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal that clinched another Gold Medal for Canada over the U.S.

Iginla has 625 goals, 675 assists in 1,554 NHL games, most of them with the Flames from 1996-97 to 2012-13.  He has 37 goals and 31 assists in 81 playoff games.

He won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer in 2002 and 2004 and the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer in 2002. He won the Lester B. Pearson Award – the most valuable player award voted by the players – in 2002.

But it’s the big trophy, the Stanley Cup, that Iginla covets most to cap his career. That Cup quest has taken him to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings.

An aside: With all his accomplishments, why was Iginla left off the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players list? Just asking.

Bryan Trottier, center. A seven-time Stanley Cup winner – four straight with the New York Islanders, two with the Penguins and one as an assistant coach for the Avalanche – an eight-time NHL All-Star, and winner of both the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP and the Art Ross Trophy as its top scorer in 1979.

 

Of Metis, Chippewa, and Cree heritage, Trottier was the glue of the Islanders’ Cup dynasty.  He won the Calder Cup as the NHL’s best rookie in 1975-76, a season in which he scored 32 goals and 63 assists.

He played 1,279 NHL regular season games between 1975-76 to 1993-94 and tallied 524 goals and 901 assists. He notched 71 goals and 113 assists in 221 playoff games for the Islanders and Penguins. He also performed a rare feat by representing the United States and Canada in international competition.

Trottier entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997 and is on the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players list.

Paul Kariya, left wing. One of the mightiest of the then-named Mighty Ducks of Anaheim when it came to goal scoring.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound wing played 15 seasons NHL with Anaheim, Colorado, St. Louis and the Nashville Predators. He scored 402 goals and 587 assists in 989 regular season games and 16 goals, 23 assists in 46 playoff contests.

 

He led the University of Maine Black Bears to the 1993 NCAA Division I championship and won the Hobey Baker Award that year as U.S. college hockey’s best player. The Mighty Ducks chose him with the fourth overall pick in the 1993 NHL Draft.

Kariya was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team in 1995 and was an NHL All-Star in 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-00 and 2002-03.

Kariya, whose Japanese-Canadian father was born in an internment camp during World War II, played on Canada’s 1994 Silver Medal-winning Winter Olympics squad and on the 2002 Olympic team.

Jim Neilson, defense. Nicknamed “Chief,” Neilson played at the dawn of the era of rushing defensemen like Bobby Orr and Brad Park. Part Cree, part Dane, Neilson was a 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman who was agile enough to occasionally play left wing.

N.Y. Rangers defenseman Jim Neilson zeroes in on Montreal Canadiens goaltender Loren “Gump” Worsley (Photo/Courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame).

But D was where Neilson’s heart and mindset were and he helped solidify the Rangers’ blue line from 1962-63 to 1973-74. He finished his career playing for the old California Golden Seals, Cleveland Barons and the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers.

“I don’t go out of my way to score goals,” Neilson once told Inside Hockey. “I get a much better feeling when I break up a scoring play or block a shot.”

Neilson scored 69 goals and 299 assists in 1,023 NHL games and 2 goals and 16 assists in 65 post-season contests.

His numbers aren’t as eye-popping as offensive-minded Hall of Famers Orr, Park, Paul Coffey, and Ray Bourque. But his talent level can’t be disputed. He was an NHL All-Star in 1966-67, 1969-70, and 1970-71.

Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban.

P.K. Subban, defense. Subban is currently in his playing prime, yet he’s already accomplished enough to earn a spot on this list.

He won the James Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman in 2013. He was a member of the Canadian team that won the Gold Medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi – although he only played 11 minutes during the entire tournament. He helped Canada capture gold at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship tournaments in 2008 and 2009.

He has 73 goals and 245 assists in in 500 NHL regular season games and 13 goals and 36 assists in 74 career playoff games. Most of his career points came as a member of the Canadiens, the team that selected him in the second round with the 43rd overall pick of the 2007 NHL Draft.

Subban anticipated being a Canadien for life, establishing roots in Montreal and pledging $10 million to Montreal Children’s Hospital – the largest philanthropic commitment by any athlete in Canadian history.

But Subban was sent to the Predators in June 2016 in a controversial trade for defenseman Shea Weber.

SECOND TEAM

Ray Emery, goaltender. A netminder known for dropping the gloves as well as using them to make dramatic saves, Emery’s career is a tale of two goalies. He was the brash youngster who led the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006-07.

Goaltender Ray Emery played for four NHL teams in his career.

After suffering a career-threatening hip injury, he morphed into a steady, mature veteran who served as a backup goalie on the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. But even as an aging vet, Sugar Ray enjoyed fisticuffs.

Still, Emery, a 2001 Ottawa fourth-round draft pick, was one of the best puck-stoppers in the business. He compiled a 145-86-28 win/loss/overtime loss record in 287 regular season games from 2002-03 to 2014-15.

He appeared in 39 playoff games for Ottawa, Philadelphia and Anaheim and had a 21-17 record.

Tony McKegney, left wing. McKegney was the NHL’s first high-scoring black player, the first to score more than 20 goals in a season.

He scored 20 or more goals for five straight seasons from 1979-80 to 1983-84. His best season: 40 goals and 38 assists in 80 games for the Blues in 1987-88.

McKegney tallied 320 goals and 319 assists in 912 games from 1978-79 to 1990-91 for Buffalo, St. Louis, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

McKegney’s route to the NHL was rooted in racism. He initially signed a contract with the Birmingham Bulls of the defunct World Hockey Association, but the team’s owner had second thoughts after fans in Alabama complained about the prospect of having a black player on the team’s roster. So McKegney, the 32nd player chosen in the 1978 NHL Draft, joined Buffalo instead.

Tony McKegney was a high-scoring forward for Buffalo, St. Louis, Detroit, Quebec, N.Y. Rangers. and Minnesota North Stars (Photo/Buffalo Sabres Archives).

Angela James, center. The first woman of color inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010, James was a trailblazer regarded as the Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey. She was a dominant player in the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association in the late 1970s and a fixture on Canada’s international women’s teams.

She led Canada to a Gold Medal at the first International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship in 1990, scoring 11 goals in five games. She powered Canada to gold medals in 1992 in Finland, 1994 in Lake Placid, and 1997 in Kitchener, Ontario.

James was also a force for Canada on gold medal teams in 1996 and 1999 at the Three Nations Cup tournament.

Despite those impressive credentials, Canada left James off its roster for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan- the first Winter Games that women’s hockey was featured.

Canada’s Angela James is one of two black players in the Hockey Hall of Fame (Photo/Courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame).

The snub didn’t stop the accolades from rolling in. James was inducted into the Black Hockey and Sports Hall of Fame and the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2006.

She was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 2008 along with fellow Canadian Geraldine Heaney and the United States’ Cammi Granato. James entered Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

The Canadian Women’s Hockey League introduced the Angela James Bowl, a trophy awarded to the league’s leading scorer, in 2008. An indoor ice rink in Toronto’s Flemingdon Park was renamed the Angela James Arena in 2009, making it one of the few skating facilities in North America named after a black person.

Forward Reggie Leach, Number 27, scored 19 goals in 16 playoff games in 1975-76.

Reggie Leach, right wing. Nicknamed the “Riverton Rifle” for his Manitoba hometown and his lethal shot, Leach scored 381 goals and 285 assists in 934 NHL regular season games with the Flyers, Bruins, Red Wings, and California Golden Seals from 1970-71 to 1982-83.

He was a prime-time Stanley Cup Playoffs performer with 47 goals and 22 assists in 94 career post-season games.

He scored 19 playoff goals in 1976 – 5 of them in one game against the Bruins. Leach is the only non-goaltender to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable playoff performer while skating for a losing team. The Canadiens defeated the Flyers for the Stanley Cup in 1976.

The proud member of the Ojibwe Nation is the only member of the Philadelphia Flyers’ famed LCB Line – Leach, center Bobby Clarke, and left wing Bill Barber –  who isn’t in the Hockey Hall of Fame, which many hockey aficionados regard as an injustice.

Trevor Daley, D, Pittsburgh Penguins

Trevor Daley, defense. A smooth-skating, offensively-talented and defensively-responsible player who began his NHL career with the Dallas Stars in 2003-04. Daley reached the 20-point mark seven times during his tenure with Dallas.

He has 78 goals and 200 assists in 894 regular season games. He has 6 goals and 11 assists in 69 playoff games – and counting.

An ice-time eater, Daley averaged 21 minutes per game for Dallas between 2008 and 2015. Still, the Stars traded Daley to the Blackhawks for forward Patrick Sharp. After 29 games the Hawks dealt Daley to the Penguins in December 2015.

There, Daley became a cog in Pittsburgh’s drive to the Stanley Cup last year, though an ankle injury prevented him from playing in the Final against the San Jose Sharks.

That didn’t stop Daley from being the first Penguins player to be handed the Cup from team captain Sidney Crosby for a skate after winning it. The gesture fulfilled a wish from Daley’s ailing mother to see her son hoist the Stanley Cup.

A week later, Trudy Daley passed away from cancer at age 51.

Alec Martinez, defense. A two-time Stanley Cup winner, Martinez has been a steady puck-moving defenseman since his first full season the  Kings in 2009-10. Los Angeles selected Martinez from Ohio’s Miami University in the fourth round of the 2007 NHL Draft.

Since then, Martinez has tallied 48 goals and 99 assists in 419 NHL regular season contests. He has 6 goals and 10 assists in 60 career playoff games.

In 2014, Martinez became the first NHL defenseman to score clinching goals in two playoff series in the same season. One goal was the Game 5 overtime winner against the Rangers that clinched the Stanley Cup for the Kings.

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Meet the 2016-17 Color of Hockey All-Star team

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A friend recently presented me with a challenge: pick a 2016-17 Color of Hockey All-Star team.

Challenge accepted! But it wasn’t easy. Several players of color had really good 2016-17 seasons, enough to spark lively bar debates over who’s worthy of being a first-team all-star and who’s not.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ center Auston Matthews.

So here are my picks. Weigh in with your choices via the Color of Hockey Facebook page or Twitter @ColorOfHockey. Without further ado:

Auston Matthews, center, Toronto Maple Leafs. The 19-year-old Mexican-American from Arizona terrorized NHL goalies in his rookie year and returned the Leafs to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Matthews led the team in scoring with 40 goals and 29 assists while playing in all 82 regular season games. His 40 goals tied him for second in the NHL with Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov. Matthews’ 69 points were tops among NHL rookies and 20th among all NHL players.

He would be a top player for the United States on its 2018 Winter Olympics hockey team. But the National Hockey League insists that its not sending it’s  players to PyeongChang, South Korea.

 

Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

Wayne Simmonds, right wing, Philadelphia Flyers. Simmonds won the Most Valuable Player award at the NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles in January. He also played for Silver Medal-winning  Team Canada at the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in Paris and Cologne in May.

The Wayne Train led the Flyers in goals with 31. He was fourth on the team in scoring with 54 points – the combination of 31 goals and 23 assists. He also was the Flyers’ toughest customer, leading the team with 122 penalty minutes.

 

Brandon Saad, F, Columbus Blue Jackets

Brandon Saad, left wing, Columbus Blue Jackets. The U.S.-born son of a Syrian immigrant, Saad was the Blue Jackets’ third-leading scorer with 24 goals and 29 assists in 82 games He was the 18th-leading scorer among the league’s left wings, a group that includes Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand.

Dustin Byfuglien, defense, Winnipeg Jets. Big shot. Big hits. Big man. Big Buff, at 6-foot-5, 260-pounds, was fifth among NHL defensemen in scoring with 13 goals and 39 assists in 80 games. He was fifth on the Jets in scoring with 52 points.

USA Hockey’s brain trust left him off the 2014 U.S. Olympic team and his use by Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella as bench of the U.S. team in September’s World Cup of Hockey was curious. But Byfuglien probably  would have gotten a hard look for the 2018 Winter Games

 

Seth Jones, D, Columbus Blue Jackets

Seth Jones, D, Columbus Blue Jackets. What? No P.K. Subban? Let the arguments begin. Jones, the son of former National Basketball Association player Popeye Jones, was Columbus’ seventh-leading scorer with 12 goals and 30 assists in 75 regular season games.

He was 19th among NHL defensemen in scoring. Subban, the Nashville Predators’ D-man, was 22nd among the league’s blue-liners with 10 goals and 30 assists in 66 games.

Jones would be a lock for Team USA at the 2018 Winter Games in February if NHLers were going.

 

 

 

 

Carey Price, goaltender, Montreal Canadiens. Price rebounded from an injury-shortened 2015-16 season to finish fifth among NHL goalies with a 30-20-5 record and a 2.23 goals-against average. Price, whose mother is a former Ulkatcho First Nation chief, had three shutouts during the 2016-17 season.

Price was an Olympian in 2014 and would be in the mix to be Canada’s top netminder for the 2018 Winter Games if the NHL were sending its players.

SECOND TEAM

Nazem Kadri, F, Toronto Maple Leafs

Nazem Kadri, center, Toronto Maple Leafs. Kadri had a breakout year with Toronto, scoring 32 goals and 29 assists in 82 games. The son of a Lebanese Muslim father,  the London, Ontario-born Kadri finished 15th in scoring among centers, an elite group that includes the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid and the Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom.

Evander Kane, left wing, Buffalo Sabres. Talented on the ice and sometimes trying off it, Kane tallied 28 goals and 15 assists in 70 games for Buffalo. He was sixth on the Sabres in scoring and 35th among the NHL’s left wings.

 

T.J. Oshie, F, Washington Capitals

T.J. Oshie, right wing, Washington Capitals. Of Ojibwe heritage, Oshie enjoyed a stellar second season with the Capitals. He finished fifth on the team in scoring with 33 goals and 23 assists in 68 games. Four of those goals were game-winners.

A shootist remembered for his stunning display of moves during a dramatic U.S.-Russia shootout at the 2014 Olympics, Oshie would surely be under consideration for the 2018 U.S. Olympic squad.

P.K. Subban, defense, Nashville Predators. Adjusting to a new team, new town, and coping with injuries, Subban’s still manged to score 40 points on 10 goals and 30 assists. He’ll forever be linked to defenseman Shea Weber for whom he was swapped in the stunning trade last summer between Nashville and the Canadiens.

 

 

So how did Weber do in 2016-17? He had 17 goals and 25 assists – 42 points – in 78 games. Weber’s Canadiens were ousted from the playoffs in the first round by the New York Rangers. Subban and the Predators are playing in the Cup Final against the defending champion Penguins.

Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild

Matt Dumba, defense, Minnesota Wild. The fourth-year NHLer posted a career-best 11 goals and 23 assists in 76 games. His plus/minus – an indicator of defensive responsibility – improved from plus-1 in 2015-16 to plus-15 in 2016-17.

Charles Williams, goaltender, Canisius College. Sure, he’s not in the NHL but that doesn’t diminish the amazing 2016-17 season Williams had. He helped guide Canisius’ Golden Griffins to an Atlantic Hockey regular season title and was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, presented to the top NCAA Division I men’s hockey player.

Canisius College goalie Charles Williams signed a contact with the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs in March ( (Photo/Canisius College).

Williams posted a 15-6-4 record and helped backstop Canisius to a 17-game unbeaten streak. He led all Division I goalies with a .946 save percentage during the regular season. He was tied for first with 5 shutouts and second in the nation with a 1.83 goals-against average.

Williams, who was a fifth-year transfer student, signed a standard player contract in March with the Manchester Monarchs, the Los Angeles Kings’ ECHL farm team.

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Los Angeles Kings acquire Bokondji Imama and sign him to a 3-year deal

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The Los Angeles Kings obtained a sniper and a fighter when they signed former Tampa Bay Lightning draftee Bokondji Imama to a three-year entry level contract Thursday.

Left wing Bokondji Imama was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015.

Imama, 20, recently completed his final season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The left wing’s 41 goals led the Sea Dogs and ranked seventh in the QMJHL. He was fourth on the team in scoring with 55 points – the combination of 41 goals and 14 assists.

He helped lead the Sea Dogs to the QMJHL championship, scoring 8 goals and 7 assists in 18 playoff games. Saint John lost in the semi-final of the Mastercard Memorial Cup to the Ontario Hockey League champion Erie Otters.

Imama also displayed toughness with his scoring touch, finishing third on the Sea Dogs with 105 penalty minutes. He was regarded as one of the best and most feared fighters in the QMJHL.

Former Saint John Sea Dogs left wing Bokondji Imama hopes to make the Los Angeles Kings after signing a three-year deal with the team (Photo/David Connell/Saint John Sea Dogs).

The French Canadian-born son of immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Imama was chosen by the Lightning in the sixth round with 180th overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Kings acquired Imama’s rights from Tampa Bay Wednesday for a 2018 seventh-round draft pick. Los Angeles had to sign him to an NHL contract before the June 1, 5 p.m. signing deadline.

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Windsor Spitfires win Mastercard Memorial Cup

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“Addy” and “Chatty” carried the Cup.

Forward Jeremiah Addison and defenseman Jalen Chatfield, black co-captains of the Windsor Spitfires, together lifted the Memorial Cup after Windsor defeated the Erie Otters 4-3 Sunday to win the Canadian Hockey League major junior championship.

Windsor Spitfires co-captains Jeremiah Addison, left, and Jalen Chatfield, right, accept Memorial Cup from CHL Commissioner David Branch ( Photo/ Aaron Bell/CHL Images).

The Spitfires, in the tournament because Windsor, Ontario, was the host city, overcame a 44-day layoff  – they lost to the London Knights in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs – to beat OHL Erie.

“We’ve battled with the most adversity between injuries, suspensions, and all kinds of stuff,” Addison told The Windsor Star after the game. “We battled through all kinds of adversity.”

Windsor became the first host team to win the Cup since the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Shawinigan Cataractes did it in 2012 and the 10th since the tournament went to a round-robin format in 1972.

“We just focused on what we could do,” Chatfield told the Star. “Get bigger, stronger, and come together as a team. Building more chemistry around the (locker) room and we’ve done that.”

Addison and Chatfield were held scoreless in Sunday’s game, but the two overage players were pivotal to Spitfires’ championship drive. Addison, a Brampton, Ontario, native, scored 3 goals to power Windsor past the Otters 4-2 on May 24 to earn a spot in the final.

Windsor Spitfires co-captains Jalen Chatfield, foreground, and Jeremiah Addison take the Memorial Cup for a skate after winning CHL championship (Photo/Aaron Bell/CHL Images).

Chatfield contributed by playing near shutdown defense against snipers like QMJHL Saint John Sea Dogs Mathieu Joseph and Bokondji Imama and Erie’s Alex DeBrincatTaylor Raddysh and Dylan Strome.

Sunday’s game was the last major junior contest for Addison and Chatfield. Addison, 20, a 2015 seventh-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, will look to land a playing spot in the organization in 2017-18. Chatfield, 21-year old native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, signed a three-year entry level contract with the Vancouver Canucks in March.

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Jeremiah Addison powers Windsor Spitfires to Memorial Cup final

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Forward Jeremiah Addison proved Wednesday why he shares the captaincy of the Windsor Spitfires.

 

Addison scored a hat trick – 3 goals – to lead the Spitfires past the Erie Otters 4-2 and to a spot in the Mastercard Memorial Cup final. The tournament, which Windsor is hosting, features the winners of the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championships.

The Montreal Canadiens selected Addison in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Ddraft with the 207th overall pick. He scored 24goals and 19 assists in 51 games for the Spitfires in 2016-17. He’s tallied 5 goals in five OHL playoff games and 5 Memorial Cup goals.

Jeremiah Addison of the Windsor Spitfires (Photo/Terry Wilson/OHL Images).

Windsor now awaits the winner of a semifinal game between OHL Erie and the QMJHL Saint John Sea Dogs.

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Blake Bolden says goodbye to NWHL and Boston, and hello to Lugano, Switzerland

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For Blake Bolden, it’s a matter of curing a case of wanderlust and fulfilling the desire to keep on keeping on in hockey.

After two seasons with the Boston Pride, Blake Bolden will play in Switzerland in 2017-18 (Photo/NWHL).

The all-star defenseman began thinking last September that she wouldn’t return to the Boston Pride of the National Women’s National Hockey League after two seasons and she started to look for a new team – and a new country – to showcase her skills.

“I was on the women’s hockey profile website that lets you know all the professional teams and where they are,” Bolden told me recently. “I see Lugano, and I Googled it, and I just told myself ‘I’m going there.'”

Bolden, 26, recently signed on to play for the HC Lugano women’s team in Switzerland. Located in southern Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Ticino region, Lugano is the country’s ninth-largest city and is about a 50-mile drive from Milan, Italy.

“I am extremely excited just for a new change, just to be in a different environment,” said Bolden, who’s already started to learn Italian. “I think it will be fun. It will be scary, it will put me out of my comfort zone. So that’s why I wanted to do it: just to get another box checked before I get too old, which isn’t coming anytime soon.”

Former Boston Pride defenseman Blake Bolden says the time is right for her to experience playing hockey overseas (Photo/Meg Linehan courtesy Blake Bolden).

Time and timing were the biggest factors in packing up and heading to Lugano. After four years as a hockey standout at Boston College , two seasons with the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League after being the first African-American selected in the first round of that league’s draft, and two season’s with the Pride, she feels it’s time to leave Boston.

She admits that the decision to go was made easier when she didn’t receive an invite from USA Hockey to try out for the women’s team that will compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“I  had been in the CWHL for two years, I’ve been in the NWHL for two years, and I’ve been in Boston for seven so I wanted to do something else and I didn’t get an invite to the Olympic tryouts, so I figured ‘Why not?'” she told me.

Bolden said she didn’t expect to get an invite because she wasn’t invited to prior pre-Olympics camps, even though “people were saying that I was getting looked at” by USA Hockey.

A Boston Globe article in April questioned why Bolden didn’t appear to be under serious Olympics consideration by USA Hockey.

A Stow, Ohio, native, Bolden tallied 2 goals and 13 assists in 35 NWHL games over two seasons. She had 8 goals and 24 assists in 45 games over her CWHL career and 26 goals and 56 assists in 139 NCAA Division I women’s hockey games.

“It’s hard to say why they haven’t given her an opportunity,” Boston College hockey  Coach Katie King Crowley told the newspaper. “Blake is awesome in every way. I would always want her on my team if I’m the coach.”

“Yeah, it is frustrating and it’s a big pill to swallow and it seems to come up in almost every conversation I that have with a reporter,” Bolden said to me about the lack of an Olympics look-see. “It’s fine. It’s just something I have to deal with. I can choose to be upset about it or I can choose to take the lemonade that I’m making from the lemons that I have right now, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m happy and I think everything happens for a reason, and I’m on a different path. I really have no regrets or wish that things turned out differently. At first, as a younger adult, it was troublesome for my family, and closest friends, and myself. But it’s okay now. It’s all good.”

 

Bolden said moving to Lugano will help fulfill her deep desire to compete internationally. She’s only done that twice, playing for the United States at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Under-18 Championships in 2008 in Canada and 2009 in Germany.

Bolden said the state of the NWHL’s finances didn’t play a factor in her decision to go overseas. The NWHL, which completed its second season, is the first North American women’s league to offer players a salary, ranging from $10,000 to $26,000.

But league officials informed players in November that their pay would be cut because of money troubles. An anticipated 50 percent pay cut was averted by a $50,000 contribution by Dunkin’ Donuts.

Bolden said she’ll receive about $3,500 a month playing for Lugano during the 2017-18 season. In addition, the team supplies lodging, health insurance, and access to a vehicle.

“It’s not like I’m making a crazy amount of money in Lugano,” she told me. “My pedigree, I have some great accomplishments as far as firsts, especially being an African–American in these leagues. I just want to keep experiencing new opportunities. So that’s another box that I’m excited to check off. Maybe I’ll go out there for one season and return to the NWHL, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m taking it one season at a time at this moment.”

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Players of color power their teams to Mastercard Memorial Cup tournament

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The 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup begins Friday and players of color are poised to play starring roles at the major junior hockey championship.

The Saint John Sea Dogs, champs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey LeagueSeattle Thunderbirds, winners of the Western Hockey League crown, Erie Otters, kings of the Ontario Hockey League, and the Windsor Spitfires, the tournament’s host, vie for the coveted Cup.

Saint John Sea Dogs forward Mathieu Joseph was second on his team in scoring in 2016-17 (Photo/David Connell/Saint John Sea Dogs).

The offensively-potent Sea Dogs are powered by right wing Mathieu Joseph and left wing Bokondji Imama.

Joseph, 20, a 2015 Tampa Bay Lightning fourth-round draft pick and a member of the Silver Medal-winning 2017 Canadian World Juniors team, was the Sea Dogs second-leading scorer in 2016-17 with 36 goals and 44 assists in 54 games.

Saint John Sea Dogs’ Bokondji Imama showed he’s more than a fighter by scoring 41 goals in 2016-17 (Photo/David Connell/Saint John Sea Dogs).

Imama, a Tampa Bay sixth-round selection in 2015, accepted the Lightning organization’s challenge to prove that he’s more than the feared fighter that he’s been throughout his QMJHL career.

The 20-year old showed that his shot is as hard as his fists by being the Sea Dogs’ fourth-leading scorer with 41 goals and 14 assists, all while accumulating 105 penalty minutes in 66 games.

Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Ethan Bear was a scoring threat from the blue line in 2016-17 (Photo/Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds).

The Thunderbirds also reached the Memorial Cup tournament because of their impressive offense – from the blue line by defenseman Ethan Bear and up front by right wing Keegan Kolesar.

This was the view a lot of Western Hockey League goaltenders got of Seattle Thunderbirds forward Keegan Kolesar during the regular season (Photo/Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds).

Bear, 19, who is Ochapowace First Nation, was the definition of an offensive defenseman. He  finished third on the Thunderbirds in scoring with 28 goals and 42 assists in 67 regular season games. The Edmonton Oilers 2015 fifth-round draft pick also tallied 6 goals and 20 assists in 17 WHL playoff games.

Kolesar, 20, a third-round draft pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015, was the Thunderbirds fourth-leading scorer in 2016-17 with 26 goals and 34 assists in 54 games. He had 12 goals and 19 assists in 19 WHL playoff contests.

Jeremiah Addison of the Windsor Spitfires. (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).

When it comes to leadership on the Windsor Spitfires, there’s “Addy” and “Chatty.” Left wing Jeremiah Addison, 20, and defenseman Jalen Chatfield are such integral parts of their team that they both were voted captain toward the end of the regular season and alternated wearing the “C’ on their jerseys every other game.

“Our players selected these guys equally. They’re two great people,” Spitfires Head Coach Rocky Thompson said in March. “They are both deserving and both represent what it takes to be a leader.”

Windsor Spitfires defenseman Jalen Chatfield provided offensive pop from the blue line (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).

Addison was the team’s third-leading scorer with 24 goals and 19 assists in 51 games. Addison, a seventh-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2015, pitched in 5 goals in five OHL playoff games.

Though not as prolific as Seattle’s Bear, defenseman Chatfield, 21, provided some offensive pop from the Windsor blue line. He had 8 goals and 20 assists in 61 regular season games and 2 assists in seven playoff games.

The Vancouver Canucks were impressed enough with Chatfield’s game to sign him to a three-year entry level contract in March.

Windsor’s Cole Purboo, left, is ranked as the 189th-best North American skater eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft (Photo/Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Windsor right wing Cole Purboo contributed 11 goals and 6 assists in 68 regular season games. The National Hockey League’s Central Scouting ranks Purboo, 17, as the 189th-best North American prospect eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft June 23-24 at Chicago’s United Center.

There are no minority players on the Erie Otters roster.

The 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup games will be televised live in Canada on Rogers Sportsnet and on tape delay on the NHL Network in the United States. However, the network will carry the championship game live on Sunday, May 28.

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‘Soul on Ice’ star Jaden Lindo seeking to rewrite script toward NHL career

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Jaden Lindo loves a happy ending to a movie as much as anyone.

Lindo thought he provided one as a leading man in filmmaker Damon Kwame Mason’s excellent black hockey history documentary “Soul on Ice, Past, Present and Future.”

Mason’s camera followed Lindo, then a forward for the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack, through the high of awaiting the 2014 National Hockey League Draft and the low of suffering a severe season-ending knee injury that jeopardized his draft prospects.

Jaden Lindo scored 21 goals for the Sarnia Sting in 2016-17 (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).

The dramatic arc in the film ends with the Pittsburgh Penguins taking the injured Lindo in the sixth round with the 173rd overall pick in the draft. Happily ever-after, right?  Well, not yet.

“It didn’t work out the way I hoped with Pittsburgh, but there are different routes to getting to there (to the NHL),” Lindo told me in a recent telephone conversation from Accra, Ghana, where he and his family were vacationing. “There’s still a lot more for me to achieve and I still have a lot of potential that I still haven’t reached.  I’m completely optimistic.”

Pittsburgh signed Lindo to an amateur tryout agreement in 2015, and he even saw some exhibition game time with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

But things didn’t work out with the Pens. Lindo returned to Owen Sound where the 6-foot-2, 214-pound right wing had 14 goals and 16 assists in the 2015-16 season.

He was traded to the Sarnia Sting for the 2016-17 season and tallied 21 goals and 14 assists in 58 games as a 21-year-old in his final year of OHL eligibility.

Lindo says his script to the NHL isn’t finished. He’s committed to play Canadian college hockey at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario this fall.  The team, which posted a 24-14-0 record last season, is stocked with former major junior players.

Other former major junior players have taken the Canadian college route and landed in the NHL, most notably San Jose Sharks right wing Joel Ward, who skated for the University of Prince Edward Island after his Owen Sound career ended.

Like Ward, Lindo is a rugged power forward. But Lindo models his game after another Owen Sound alum, Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds. Lindo even lived in the same billet residence that Simmonds did during his major junior days.

His season for Sarnia completed – he had 2 goals and 1 assist in 4 OHL playoff games for the Sting – Lindo played two exhibition games last week for the Jamaican national hockey team effort in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His family is of Jamaican descent.

His play in the exhibition games caught the eye of Bill Riley, a Nova Scotia resident who became the NHL’s third black player when he joined the Washington Capitals in 1976.

“He has all the tools,” Riley told me. “I had a real good chat with him after the game. I said to him, ‘Look, you have everything it takes to be a pro.’ I told him it’s 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical. I said ‘if you’ve got the right mindset, don’t take no for an answer.”

Lindo appreciated the advice from Riley, who served as a Junior A hockey general manager and a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League head coach.

“He’s someone to reach out to and talk about hockey,” Lindo told me. “He knows the game, he’s been a pro, he knows what it takes. If I ever need that support, I have the ability to reach out and talk to him.”

For those who haven’t seen “Soul on Ice, Past, Present and Future,” the award-winning documentary by Damon Kwame Mason, catch it via iTunes, Amazon Video,  Google Play, Vudu, Microsoft Movies & TV,  or Sony PlayStation. It’s also available on Starz in the United States.

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