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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Asia rising in hockey ahead of Winter Olympics in South Korea and China

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Asia rising?

In ice hockey, it sure seems like it.

South Korea Assistant Hockey Coach Richard Park (Photo/Minnesota Wild/Bruce Kluckhohn).

From the winning exploits of  teams from the continent in recent international tournaments to players of Asian heritage poised to be picked in the 2017 National Hockey League Draft, to skaters of Chinese and Malaysian descent who were selected in previous drafts, hockey appears to be gaining ground in Asian nations and Asian communities in North America.

The interest could grow even more once pucks are dropped at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, and  the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China.

“I think it’s a testament to the growth of the game,” Richard Park, a retired NHL forward and an assistant coach for the South Korean national team that will compete in the 2018 Winter Games, told me recently. “I think it’s very welcoming,  I think it’s very refreshing. I think it’s a testament again to all these cultures that the game is reaching.”

Park, who’s also a development coach for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, and retired NHL defenseman Jim Paek, the South Korean men’s national team’s head coach, are helping guide the country of their ancestry up the world hockey ladder.

They coached South Korea to a dramatic 2-1 shootout win against Ukraine in April, earning a second-place finish at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship Division I Group A tournament in Kiev.

The victory bumped South Korea up to the IIHF’s top division next year, joining the United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and other hockey powers.

“Korea has never ever been close, let alone in the top division in the world of hockey,” said Park, who played 738 NHL games for the Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders. “It’s huge. It’s big, it’s never been done before. But in saying that, what it leads to in the future is kind of up to not only the media, but the young kids, and the really young next generation in Korea.”

In North America, a next generation of players of Asian descent is already making its presence known. Just take a glimpse at NHL Central Scouting’s player rankings for the June 23-24 draft at Chicago’s United Center.

Owen Sound Attack center Nick Suzuki is ranked as the 10th-best North American skater. The 5-foot-10 native of London, Ontario, was Owen Sound’s second-leading scorer last season with 45 goals and 51 assists in 65 games.

Owen Sound Attack forward Nick Suzuki hopes he’ll be chosen in the 2017 NHL Draft in June (Photo/Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

His younger brother, forward Ryan Suzuki, was the first player chosen in the 2017 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection Draft in April, plucked by the Barrie Colts.

Kailer Yamamoto is hoping to hear his named called at next month’s NHL draft.  The 5-foot-8 right wing for the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs is ranked as the 17th-best North American skater by Central Scouting.

Spokane Chiefs’ Kailer Yamamoto is the 17th-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting (Photo/Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs).

A Spokane native of Japanese and Hawaiian heritage, Yamamoto led the Chiefs in scoring in 2016-17 with 42 goals and 47 assists in 65 games. His older brother, Keanu, was Spokane’s fourth-leading scorer last season with 26 goals and 43 assists in 72 games.

USA hockey National Team Development Program defenseman Tyler Inamoto (Photo/Rena Laverty/USA Hockey).

Whether he’s drafted or not, defenseman Tyler Inamoto knows where he’s headed this fall. The 6-foot-2 blue-liner for the USA Hockey National Development Team, ranked the 68th-best North American skater, will be skating for the University of Wisconsin Badgers in 2017-18.

“He’s big, strong and has a mean streak,” said Badgers Head Coach Tony Granato, who enjoyed a long and prolific NHL career, “He’ll be a physical impact player right away next year.”

If drafted, Inamoto, Yamamoto and Suzuki, hope to join a small but growing list of players of Asian heritage who are on NHL career paths.

Center Cliff Pu, Buffalo Sabres’ third-round draft pick in 2016.

Last year, the Buffalo Sabres took London Knights forward Cliff Pu in the third round with the 69th overall pick in the NHL Draft. Pu led the Knights in scoring in 2016-17 with 35 goals and 51 assists in 63 regular season games.

The Florida Panthers chose Peterborough Petes forward Jonathan Ang in the fourth round with the 94th overall pick of the 2016 draft.

Ang, the first player of Malaysian heritage to be drafted by an NHL team, was the Petes’ third-leading scorer in 2016-17 with 27 goals and 32 assists in 69 games.

Andong Song also made history when the New York Islanders selected the Beijing-born defenseman in the sixth round with the 172nd pick of the 2015 draft.

Song, who has committed to play hockey for Cornell University in 2018-19, will likely be a key member of China’s hockey team for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing.

George Chiang’s voice fills with pride and hope when he talks about players like Pu and

Forward Jonathan Ang, the Florida Panthers’ 4th-round pick in, 2016.

Ang.

“Cliff Pu has good size and plays for the London Knights, which is great,” Chiang told me recently. “Jonathan Ang just seems to become a better player every year in the Ontario Hockey League. It’s kind of cool seeing those guys.

Chiang is a Canadian hockey dad. His 14-year-old son, Lee Chiang,  played for Lac St. Louis Lions Nord bantam AAA team in Quebec last season and will likely be selected by an OHL team in the league’s priority draft next year.

The elder Chiang dreamed of pursuing a pro career when he was younger. But that dream was stymied by his parents, immigrants to Canada from Taiwan, who initially forbade him from playing hockey.

Lee Chiang playing for the North York Rangers in 2015.

” I came from immigrant parents and they didn’t understand hockey. I begged every year since I was five,” Chiang, 47, told me recently.  “They put me in baseball because they understood baseball. It’s the national sport of Taiwan. Finally, when I was 12 they let me play on a (hockey) team.”

Unlike his folks, Chiang didn’t hesitate in allowing his son to lace up the skates and grab a stick.

“My plan was to also put him in baseball, but he ended up hating baseball and he loved hockey,” George Chiang told me. “He’s a hockey player.”

 

 

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Flyers’ Pierre Edouard Bellemare scores by passing on award at IIHF tournament

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The phrase “consummate team player” is an often over-used piece of sports-writing jargon, but every now and then you see the meaning behind the words.

Philadelphia Flyers LW Pierre Edouard Bellemare

Case in point: Philadelphia Flyers left wing  Pierre Edouard Bellemare. A native of France, Bellemare is basking in Paris co-hosting the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship with Cologne, Germany.

Bellemare is a fourth-line player in the National Hockey League but he a top line forward for France.

After France upset Finland 5-1 in Paris Sunday, officials decided to name Bellemare the best player of the game for the French team.

Bellemare, who had a goal in the game, disagreed.

He passed on the honor and persuaded officials to give it French goaltender Florian Hardy, to the delight of the 11,433 spectators inside Paris’ AccorHotels Arena. Hardy had 42 saves in the game.

France, ranked 14th in the world, had previously lost eight straight to the 3rd-ranked Finns, dating back to 1993.

Sunday’s win was the latest in what’s been an excellent 2016-17 hockey season for Bellemare that began with his standout play as the only French skater on Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey.

The Flyers failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the team rewarded the 32-year-old Bellemare for his play during the National Hockey League season by re-signing him to a two-year deal at $1.45 million per year.

The team also made him an assistant captain, an honor he shares with high-scoring right wing Wayne Simmonds.

And Sunday’s gesture in Paris shows why.

NBC’s Mike Milbury calls Predators’ P.K. Subban a ‘clown’ for warm-up dance

New hockey rule: If you want to get into the groove before a serious game, don’t dance.

Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban.

That, apparently, is the hockey gospel according to NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury.

Milbury took umbrage Friday night to Nashville Predators D-man P.K. Subban dancing during warm-ups before the Preds’ Stanley Cup Playoffs game against the St. Louis Blues.

He called Subban a clown.

“I know it’s a new day and age and everybody wants to be on Instagram or Twitter,” Milbury said on a pre-game show before the Predators-Blues tilt. “But you’ve got to keep focus. This is a tough game. When I see this I start to think maybe (Predators Head Coach) Peter Laviolette ought to give him a rap on the head and say, ‘Hey, P.K., focus in, we’ve got a game tonight and you don’t have to be a clown out there.'”

Milbury,  the astute hockey mind who, as general manager of the New York Islanders, traded away goalie Roberto Loungo,  defenseman Zdeno Chara, signed All-World bust Alexei Yashin to a $90 million contract and took goalie Rick DiPietro with the first overall pick in the 2000 NHL Draft, added that Subban has “been a clown in the past and we’ve seen him act like a clown but when he’s serious and focused he’s one hell of a player.”

So, Mike, a brother can’t do a little dance in warm-up? I wonder what Jeremy Roenick, your fellow NBC hockey analyst might have said if he was sitting next to you Friday night instead of Keith Jones?

And it’s not like Subban was dancing  during a game, like former Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andre Dupont did in the game that clinched the Stanley Cup for the orange and black against the Boston Bruins in 1974. Few people complained about “The Dupont Shuffle.”

Former NHL forward Alex Kovalev was known to break out into a moonwalk before, during, and after games.

Needless to say, Milbury’s rant didn’t go down too well on social media.

Yo, Mike, how’s this for busting a move on ice?

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