Between the 2014 National Hockey League Draft and the start of the NHL’s free agent signing period, some old faces changed places and the league infused itself with new young blood via the draft.
A lot has transpired from the time NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was robustly booed when he first strode onto the stage at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on June 27 to begin the draft to the last breathless breath of NHL Network, TSN, and NBC Sports Network analysts summing up the hurly-burly of the week’s free agent signing frenzy. Let’s recap:
Hoping for a Rocky Mountain high from a Stanley Cup win, Jarome Iginla signs with Avalanche.
Perhaps the biggest free agent catch was landed by the Colorado Avalanche when it inked Jarome Iginla to a three-year, $16 million deal. The former Calgary Flames icon hopes his third NHL team in three seasons – he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012-13 and Boston Bruins last season – will be a charm and deliver the Stanley Cup championship he longs for before he takes residence among the greats in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Iginla’s relocation from Beantown to the Rockies wasn’t an issue of the Bruins not wanting to keep him or the player tiring of the team. It was a matter of dollars and cents, or the Bruins’ lack of it. Boston simply didn’t have the salary cap space to fit Iginla into its budget.
Boston’s misfortune becomes Colorado’s fortune, even though it’s costing the team one. In Iginla, the Avalanche get an aging-but-still-productive player who can provide hard-nose leadership to a rising young team that seeks to leapfrog the loaded Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference to get a shot at the Cup. Now 37, Iginla scored 30 goals and 31 assists for the Bruins in 78 games.
“In the NHL it’s hard to pick which team is going to win, but you want to be on a contender and I think at this
Manny Malhotra takes his face-off skills to Montreal.
stage of my career that is very important,” Iginla told Sportnet. “I know Boston, they have a great shot, they’re a great team and they work very hard and they’re committed. Unfortunately, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to this year in Boston, but they’ll be right back there and have a great shot again and I realize that. But it wasn’t really a full option and Colorado, to me, is a young, dynamic team and they’re just getting better.”
The Montreal Canadiens made a lesser but no less important free agent signing that the team is banking will help them get beyond the Conference Final next season. The Habs inked 34-year-old center Manny Malhotra to a one-year, $850,000 contract.
The Indo-Canadian Malhothra is a role player, but a very good one. He’s one of the NHL’s best face-off men and provides locker room leadership to a team that saw its captain, Brian Gionta, move on to the Buffalo Sabres. Malhotra is also one of the league’s best feel-good stories. He suffered a horrific left eye injury when he played for the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 that many thought would be career-ending.
With reduced vision, he made the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers on a tryout and was later promoted to the parent club, the NHL’s Carolinia Hurricanes. He had seven goals and six assists for the ‘Canes in the 2013-14 season.
Brandon Montour, left, jumped from 18th-round USHL pick to 2nd-round NHL pick (Photo/Britta Lewis)
Feel-good stories were also abundant at the draft. Brandon Montour was all smiles when the Anaheim Ducks selected the defenseman from the United States Hockey League’s Waterloo Black Hawks in the second round with the 55th overall pick.
Montour, who’s Canadian First Nation, was beaming because little more than a year ago he selected by Waterloo in the 18th round of the USHL draft, the league’s 276th overall pick. What happened between the USHL and NHL drafts? Montour was awarded both the USHL Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year in 2014.
He tallied 14 goals and 48 assists in 60 games for the Black Hawks, tops among USHL defensemen and ninth overall in the league in scoring. He was sixth among USHL players with a plus-35 rating.
Montour attended the Ducks’ prospects camp last week, but it will be a while before fans see
Mark Friedman hopes to join Montour in NHL after college (Photo/Britta Lewis)
him performing in Anaheim. He’s committed to play college hockey at the University of Massachusetts. The USHL is the nation’s top junior league and a prime hockey feeder to American colleges and universities.
“Brandon is truly a special player,” Waterloo Head Coach P.K. O’Handley said on the team’s website. “Even more than his tremendous natural abilities and instincts, our coaching staff, Brandon’s teammates, and certainly Black Hawks fans appreciate the tremendous effort that was evident anytime he was on the ice.”
Montour had company from Waterloo at the draft. Teammate Mark Friedman, a defenseman, was chosen by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 3rd round with the 86th overall pick. He scored 10 goals and 30 assists in 51 games last season for the Black Hawks. Friedman has signed a letter of intent to play hockey for Bowling Green State University, the school that produced former Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma.
Should Friedman reach the NHL after college he’ll be part of a small but growing contingent of Jewish players in the league. Calgary Flames forward Mike Cammalleri, Phoenix Coyotes forward Jeff Halpern, Nashville Predators forward Eric Nystrom, and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Trevor Smith were among the NHL’s Jewish players last season.
Armada’s Daniel Walcott hopes to make leap from college club hockey to NHL.
The New York Rangers feel they got a diamond in the rough in defenseman Daniel Walcott, a defenseman selected in the fifth round with the 140th overall pick. Like Montour, Walcott, who played last season for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, was an under-the-radar player who took an unusual route to the draft.
Prior to joining Armada, Walcott, a 19-year-old Ile Perrot, Quebec, native, was playing U.S. college hockey – but not NCAA Division I, II or III. He was playing for Lindenwood University near St. Louis, Mo., a member of the American Collegiate Hockey Association – club hockey.
Founded in 1991, the ACHA has 431 men’s and women’s teams spanning five competition divisions in 49 states. Teams like Navy, Arizona State University, New York University, Florida Gulf Coast University, and San Jose State University are ACHA members.
Walcott, played organized travel team hockey in Canada when he was younger but stopped to play football and hockey at school. When his parents divorced, Walcott moved to Chicago where he attended high school for a year before accepting a scholarship at Lindenwood.
“They offered me a spot. I decided to take it because it’s university (hockey) and I always wanted to play there. Unfortunately, it’s not high quality. It’s not NCAA hockey, it was just club hockey,” Walcott told Yahoo Sports’ “Buzzing the Net.” “My assistant coach and (Armada coaches) were in contact, and my name came up. They invited to camp. I decided to come here because I live at home, basically. It was one of the major keys to the decision. Also, I wanted to get seen by scouts and here is a much bigger opportunity for that.”
Indeed. The Rangers looked at Walcott’s single season body of work in the QMJHL and decided he was worth drafting. In 67 games, Walcott scored 10 goals and 29 assists.
“I’m a two-way defenseman,” Walcott told “Buzzing the Net.” “I bring a lot of offense and I can play defense, too, and shutdown top lines. I can be in-your-face and physical. I give my heart out every game – a lot of character.”
Rick Zombo, Lindenwood’s hockey head coach and a former St. Louis Blues defenseman, said all Walcott needed was an opportunity to showcase his ability.
“He put all the work in and he got his opportunity, he was prepared and made the most of it,” Zombo said on the university’s website. “I’m very proud of Daniel and I fully expect him to make the most of his new opportunities.”
Walcott attended the Rangers prospects camp this week with fellow 2014 draftee Keegan Iverson, a forward for the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks who was chosen in the 3rd round with the 85th pick by the Blueshirts. Also at camp was Anthony Duclair, a high-scoring forward with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts. The Rangers chose Duclair in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft with the overall 80th pick. The speedy forward registered 50 goals and 49 assists in 59 games for Quebec in 2013-14.
Rounding out the 2014 draftees are Joshua Ho-Sang, a forward for the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires, who was taken in the first round with the 28th pick by the New York Islanders, and Jaden Lindo, forward for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack who was taken in the fourth round with the 173rd overall pick by the Penguins.