Thursday, May 26, 2011

Finally A Blog Update!

Yes the blog has been gathering dust lately....but here's an update with the latest info. I just find twitter to be easier to get the word out. A lot of the blog topics today may have already been covered by my twitter feed. If you're not following me yet, go ahead @JonKeenNLSports.

Winnipeg native Jordan DePape is fresh off a tour alongside country music star George Canyon.

The sponsored tour two hit up Halifax, Toronto and Calgary raising awareness of an insulin pump both have to help regulate their blood sugar.

"It was like a talk show... I would have been the guest sitting on the couch and George had a cordless mic and was in the crowd helping to get questions...and throwing the odd chirp my way."

He admits he was a George Canyon country music fan going into the tour.

"Yeah I have lots of his music on my ipod. It was weird meeting him for the first time. I was really nervous. He was really cool and made me feel comfortable. He gave it to me pretty good about missing the playoffs...(laughs)."

DePape plans to do more work with the insulin pump company in the future.


Blazer minority owner Mark Recchi says he will retire if his Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup. While I would like to see him win another cup (he's won two already) I'd like to see him chase down the all-time record for NHL games played as well.

His 22 seasons in the NHL has him currently at 1652 games played - 4th on the all time list behind. Ron Francis (1731), Mark Messier (1756), and Gordie Howe (1767).

Remarkably, Recchi played in 81 of 82 regular season games this past season.


The Blazers are narrowing down their search for an assistant coach with some interviews beginning this week. Blazer Head Coach Guy Charron says he's down to about five guys he wants to talk to.

The three names I know all have WHL coaching experience either as a head or assistant. I can't get into the specifics but I've worked with two of the candidates in the past so I have a pretty good feel for the quality of assistant they will be getting.

Once the interviews are done, the Blazer hockey staff will get together and come up with a candidate.


I had a chance to spend some time with Blazer captain Chase Schaber this past weekend. It's safe to say he's very motivated and chomping at the bit to get it right this season ahead. He twittered earlier today "can't wait to get back into the routine, just craving for the season to start. #goodthingscoming."

Chase, along with coach Guy Charron, media relations Tim O'Donovan and myself played a round at Rivershore on Sunday. Thanks to the Rivershore staff for the hospitality. You can check their link over to the right side of the page.

As for Schaber's injury late last season. He says his leg is back to feeling 100 percent. He's will be training in Edmonton for the next month.


Blazer training camp is still shy of three months away. The thing I'm most looking forward to is the battle at the forward position. While losing F Thomas Frazee to graduation and both imports Dalibor Bortnak and Bernhard Keil, the Blazers are set to have a big competition for spots at camp.

Four rookies may crack the forward line-up. Matt Needham, Aspen Sterzer, Cole Ully and newly signed Dallas Calvin. Three of those four played games last season with Calvin joining the Blazers for practice late in the season.

There's always a surprise or two at camp...we will if one of those is at the forward spot.


I spoke with WHL Director of Officiating Kevin Muench this week regarding Hockey Canada's new regulations on blows to the head.

He reminded me the new regulations aren't for major junior hockey though, only junior A,B,C and D. The WHL and the CHL are not under the jurisdiction of Hockey Canada.

With that said, Muench says it will be a big topic at the upcoming summer WHL Annual General Meeting. He says they will be taking a look at a number of things from equipment, glass, arenas and rule changes in the past that have sped up the game which may be leading to more concussions.

It will be interesting to see what changes or regulations the league will make moving forward into next season.


As the summer hits I'd expect the blog to remain idle for the most part with the odd update. Again, twitter is the way to go for the months ahead leading into the season.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Madaisky Back Skating

Blazer D Austin Madaisky is back skating for the first time since fracturing his C7 vertebrae in his neck in a game vs the Chilliwack Bruins February 4th at ISC.

"It feels great...but I was a little rusty out there today," said Madaisky from his home between the Vancouver suburbs of Surrey and Langley.

The hit from Bruins captain Brandon Manning drew a major and game misconduct. Initially it looked like Madaisky was going to be ok until the next morning when he figured it was more serious than first thought. An x-ray showed a break in his neck and that his season was over. Up until three weeks ago, he had to wear a neck brace 24 hours a day.

"It was a long three months. The worst part was just getting the stares from everyone (laughing)."

Doctors say Madaisky's fracture healed better than expected according to the Blazer d-man.

"They said it healed great, they couldn't have asked for anything better. I saw the x-ray after and the way everything lined up.

Madaisky went through a rigorous power skating session and says he's working out four days a week right now as he prepares for next season.

He admits the injury and the way the Blazers season ended has provided motivation for his return.

"It's time for a winning season. I'm going to put a lot of pressure on myself. I know we are all working hard so things will change for next season."

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Gaglardi Talks WHL Draft...NHL Stars

Blazer majority owner Tom Gaglardi took in the WHL's bantam draft in the heart of the action Thursday morning.

He was sitting with the Blazer scouting staff at their table taking things in on a personal level as the 2011 bantam draft got underway.

"I'm here today just supporting our guys. They have a real thankless job most days."

He admitted they weren't exactly polling him for his bantam draft knowledge.

"Nah, they don't listen to me," said Gaglardi with a chuckle.

"It's exciting to hear the players get drafted and the work that goes into it. It's exciting to see us get the players our staff wanted."

Gaglardi admits the draft is a great opportunity to treat the scouts well and reward them.

"We did our big scouts dinner last night. It's a chance to say thank-you for all the hard work. These are dedicated guys that watch hockey all year long and do reports for the love of the game and organization."

There's been ongoing speculation he's close in the purchase of the NHL's Dallas Stars. Questions from media outlets the last month have simply been greeted by a "no comment, thank-you" but Gaglardi did say his interest remains high.

"I'm not at liberty to talk about it but it's been well documented of my interest in the Stars in the past and I continue to have interest. It's always been an intriguing market given some of my family is from there. It's a team I remain interested in."


Draft Wrap


Blazers News Release:

With the highest draft pick in franchise history, the hockey club chose defenseman Jordan Thomson 4th overall. Thomson, who stands at 6’0” and 167lbs, is from Wawanesa, Manitoba and played Midget AAA hockey as an underage player. He had 2 goals, 14 assists for 16 points and 42 penalty minutes in 40 games with the Southwest Cougars of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League.

Without a second round pick, the Blazers next choice was in the third round, 50th overall when they took 6’1” defenseman Conner Clouston from Medicine Hat, Alberta. In the fourth round, the hockey club selected Mitch Friesen from Surrey with the 72nd overall draft pick. Forwards Rylan Freed from Melfort, Saskatchewan and Evan Tordiff from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta were selected in the fifth and sixth rounds respectively.

The Blazers chose six players in rounds seven through nine which included local product Liam McLeod, a goaltender with the Kamloops Bantam AAA team. In the seventh round, defensemen Connor Hamonic and Jesse Shynkaruk were selected. The team’s lone eighth round selection was forward Kyle Nachtigall, while McLeod, forward Eric Krienke, and defenseman Riley Hummitsch, from California, were all selected in the ninth round by the Blazers.

In total, the Blazers drafted 5 forwards, 5 defensemen and 1 goaltender. The last time the hockey club selected 11 players was in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft.

A brief synopsis on each player chosen:

1st Round - 4th Overall

D – Jordan Thomson
6’0” 167lbs
Born – April 28/96
Hometown – Wawanesa, Manitoba
Team: Southwest Cougars (Manitoba AAA Midget) 40 2 14 16 42
*Only 1996-born player in Manitoba AAA Midget League*

3rd Round - 50th Overall

D - Connor Clousten
6'1" 178lbs
Born - June 12/96
Hometown - Medicine Hat, Alberta
Team: Medicine Hat Bantam AAA 29 2 10 12 115
*Son of Medicine Hat Tigers Head Coach Shaun Clouston*

4th Round - 72nd Overall

LW - Mitch Friesen
6'1" 145lbs
Born - May 16/96
Hometown - Surrey, BC
Team: Surrey Thunder Bantam AAA 17 10 7 17 4

5th Round - 95th Overall

LW - Rylan Freed
5'9" 145lbs
Born - May 30/96
Hometown - Melfort, SK
Team: Melfort Bantam AA 23 42 26 68 24

6th Round - 120th Overall

RW - Evan Tordiff
6'1" 185lbs
Born - August 27/96
Hometown - Fort Saskatchewan, AB
Team: Fort Saskatchewan Bantam AAA 33 13 15 28 30
*Played for North West Territories in 2011 Canada Winter Games as an underage player*

7th Round - 138th Overall

D - Connor Hamonic
5'11" 150lbs
Born - June 16/96
Hometown - Winnipeg, MB
Team: Winnipeg Monarchs Bantam AAA 30 6 8 14 46
*Younger brother of Tri-City Americans prospect Justin Hamonic*

7th Round - 145th Overall

D - Jesse Shynkaruk
5'7" 155lbs
Born - May 7/96
Hometown - Saskatoon, SK
Team: Saskatoon Frostbrite Bantam AA 42 45 28 73 46

8th Round - 160th Overall

LW - Kyler Nachtigall
6'0" 139lbs
Born - December 11/96
Hometown - Calgary, AB
Team: Calgary Northstars Bantam AAA 35 18 17 35 18

9th Round - 182nd Overall

G - Liam McLeod
5'8" 187lbs
Born - April 24/96
Hometown - Kamloops, BC
Team: Kamloops Jardine Blazers Bantam AAA 31 27-3-0 2.49 .902

9th Round - 189th Overall

LW - Eric Krienke
6'4" 173lbs
Born - March 5/96
Hometown - Calgary, AB
Team: Calgary Northstars Bantam AAA 33 16 14 30 71

9th Round - 195th Overall

D - Riley Hummitsch
5'11" 185lbs
Born - October 17/96
Hometown - Chino Hills, CA
Team: Orange County Hockey Club U16AAA N/A

9th round 195th - D Riley Hummitsch from California

The Blazers used their final pick of the day to select D Riley Hummitsch from Chino Hills, California. After 10 picks, they announce that's all they will be drafting today.

9th round 189th overall - F Erik Kreinke of Calgary

The Blazers used their 2nd pick in the 9th round to select F Erik Kreinke of Calgary. He's listed at 6'2, 154 lbs

16-14-30 in 33 games this season.

Blazers Use 9th Rd pick to take Kamloops goalie

With their 9th round pick, 182nd overall, the Blazers drafted G Liam Mcleod. He's one of two goaltenders from the Jardine Blazers.

8th round - 160th overall F Kyler Nachtigall

The Blazers select F Kyler Nachticall out of Calgary 6'1, 139 lbs

Blazers 7th round (via Van) 145th - F Jesse Shynkaruk

The Blazers select F Jesse Shynkaruk out of Saskatoon, in the 7th round 145th.

Blazers Select D Connor Hamonic - 7th round 138th

The Blazers picked up another defenseman in the 7th round taking D Connor Hamonic out of Winnipeg. I'm checking to see the relation of Connor to New York Islanders D Travis Hamonic. I believe they are cousins.

Blazers 6th Round - 120th

The Blazers select F Evan Tordiff out of Fort Saskatchewan, AB.

6'1 - 196lbs 13-15-28 in 33 games played this season.

Blazer 5th Round Pick 95th overall F Freed

The Blazers select F Ryland Freed out of Melfort, SK in the 5th round, 95th overall.

5-8 - 145 pounds

42-26-68 points with Melfort team this year

Blazers Take forward in the 4th

The Blazers selected F Mitch Friesen out of Surrey BC with their 4th round selection 72nd overall. Listed at 6'1 - 145lbs. No numbers available.

Blazers Take Tigers Coach Clouston's son in 3rd RD

The Blazers have used their 50th overall pick in the third round to select D Connor Clouston. He's the son of Tigers Head Coach Shaun Clouston.

He's said to be a big-bodied defenseman. Shaun Clouston is at the draft...I'll get his thoughts before the day is through.


No 2nd Round Pick

The Blazers say talk of acquiring a 2nd round selection is now dead... prices just too high. They are prepared to "bite the bullett and make their 3rd round pick count"


More on Blazers 1st rounder Thomson

The Kamloops Blazers are pleased to announce that they have selected defenseman Jordan Thomson from Wawanesa, Manitoba with the 4th overall pick in the 2011 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft.

Thomson, who stands at 6’0” and 167lbs, was one of only two 1996-born players to play Midget AAA as an underage player in Western Canada this past season. He had 2 goals, 14 assists for 16 points and 42 penalty minutes in 40 games with the Southwest Cougars of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League.

“Jordan is a dynamic and high-end defenseman that we are pleased to select,” said Director of Player Personnel, Matt Recchi. “He is an exceptional skater and displays a ton of character, competiveness and leadership in his game. Jordan was the youngest player in the Manitoba Midget AAA league and had an excellent season with the Southwest Cougars.”

Thomson is the highest selection in Kamloops Blazers franchise history at 4th overall. He is the first Manitoba-born player selected in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft.

Two Kamloops Kids Go in 1st round

As expected, Jardine Blazers F Ryan Gropp 6th overall to Seattle. D Joe Hicketts goes 12th overall to Victoria.

More on twitter...

D Jordan Thomson

Blazers 4th overall pick D Jordan Thomson out of Manitoba...

More coming...

Live from the Draft....

The twitter feed on the right side of the blog will be the best way to keep track of things from my end....


Blazer Staff Ready

30 minutes until the first name is called at the WHL Bantam Draft in Calgary.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Smith Wins WHL Scholastic Award

The Kamloops Blazers are pleased to announce that 17-year-old forward Colin Smith has won the Doc Seaman Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the Western Hockey League’s Scholastic Player of the Year.

Smith is due to graduate with honours in June of 2011 from Vimy Ridge Academy in Edmonton after attending Valleyview Secondary School in Kamloops. His improvement on the ice was also evident this year as he played in all 72 regular-season games for Kamloops, finishing with 21 goals and 50 points. Smith also played for Team Canada at the Under-18 World Championship, which was held in Germany last month.

“The entire Kamloops Blazers organization is very proud of Colin Smith for earning this award,” said Craig Bonner, the Blazers’ Vice President and General Manager. “Colin is a studious individual who is a terrific example of a good student athlete. Our Education Consultant, Vic Bifano, has done a tremendous job working with Colin and all of our players. Achieving and exceeding in school is an important standard within our organization.”

Smith is the third Blazer to win this award – Scott Niedermayer (1990-91) and Devan Dubnyk (2003-04) were both the WHL and Canadian Hockey League Scholastic Players of the Year.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Blazer Scouts Converge in Calgary

The Kamloops Blazers scouting staff led by Director of Player Personnel Matt Recchi are making their way to Calgary for Thursday's WHL Bantam Draft.

The Blazers will pick 4th overall - their highest pick in franchise history and Recchi says they're very happy to be in that spot.

"We've identified four elite players in this draft. Of those four, whoever is left...that's who we'll take. We think he'll be a tremendous player in the Western Hockey League moving forward."

Recchi says it doesn't matter much as to if the player is a forward or defenseman. They'll have to make the pick count considering they don't have a 2nd round pick. That may change before the draft though.

"We're kicking some tires (looking for a 2nd round pick)," stated Recchi.

"There's teams with multiple 2nd round picks we are trying to talk with. They're open to that. I won't say something will happen, I won't say something won't."

As for the group they hope to draft, Recchi says they have the ideal make-up in mind.

"Something we've keyed on the last couple of drafts has been character. When we look at (previous picks) Needham, Ully, Gaudet, Souto, and McVeigh we think character is a major factor in our decision making. They also have to be able to skate."

Radio NL will bring you the latest info from Calgary Thursday morning. You can also follow along on twitter @JonKeenNLSports.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Ice Comes Out at ISC

(photo courtesy Blazerhockey twitterfeed)

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Top Pick a Three Player Race

With a majority of WHL General Managers, all 22 teams and 150 some scouts in attendance, Kamloops was the center of the bantam draft scouting universe this past weekend with the BC Cup in town.

Hanging around ISC you can't help but get caught up in all the talk leading up to Thursday's draft in Calgary.

It isn't breaking news by any means but it appears the top pick in the draft will be one of three players: Saskatchewan D Ryan Pilon, Calgary D Brycen Martin (left) and Abbotsford F Jake Virtanen (below).

Narrowing it down even further, I think the Calgary Hitmen will take either Martin or Virtanen with the top pick. If I was betting on who that player would be I'd wager to say it'll be Virtanen. He put on a pretty good show at times and showed flashes of some skill and speed that had ISC buzzing Saturday.

Virtanen scored three pretty goals and played with a visible edge. A lot of scouts and General Managers were likely imagining the type of impact he could have their club down the road.

Calgary has dibs if they want him. GM Kelly Kisio wasn't about to spill the beans to me as I interviewed him for our local coverage.

"(Virtanen) is a high-end player, he has all the tools, we will see which way we go" commented Kisio.

"We are pretty close on who we want to pick. As far as announcing anything (before Thursday's draft) I highly doubt it."

The Swift Current Broncos will have the 2nd pick overall and my belief is they will take Virtanen if he's passed over by Calgary.

If the Hitmen do scoop up Virtanen I get the feeling their scouting staff is thinking long and hard about a choice between the two defensemen Martin out of Calgary and Ryan Pilon (Warman Wildcats). It seems Martin may win out however.

Swift Current has a really busy draft day with the 2nd, 13th, 24th. 39th and 46th selections in the first three rounds.

Broncos GM Mark Lamb says they will take the best player available at #2.

"When you had the year we had, we need help everywhere. It doesn't matter if it's a forward or defenseman."

He was also impressed with Virtanen on Saturday.

"I just saw him score three or four goals that were all world. He's got the talent, he's got the size, he has some bite to him. He's going to be a great player in this league."

Lamb fully intends to use the picks in the Cody Eakin deal to stock the shelves with talent.

"That's why we got all these picks because he's a good player. We wish the best to Kootenay and the best to Cody and we hope with all these picks we can but Swift Current back on the map. We just want to do a good job with it and set us up."

Lethbridge will pick at #3. There was some talk they approached Calgary for the #1 pick overall via trade but nothing came out of it, or has come out of it so far. They must have their guy but aren't confident he'll be around come the third overall pick.

Lethbridge is set to get a couple of real good players for their future.

Kamloops is picking at number four and the belief is they will have the pick of the litter once Virtanen, Martin and Pilon (not necessarily that order) are chosen.

It'll be a big day for Kamloops players as well. D Joe Hicketts is revered as one of the top defenseman in the draft while F Ryan Gropp shows high-end skill that teams will have a tough time passing on. I think they both could potentially be top 10 picks at best. Both will go in the opening round though.

I spoke with both Hicketts and Gropp this weekend and came away impressed. Gropp shows me maturity beyond his age. He has size and skill. He doesn't have a lot of edge to his game but he will be a very good player down the road.

Hicketts is another good kid who has future captain written all over him. He's a leader and looks likes he loves to play the game. Whoever grabs Hicketts will have a steady defenseman who will play big minutes in all situations in a couple years.

Other local players like Chad Butcher and Carson Bolduc could be chosen anywhere in rounds two or three. There's a handful of others that will be drafted before the day is through.

Again if you want to keep tabs on the WHL bantam draft, I'll be on twitter doing pick-by-pick updates. I'm @JonKeenNLSports.