Jun 292013

By Chris Block

Some news and notes to kick off what appears will be a very eventful weekend.

–We’ll have full, pick-by-pick coverage on this site of the Blackhawks’ draft selections this Sunday from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Chicago currently owns picks in the last pick in the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th rounds.

Their 2nd and 3rd round selections were dealt to Winnipeg at the trade deadline in 2012 in exchange for Johnny Oduya.  The Blackhawks also owned extra picks before dealing them for Michal Handzus (San Jose’s original pick in the 4th round reacquired from CHI) and Henrik Karlsson (originally Ottawa’s 7th round pick).

–If you missed the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup parade and rally on Friday , it will be rebroadcasted tonight (Saturday) on Comcast SportsNet in Chicago at 7pm.

Brandon Saad was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team on Saturday.

Saad joins Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau (Calder Trophy winner for best rookie), Montreal winger Brendan Gallagher (a Calder Trophy finalist as well as Saad), goalie Jake Allen of St. Louis and defenseman Jonas Brodin of Minnesota and Justin Schultz of Edmonton.

Interesting to note, yet not surprising considering he wasn’t a Calder finalist, that Nail Yakupov, who led all NHL rookies in scoring this season with 17 goals and 14 assists was left off the All-Rookie team.  That doesn’t happen often.  Huberdeau had the same number of points (14 goals, 17 assists) but his plus/minus (minus-15) was also 11 points worse than Yakupov’s.  Not to say that plus/minus is completely indicative of a player’s individual performance as compared to another’s, but that is traditionally something the voters take into account.

Saad’s 10 goals and 27 total points ranked him 5th in rookie scoring behind Yakupov, Huberdeau, Cory Conacher (Tampa Bay, then Ottawa) and Gallagher.  Saad amassed those points playing a lot of his average 16:27 of regular season ice time with the Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.  In the playoffs, Saad averaged a nearly identical 16:23 of ice time in 23 games (though that latter average was aided by a lot of overtime hockey), but managed just 1 goal and 5 assists and lost his spot on the Toews line midway through the Detroit series to Bryan Bickell.

–Goaltender Henrik Karlsson appears ready to leave North America and sign a contract to play for Skelleftea in the Swedish Hockey League (new name, formerly the Elitserien, or Swedish Elite League).  Karlsson, acquired from the Calgary Flames back on January 21st in exchange for a 7th round pick in tomorrow’s draft (originally Ottawa’s, picked up in the Rob Klinkhammer deal).

SVT Sport reported that Karlsson, 29, agreed to a one-year deal with Skelleftea on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the Karlsson was on the ice in Boston taking part in the Blackhawks Stanley Cup celebration.

Karlsson’s contract with the Blackhawks expires on Sunday, June 30th.  He’ll be an unrestricted free agent at that time.

With the Blackhawks signing Finnish goalie Antti Raanta, 24, and the arrival of 2010 seventh-round pick Mac Carruth of the Portland Winterhawks, the goaltending depth chart has become quite crowded in Rockford.  Throw Kent Simpson (2010 second round pick) in that mix as well.  Simpson spent nearly all of the 2012-13 season in the ECHL with the Toledo Walleye.  Carter Hutton, 27, is also an unrestricted free agent.

When asked this week, Stan Bowman downplayed the notion that Raanta might be expected to jump right into the NHL in the fall, so he may be looking at Rannta spending a season in Rockford adjusting the North American style of play.  According to figures listed at CapGeek.com, Rannta got a $92,500 signing bonus from the Blackhawks.  So that means at the very least, if he spent all of 2013-14 with the IceHogs, Rannta would make $162,500 in his debut season in North America.  I guess we’ll know soon enough what the plans for the net in Rockford are if Bowman inks or deals for a veteran backup to sit behind Corey Crawford.

–Former Blackhawk and Rockford IceHogs forward Jeff Taffe is staying with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League.  In May, it was reported that Taffe had signed a deal to play for Linkoping of the Swedish Hockey League.  Linkoping floated the signing themselves, even though Taffe had yet to fully commit to the organization.

In the end, Taffe, whose wife and he have 8 month old twins, decided against uprooting their family and re-signed with Hershey.

–The contract of Blackhawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite expires this weekend.  Waite recently told Quebec’s La Presse that he has different options.  However, Stan Bowman told LaPresse reporter Marc Antoine Godin today that he expects Stephane Waite to stay with the Blackhawks.

–All indications now are Stephen Johns is forgoing his senior season at Notre Dame and making the jump to pro hockey.

As we’ve covered here on TTMI back in April, Johns had been non-committal when discussing his intentions for the 2013-14 season.

The Blackhawks did encourage Johns to leave school after his sophomore season as well, but he and his family felt school was more important.  Johns then missed the 2012 summer prospect camp in Chicago as well.  Then, this past spring, there was a belief that Johns would report to Rockford once the Notre Dame season ended to get some professional seasoning, but that didn’t wind up happening either.  Johns would have first signed an amateur tryout contract with Rockford for the remainder of the recently concluded season, followed by an NHL contract with the Blackhawks but evidently had yet to make up his mind about his future at that time and wasn’t ready to finalize it by playing a game in the American League, which would have ended his collegiate career.

Then, in mid-April, Johns sent mixed signals in an interview with his hometown paper right after Notre Dame got bounced from the NCAA tournament by St. Cloud State.   But now it appears will declare his intentions to turn pro.

Johns also hinted this on his Twitter account, saying on June 15th, “Back to ND for one last time. Crazy.”

When speaking to the Ellwood City Ledger in April, the 6-foot 4-inch, 230 pound blue line prospect spoke of working out this off season with taking another shot at the NCAA Frozen Four as his focus.

“It’s the dream of anyone playing college hockey,” Johns told the Ellwood City Ledger. “I plan on going back there next year. That’s my motivation.”

If and when Johns does declare his intentions to forgo his senior season at Notre Dame, the Blackhawks will then need to sign him.

Phillip Danault is training hard this summer, preparing for his full-time turn to pro hockey in the fall.

The 20-year old is working out with trainer Marco Picotte in Victoriaville this summer in preparation for the jump to the AHL.

Danault recently told the La Nouvelle Union about his expectations for the upcoming season.

“I will try everything to make the leap (to the NHL),” Danault said. “However, I do not want to skip steps. It was one of my mistakes in my career. I’m going to go one step at a time.”

–Visitors to the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford will be treated to a bit more comfort starting this fall.

Gordon Kaye, the Executive Director and General Manager of RAVE, the organization that runs the BMO Harris Bank Center and Rockford IceHogs, announced this week plans to upgrade the facility’s 30-year old seating.

Beginning in August, seats in the arena bowl will be replaced and upgraded to feature more comfortable seating and retractable arm rests/cup holders.  Sections of the lower bowl will also now be mechanically retractable and the lower bowl seating will increase 300 seats.

The BMO seating upgrades are being funded by a $1.5 million state grant RAVE received for the facility earlier this year.  The upgrades are expected to run right at, or slightly under that $1.5M.

RAVE says they expect the project to be completed “by the fall.”  No word on whether or not these upgrades will push the IceHogs on a prolonged road trip to begin their 2013-14 season.

Viktor Stalberg thinks he’s a top six forward who didn’t get enough of a chance in Chicago and says it could be time for a change in an article at ESPN Chicago.

“I think over the last three years I’ve showed I deserve to play maybe more times than I got an opportunity to do here,” Stalberg told reporter Scott Powers.

Stalberg continued to say that he had some of the best players in the world in front of him (on the top two lines) and “That’s great, but maybe at some point in your career you want to see what else is out there.”

Stan Bowman was present in New York City this morning for a press conference to announce Pittsburg Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma in the same role for the U.S. Olympic team at the Sochi Olympic Games this coming February.

Stan will serve as part of a five person advisory committee to the U.S. Olympic team.  Stan Bowman joins Don Waddell (GM of the 2006 Olympic team), Dean Lombardi (LA Kings GM), Paul Holmgren (Flyers GM) and Dale Tallon (Florida Panthers GM).

Nashville Predators general manager David Poile will serve as the GM for the United States team.  Pittsburg’s Ray Shero will be the Associate GM.  Former Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke will be the Olympic team’s Director of Player Personnel.

In past Olympic years, the U.S. program has held its Orientation camp in suburban Chicago.  However, this time it will be held just outside Washington, D.C. at Kettler IcePlex in Arlington, Virginia from August 25th through 29th.  The on-ice workouts for prospective members of the team are expected to begin on August 26th.


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