Okay, normally at this point in the off-season there isn’t much to talk about. Especially for a weekend FTB. And then yesterday, everything happened. Let’s go in order of when each bit of news broke, also because it was the bigger and more important story.
So... Hockey Canada.
HOCKEY CANADA KEEPS DIGGING A DEEPER HOLE
They’ve been in hot shit about the London sexual assault lawsuit, and all the fallout since then. But it got so much worse for them. First, The Athletic put out an article with more details about what happened on the night of the assault. It includes details from a young woman — 18 at the time — who was at the same bar as the victim from the lawsuit earlier in the evening. She described flirting with and kissing a young man who said he played junior hockey, but when he started pressuring her to also kiss with all his friends and go back to their hotel room with all of them, she left feeling creeped out.
Then, later in the day, Hockey Canada put out a statement.
The fact that there is video evidence of this group sexual assault, that there are multiple witnesses to the video willing to testify, is all very bad. So is the fact that this is another example of a Canadian World Junior team committing a group sexual assault under Hockey Canada’s watch. The more you read about it, it sounds like this is very much a systemic, cultural thing among the upper ranks of Canadian junior hockey stars.
Read this excerpt from Jordin Tootoo’s book discussing Hockey Canada’s entry to the 2002-2003 World Junior Championship, which today had allegations of sexual assault brought forward.— Ian Kennedy (@IanKennedyCK) July 22, 2022
The gang sexual acts are right here: pic.twitter.com/5tQVp8xIYt
Lots of people have already said it, but it makes you ask how many other cases like this have happened that we don’t know about? How many happened that Hockey Canada knew about, and used that hush money fund to keep it from getting to the public? How many happened that Hockey Canada never even knew about outside of that, with players that didn’t leave any trail of evidence and managed to scare their victims into never even going public with it?
There is a day of reckoning long overdue for Hockey Canada and hockey culture here in Canada. It may not come very quickly, because it’s clear there will be some very important and in depth investigations that need to be done. But it’s also clear that there needs to be dramatic and systemic change.
Did I mention that former NHLer Jake Virtanen is currently on trial for sexual assault????
FLORIDA-CALGARY BLOCKBUSTER TRADE
The other big news came just before midnight, and it is one of the biggest blockbuster trades in my lifetime.
Tkachuk extension in FLA is 8x$9.5M— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 23, 2022
So this trade involves three NHL stars, to different degrees. Florida reportedly wanted to make big changes as a result of their sweep against Tampa in the playoffs — the kind of kneejerk decision from one playoff series that has never come back to haunt a team before. But Tkachuk is definitely a star, and now locked up long term. He joins a Florida team that is still stacked up front, with Barkov, Reinhart, Bennett, Verhaeghe, Duclair, and Lundell. Their defense definitely took a hit, but they could still make another crazy move for all we know.
Calgary, meanwhile, seems to have done very well for themselves when everything looked very bleak. They get an okay prospect and a first round pick that will probably be a late one, but they get two very very good players to be competitive again next year after losing Gaudreau and now Tkachuk. How good the trade winds up for them will depend on whether or not they can retain both or even one of them. Huberdeau could pull a Dubois and want to sign with his hometown team, Montreal, after he becomes a UFA next season. Weegar could do the same for Ottawa, or even Toronto. But at the very least, they can run it back next season, especially if they use the cap space they have now to get another big fish.
But the best part of the trade is considering the new coach Florida hired, Paul Maurice, and the history he has with his new star forward, Matthew Tkachuk.
“He could have cut his achilles. He could have ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 2, 2020
Paul Maurice did not hold back when talking about the Matthew Tkachuk-Mark Scheifele incident: pic.twitter.com/vRbmiv9u57
MAPLE LEAFS DEVELOPMENT CAMP WRAPS UP
In lesser news for the rest of the hockey world, the Toronto Maple Leafs wrapped up their week long development camp with their second and final scrimmage. You can watch some extended highlights cut with quotes from Hayley Wickenheiser here.
The one theme that a lot of the players said in their interviews, and was driven home by Wickenheiser, was the Leafs wanted to stress just how hard it is to make it as a pro. You don’t just get older and you’re there. It takes a lot of work with your fitness, conditioning, nutrition and health, to say nothing of the commitment to improving your skills and play on the ice. It sounds like they had a clear message to all the prospects that attended the camp, and for the Leafs prospects they drafted or signed, they let them know just what they had to work on.
There has been a lot of good articles written about the development camp this week, and a lot of interview segments with various Leafs players and staff. I have some thoughts on what I saw from those videos, as well as the scrimmages I was able to watch.
I have some miscellaneous thoughts, which covers a lot of players so I’ll just rapid fire them point form:
- Matthew Knies still has some work to do, he remarked how tough the week long schedule was and how what he takes from this is working on his conditioning and flexibility. Wickenheiser noted that he may be big, strong and skilled already, but to stay dominant through a game and a grueling schedule, he has a ways to go before he can be an impact pro player. He could also work on his agility, so he can add more elusiveness to his skating instead of trying to skate through a brick wall every time — even if he can sometimes do it.
- Fraser Minten is definitely an intriguing player. He centered a line with Knies most of the way, and he has a compelling package of skills and tools. He sniped a nice goal yesterday. Wickenheiser’s comments on him was mostly that he needs to add more strength and explosivity, but that will come with time given his age. And while he may be a very smart player already, he could also stand to not overthink plays and keep it simple at times.
- Ryan Tverberg looked great yesterday, after an okay first scrimmage. He was flying all over the ice and looking to make plays, and he showed nice chemistry with Brandon Lisowsky on a few occasions, including a 2 on 1 goal Tverberg created. Wickenheiser noted his biggest need for growth will come from him learning to use pace and space more often, and using his energy more wisely. Right now he’s more of a constant balls to the wall, all out skating and energy and shooting the puck.
- William Villeneuve was clearly the best defenseman in the camp. He was smart defensively and battled Knies effectively both scimmages, and contributed nicely offensively too. Wickenheiser touched on the important thing for him is to develop more of his defensive game and rely on his natural offensive skills to come through in a controlled, safer manner than his more chaotic, high risk/high reward way as a QMJHL rookie.
- Ty Voit looked good in the second game as well. He was a zippy little water bug, defensively and offensively. He helped set up a very nice goal.
- Veeti Miettinen had two goals yesterday, though one was an empty netter. He still has some frustrating tendencies that limit his effectiveness. He has a great shot, but his shot attempts are often forced and right into a player set up right in front of him for a block. He could mostly use some better ability to find more open spaces on the ice where he has more room to get his shot off, and also some puck handling skills and elusive skating so he can create more open shooting lanes when he has the chance.
- Luke Cavallin is signed to an AHL deal and will likely play most of next year in the ECHL, but he made some real nice saves in the defense-optional, low-structure scrimmages.
Aside from the players the Leafs have drafted or signed to contracts (of varying levels), there are also the undrafted invites. They were clearly playing with a higher level of intensity, considering their situations and wanting to impress an NHL team. I’ll separate my thoughts on them:
- The Jackson twins — Dylan and Ty — were by far the best and most consistently dangerous players on both scrimmages, which makes sense since they’re older and also have that twin-telepathy. They won’t sign an ELC now, considering their NCAA status. But Toronto could be building a relationship with them in the event they want to turn pro after this season.
- Tyler Duke may be a smaller defenseman with all the pitfalls that has for projection, but boy he was fun. I’d say he was the second most effective defenseman behind Villeneuve, and the two were often paired together. He could move the puck well, and defend well. He went into a corner with Knies once and physically held his own. He’s an NCAA commit and he won’t turn pro for a few seasons, probably, but I could see him turning into something down the line.
- Some of the younger CHLers all had flashes: Grayden Siepmann, Pano Fimis, Beau Jelsma, Mathew Ward, Marcus Nguyen and even Sam Alfano, which I wasn’t expecting. But I don’t see any of them signing an ELC yet, maybe if they’re also invited to their rookie tournament and show something more, or if they saw more at the practice days than I could see in the scrimmages.
- The one guy that stood out the most to me as a realistic option to sign an ELC is Avery Hayes. He’s older than the others, but his play also showed it. He looked more consistently dangerous, his puck handling and shooting especially so. His skating which was his big weakness in his draft year looked just fine to me, he was keeping up with everyone in the camp including the better skaters of the bunch. He was already one of the top offensive players in the OHL last year, and will likely be a contender for most goals/points next season.
OTHER LINKS FROM THE BRANCHES
Oh yeah, there was actually a bunch of other semi-big news from yesterday. First, Seattle made out like bandits after Columbus tied themselves in knots with their cap situation.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have acquired a 2023 third round selection and 2023 fourth round pick from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for R Oliver Bjorkstrand.@RuoffMortgage | #CBJhttps://t.co/OYNSYMrVEA— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) July 22, 2022
They had to trade him because they also locked up Patrik Laine to a big contract.
Patrik Laine’s new deal with #CBJ is 4 years x $8.7 million. Buys one year RFA and three years UFA.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) July 22, 2022
Speaking of Laine, the guy he was traded for also signed a new contract. Dubois signed his qualifying offer with the Jets, so looks like he won’t be getting his trade to Montreal just yet.
Pierre-Luc Dubois has accepted his qualifying offer from the @NHLJets. One year, $6 million.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 22, 2022
Have a happy weekend everyone!