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Monday, July 31, 2006

Coming and going

Big news item No. 1 -- Jonathan Toews is returning for his sophomore season. I know many of you live around the country and do not have a subscription to the Herald, so I apologize that the story in Sunday's paper did not get on our Web site. It was run as part of this story -- a look into the high rate of early departures in college hockey. Because of that, it lacked the coding needed for a story to appear on the Web site.

A quick rundown of the 'Toews is returning' story for those who didn't see it: Toews decided it was in his best interest to stay another year and develop. He turned down a three-year, $850,000 with an $85,000 signing bonus offer (the maximum rookie salary for a 2006 pick) to return to school. Obviously, that could not have been an easy decision.

I brought up the Phil Kessel situation, where there first were reports that he was staying, then more that he may be going, and back, and forth and so on. Toews said "There's no turning back now," about his decision to return. It's final.

Hopefully this situation never arises, but people always wonder what happens if a guy gets hurt after turning down pro dollars. Before last season, Toews took out an insurance policy. His policy is likely worth around $1 million. It's definitely no consolation for getting hurt and not being able to play in the NHL, but something to fall back on if the unthinkable happens.

Big news item No. 2 -- UND associate head coach Brad Berry is leaving to become an assistant coach with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.

This will be a tough loss for the Sioux, but one that doesn't come real unexpectedly. Berry's value is no secret.

How many times have you heard a player talk about how important Berry was in his development? Berry works closely with the defenseman and has done a great job developing them.

Think of the defensemen that have come to UND while Berry has been around. There was the group of Matt Greene, Matt Jones, Andy Schneider, Nick Fuher and Matt Smaby -- the corps that drew compliment after compliment during UND's run to the Frozen Four two seasons ago.

Greene is already a regular in the NHL, something very rare for someone his age. Jones has played NHL games already and has drawn rave reviews from Phoenix. Smaby is on his way to the NHL. And both Schneider and Fuher played in the AHL.

And obviously last season's defensemen were very impressive, making people forget the fact that they were all underclassmen and four regulars were freshmen. Berry was an important part of it.

When both Chay Genoway and Derrick LaPoint committed to UND, one of the first things I heard from them was how excited they were to work with Berry.

Whoever replaces Berry will have big shoes to fill.

So who will that person be?

When an assistant job last became available (summer of 2004 when Cary Eades was hired), former Sioux players Steve Johnson and Ian Kallay were among names thrown around by many.

Kallay seems extremely unlikely now, as he just left his assistant spot at Michigan Tech to pursue business opportunities. He said in a release that his business offer was too good to pass on.

Johnson, meanwhile, is still coaching the Lincoln Stars of the USHL.

Volunteer assistant Scott Koberinski, another former Sioux player, applied last time it was available.

Stay tuned for the applicants.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Two Belfours find homes

Our brothers from the Forum reported that Ed Belfour's son, Dayn, will play for the F-M Jets of the NAHL while attending Fargo North as a senior this year.

Dayn, a goaltender, was recently named to the U.S. Under-18 Select team, which will compete in Europe next month.

Ed, meanwhile, has found a home in South Florida, signing a one-year, incentive-laden contract with the Panthers.

Ed will compete with Alex Auld for the top spot. Florida acquired Auld in the Roberto Luongo/Todd Bertuzzi deal.

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Other recent signings of former Sioux players include:

--Travis Roche to the Phoenix Coyotes.

--Lee Goren to the Vancouver Canucks.

--Bryan Lundbohm to the Houston Aeros (AHL).

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And... the Calgary Herald wrote a story on Jonathan Toews as he is in Calgary for the Team Canada World Junior summer camp.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Skille staying with Badgers

A few hours after Denver's Paul Stastny gave up his final two college seasons to sign with Colorado, another high-profile underclassman announced he's staying in school.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Jack Skille will return to Wisconsin for his sophomore season.

This is a big development for the defending national champion Badgers, who lost their top five scorers from last season's team. Skille, a first round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005, will be looked at as the big offensive weapon for Wisconsin this season.

In the story, Skille says that if he wanted to sign, Chicago would have struck a deal with him.

It sounds like UND's Jonathan Toews is in a very similar situation. If Toews wants to sign, there is no doubt Chicago will do so. But Toews has said that he wants to make sure he will be on the NHL roster and he will be an impact player before he signs. Otherwise, he said he would be happy to return to UND for his sophomore season.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stastny, Smith headed out

Two more underclassmen are leaving the WCHA -- one is off to the CCHA, the other to the NHL.

Denver's Paul Stastny, last year's WCHA scoring champion, signed with the Colorado Avalanche today, foregoing his final two seasons of eligibility. This is a big hit for the Pioneers, who heavily depended on their top line for scoring last season.

Denver's top three forwards (Stastny, Gabe Gauthier and Ryan Dingle) and top two defensemen (Matt Carle and Chris Butler) combined for nearly 65 percent of the team's production last season. Only Dingle and Butler will return, and the losses of Stastny and Carle will certainly be felt big time on the power play, which was often dominating and largely quarterbacked by Carle and Stastny.

Also leaving the WCHA will be Alaska Anchorage forward Billy Smith, who said late Sunday night that he planned to verbally commit this afternoon to play at Northern Michigan. Coach Walt Kyle offered Smith a scholarship after he received his release from Alaska Anchorage.

Smith will be the third Seawolves player to transfer this offseason, joining Eric Walsky (Colorado College) and Shea Hamilton (UND).

Complete list of underclassmen signings in the WCHA:

UND (5)
Travis Zajac, sophomore
Matt Smaby, junior
Drew Stafford, junior
Rastislav Spirko, sophomore
Jordan Parise, junior

Minnesota (3)
Kris Chucko, sophomore
Danny Irmen, junior
Ryan Potulny, junior

Mankato (3)
David Backes, junior
Kyle Peto, junior
Ryan Carter, sophomore

Wisconsin (2)
Robbie Earl, junior
Joe Pavelski, sophomore

Denver (2)
Matt Carle, junior
Paul Stastny, sophomore

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Canadian WJC camp begins

The Team Canada World Junior summer camp began today in Calgary.

UND's Jonathan Toews, a member of last year's gold-medal winning team, is one of three college players at the camp, which runs through Friday. If you want to follow Toews' performance at the camp, visit this Web site.

Don't expect a pro decision from Toews until at least the start of August. I'd expect to hear before Aug. 11, though. School begins on the 22nd.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Red Line Report: Props to Hawks

It may be a little late, but the Red Line Report finally completed a review of the NHL draft.

It ranked the Chicago Blackhawks, who picked UND's Jonathan Toews with the No. 3 overall selection, as the team that had the best draft.

It also had kind words about Atlanta's selection of UND's Michael Forney in the third round. The report states, "Having robust, sniping winger Mike Forney fall into your lap at No. 80 is nothing less than a godsend."

The article also gives compliments to other WCHA players such as Erik Johnson (Minnesota), Phil Kessel (Minnesota), Kyle Okposo (Minnesota), David Fischer (Minnesota), Michael Carman (Minnesota), Alex Kangas (Minnesota 2007 recruit), Rhett Rakhshani (Denver), Nigel Williams (Wisconsin) and Andy Sackrison (Mankato 2007 recruit).

Check it out here if you wish.

Tough times in Anchorage

The second half of last season wasn't good to Alaska Anchorage (1-17-2).

The offseason is turning out to be difficult, too.

The Seawolves pulled into a second-place tie in the race to see which WCHA team will lose the most underclassmen. None of theirs have signed professional contracts, however.

Three Anchorage players now have got releases to transfer. Eric Walsky, the highest scoring forward on the team, will transfer Colorado College. Shea Hamilton will play for the Sioux.

Now, Billy Smith is looking for a new home. Smith currently is gauging interest from schools and among the possibilities is Northern Michigan.

Walsky, Hamilton and Smith aren't the only losses for the Seawolves, who fired two assistant coaches at the end of last season. Anchorage's top recruit, Erik Felde, is academically ineligible and will not play for the Seawolves this season. Felde was the sixth-leading scorer in the BCHL last season, scoring 32 goals and adding 49 assists in 61 games. Speculation is that Felde will end up choosing the major junior route.

The Seawolves are still scheduled to return seven of their top nine scorers, but the losses of Walsky, Hamilton, Smith and Felde surely will be felt in Anchorage.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

UND women lose another assistant

About a week after hiring one assistant coach, another announced she is leaving the UND women's hockey program.

Dawn Froats, who has been with the program for three seasons, said she has taken a position with her former high school, Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask. Froats said she is leaving to be closer to family and her best friend, who has battled cancer for a year.

The athletic department now will have to search for another coach.

With assistants Dennis Miller and Martin Short already on staff, rumor is that the Sioux are looking into the availability of Jerry Lewis.

Stanley Cup to hit F-M area Friday

For those of you who want to get a glimpse at the Stanley Cup, it will be in Fargo on Friday.

There will be an opportunity for the public to view the Cup from 5 to 7 p.m. in the parking lot of Playmakers Sports Cafe. Kyle Richardson, a volunteer in charge of the public relations, said that he's not sure whether people will be allowed to take photos with the Cup or just to view it. If it is only going to be there for two hours, I wouldn't count on getting a photo with it.

For people who are not familiar with the location of Playmakers, it is on 25th Street South at the intersection of 7th Avenue. The easiest way to get there is to get on Interstate 94 and take the 25th Street exit. Turn north and it will be on your left side next to Big Top Bingo.

Earlier in the day, the Cup will make an appearance at the Moorhead hockey rink. That is closed to the public.

Of course, the reason for the Cup's appearance in Fargo-Moorhead is because former Moorhead High School player Matt Cullen helped the Carolina Hurricanes win it last month. Each player gets at least a day with it, and Cullen chose to bring it home.

Former Sioux defenseman Mike Commodore, one of Cullen's Carolina teammates, will be there, too.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bruins rebuke Kessel reports

According to both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe, Phil Kessel still could sign a deal with the Boston Bruins, who selected him with the No. 5 overall pick last month.

Last week, both Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Kessel informed Gophers coaches that he was returning for his sophomore season.

However, the Globe reported that Kessel's family advisors will talk with the Bruins this week and that a signing is still possible. Kessel and Boston assistant GM Jeff Gorton said they were confused by the reports out of Minneapolis.

Also...

Don't be surprised if Mankato loses a fourth underclassman early. Travis Morin, the Mavericks' leading scorer last season, played well at the Washington Capitals prospect camp last week and Washington's AHL affiliate, Hershey, is short on centers. Could Morin be more likely to choose the AHL over college hockey now that he is minus his main scoring support from last season -- David Backes (St. Louis Blues), Kyle Peto (Finland) and Ryan Carter (Anaheim)? We'll see. Besides Morin, Mankato's top returning scorer from last season is Joel Hanson, who scored just four goals.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cities media reports Kessel is returning

Both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press are reporting that Phil Kessel will return to Minneapolis for his sophomore season.

Keeping Kessel would be a huge victory for Minnesota, which last week received word that defenseman Erik Johnson would become the first No. 1 pick to attend college after being drafted.

It also comes at a time when other WCHA teams are feeling the wrath of early departures.

Wisconsin lost its second underclassman Thursday when Joe Pavelski signed with San Jose.

Mankato lost its third underclassman this offseason when forward Ryan Carter signed with Anaheim. The Mavericks lost defenseman Kyle Peto to Europe earlier this month.

I have a feeling every WCHA coach, outside of Jamie Russell, is going to be holding his breath until school begins.

Porter has strong camp showing

With UND's top two scorers from last season gone and the No. 4 scorer pondering leaving, the Sioux will undoubtedly need guys to step up and fill the voids this season.

So, news of Chris Porter's excellent performance at the Chicago Blackhawks' prospect camp is welcome for Sioux fans.

Porter, a soon-to-be senior who was drafted by Chicago in the ninth round in 2003, scored a couple of goals at the camp and made people take notice.

"I felt great," said Porter, who roomed with former UND All-American Brandon Bochenski at the camp. "This was my third time there. The first couple of times, I was going in there just to get by. This time, with my senior year coming up, I wanted to make an impression for my future -- when I'm done here. It was fun for me this year. It was a good benchmark to see where I was at compared to other guys in the organization that have been drafted."

UND forward Jonathan Toews, also at the camp, said he was impressed with Porter's performance.

"Chris did unbelievable, he was flying out there," said Toews, who was drafted No. 3 overall by the Blackhawks last month.

Porter said he is going to heavily concentrate on finishing this offseason. As a freshman, the Thunder Bay, Ont., native scored 10 goals and he added 12 as a sophomore. Last season, however, he played a different role -- on the third line -- and his production dropped (seven goals).

Porter said coaches told him they liked the way he used his speed and size, but he's looking to contribute more offensively this season.

"I'm really working hard on that this summer, so hopefully it pays off," Porter said. "Whatever my role is, I will do it the best I can. My role will probably be more offensive this season. I'd like to pump in a few more goals.

"I also have to be a leader. I'm a senior on the team and it's one last chance at a national championship. A lot of things need to fall into place this year, but I like the way our team is made up. Hopefully, the hard work during the offseason pays off."

Marto has minor operation

UND recruit Jake Marto recently had a screw put in his wrist, but the defenseman said the injury will not force him to miss any ice time.

The former Grand Forks Central standout said he suffered the injury at a camp and wore a soft cast for a brief time. But he anticipates being fully recovered well before the USHL season begins.

Marto will play for the Omaha Lancers this season before coming to UND in the fall of 2007.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Words from the Windy City

Jonathan Toews has completed his stint at the Chicago Blackhawks prospects camp and we'll probably find out somewhat soon whether he will sign a pro contract or return to Grand Forks for his sophomore year.

It seems that Chicago's GM has doubts about UND this season, saying that "it's going to be a struggle." That might make the Blackhawks more inclined to sign Toews, who was drafted No. 3 overall last month.

Another paper, however, took the angle that Toews' signing could wait another year.

I guess all this means is.... stay tuned.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Marvin says no to WHL

Less than two weeks after being picked by the Calgary Flames in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft, Warroad High School's Aaron Marvin made a commitment to college hockey -- specifically St. Cloud State.

Recently, rumors had surfaced in Canada that Marvin could end up choosing the WHL over college hockey.

Five days after Calgary took Marvin in the draft, Red Deer traded for Marvin's WHL rights. Red Deer's coach/general manager/president is Brent Sutter, the brother of Calgary head coach/general manager Darryl Sutter.

Darryl made waves in college hockey this past year by trying to sign Gophers forward Kris Chucko during the middle of the season. Chucko ended up leaving the Gophers after the conclusion of his sophomore season, signing with the Flames.

Minnesota coach Don Lucia spoke out against Sutter's actions. "They're an organization that is not big on college hockey," Lucia told the Star Tribune. "They put Kris in a difficult situation by contacting him during the season and trying to get him to leave. That's not very professional on their part. I've never had that happen before."

Marvin, however, said there is no chance he will be taking the CHL route. He will play his senior year at Warroad, then most likely a year in the USHL before heading to St. Cloud in 2008.

Marvin said he had talks with a couple other schools, but St. Cloud State was the most aggressive and the only one to offer him a scholarship at this point.

"I'm really excited," said Marvin, who scored the game-winning, overtime goal for the Warriors in the 2005 state championship. "They're a program on the rise and I'm glad to be a part of it. They definitely wanted me and that's always nice to have."

Marvin has been a force for the Warriors the past two seasons, tallying 48 points in 31 games as a sophomore and leading the team with 30 points in 23 games as a junior.

The NHL Central Scouting Bureau report on Marvin states, "Aaron skates in an up-right manner with good balance and agility. He has a short, quick stride with power and good straight-away speed. In traffic, he is very quick, making sharp turns to elude opponents. He is a good stick-handler, who likes to carry the puck. He can beat an opponent one-on-one. He is very good at moving the puck and his passes are crisp. He has done a good job playing on the power play and killing penalties."

Marvin is the second Section 8 player that the Huskies have nabbed for the future. Moorhead's Jordy Christian picked St. Cloud State during the season. Christian is slated to join the Huskies in 2007.

Erik Johnson to play for Minnesota

The No. 1 pick of the NHL Entry Draft, Erik Johnson, will not sign with the St. Louis Blues before the season begins. He will instead play for Minnesota.

Johnson will be the first player ever to play a season of college hockey after being selected No. 1.

In other NHL related news, UND forwards Jonathan Toews and Chris Porter currently are participating in the Chicago Blackhawks' prospect camp. On Thursday, both players scored goals to help Team White to a 4-2 win.

The camp ends next week, and at that point, the Blackhawks will determine whether they want to sign Toews.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Parise: RSP still alive

UND goaltender Jordan Parise signed a two-year deal with the New Jersey Devils, giving up his final year of college eligibility and leaving a huge question to be answered....

What is the future of Red Seal Peach?

The band, which features Parise and forward Drew Stafford, hit it big this spring when it released an emotionally powerful ballad dedicated to teammate Erik Fabian. The duo now has taken its games -- and guitars -- to the professional level. But on Wednesday night, Parise said there is no reason for RSP fans to worry.

"We know our fans are concerned," Parise said. "But we've been through some ups and downs before. This is just a bump in the road. Drew and I are still planning on recording."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Aaron Marvin clarification

Since I have gotten a couple of e-mails, I will try to clarify what happened with a story on our Web site last week.

The Associated Press did a draft preview on all the players with Minnesota ties who were expected to go high in the draft. Along with it, there was a short description of each player. The AP wrote in its description that Warroad's Aaron Marvin had signed with UND. That is incorrect.

Here's how it works: When a story moves on the AP wire, our Web site automatically picks it up. We do not place these stories on the Web site ourselves. Therefore, we have little control over the AP stories on the Herald site. Because the story was of interest to our local readers, we decided to run it in the paper, too. When I saw that the AP had wrongfully listed Marvin as a UND recruit, I changed the description of him to a "big and strong forward." However, I have no access to the AP stories that automatically move on our Web site.

That is why the story in the paper was different than that on the Web.

Marvin is still uncommitted and will probably make a verbal before his high school hockey season starts, much like Michael Forney did a year ago. I do not have much insight to share on where Marvin might go, but UND has done a fine job at nabbing top Section 8 players under Dave Hakstol (Forney, T.J. Oshie, Brian Lee, Chris VandeVelde).