Tag Archives: Taylor Hall

Hometown, Hockeytown

It’s taken a few days for it all to sink in. The town I grew up in will be the host of the Winter Classic 2013 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The high school I attended sat kitty-corner from Michigan Stadium. Every Friday afternoon, tailgaters would descend upon Pioneer High School’s  parking lot to set up for the Saturday Michigan games. I remember my uncle Rich sneaking us in at the start of the 4th quarter at his gate where he volunteered for 35 years. He also volunteered with Michigan hockey, and gave me a set of Michigan hockey cards I still have. That was the year Kevin Porter won the Hobey Baker.

Ann Arbor is a hockey town. The University of Michigan Wolverines have been a cornerstone in Big Ten hockey and NCAA hockey for decades. Michigan boasts coach Red Berenson who has produced some of the best talent int he NHL today:  Carl Hagelin, Brendan Morrison, Mike Cammalleri, Mike Komisarek, Mike Knuble, Jack Johnson  and Kevin Porter to name a few.  The Wolverines have nine NCAA men’s ice hockey titles.

Hockey tradition represents Ann Arbor, but also training as the home of the USA Hockey Team Development Program.  NHL participants have included Ryan Kesler, Patrick Kane, Erik Johnson and Cam Fowler.

Not too far down the road is Hockeytown, home to the Detroit Red Wings and the bright spot for the Detroit sports scene. Just across the Detroit River is Windsor, Ontario, home of the two-time Calder Cup champions Windsor Spitfires and MVP Taylor Hall.  The matchup between the Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs is fitting not only because of the close proximity, but both are each country’s respective hockey epicenters.  The line coming in and out of Detroit and Windsor after Wings games displays the regions affinity for hockey.

The perfect platform, the picturesque scenery of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus, plus the craziness of hockey fans in A2 will create an atmosphere that could cost the Winter Classic in topping it the following year.   I read somewhere that this Classic could break attendance records….it will! Michigan Stadium holds up to 113,000. The Big Chill at the Big House broke an outdoor hockey game record, and so shall the Winter Classic 2013.

 

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Hockey Holiday Highlights

Kicking off the holiday season, Chanukah starts tonight and the Christmas countdown has begun. Between your menorah lighting, your shopping panic and the family fun and frantic, the best gift to yourself is to take in some of the hockey highlights happening this week.

Hockey Santa
Tues. Dec. 20  7:00 EST
New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils– Classic Hudson Valley rivalry as the Devils are on a four-game winning streak. The Blueshirts of Broadway have held their own, but King Henry has been iffy in goal lately. New York’s pesky agitator Sean Avery and Jersey’s rock-em-sock-em David Clarkson could bump into a brawl at some point. Great rivalry for the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division.
Wed. Dec. 21 10:00 EST
Detroit Red Wings at Vancouver Canucks– Nothing is like watching the Red Wings at Xmas time. Santa suits on ice. Vancouver oozes talent with the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. The Wings boast Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and goalie Jimmy Howard. The list goes on and even Santa can’t keep up.
Thurs. Dec. 22 9:30 EST
Minnesota Wild at Edonton Oilers-Two of the hottest teams going with young talent at helm. Watch top draft picks Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins host Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak. Both teams are currently on a four-game losing streak.

Thurs. Dec. 22 10EST
Anaheim Ducks visit Los Angeles Kings– With plenty of talent, the Kings need to shake off their poor start and impress their new coach. The Ducks have weapons in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but can they surpass the goaltending of the Kings Quick? If you’re up wrapping present, catch this SoCal battle.

Fri. Dec. 23 7EST
Philadelphia Flyers at the New York Rangers– Precursor to the Winter Classic. The teams are pumped, so this is a Friday night celebration. Flyers Jaromir Jagr, ex-Rangers captain returns to the Garden for a holiday shebang. Settle in and check your holiday lists or exchange your Chanukah gift.

Fri. Dec. 23 10:30 EST
Los Angeles Kings visit San Jose Sharks- It’s the battle of SoCal vs. NoCal. Still wrapping and up late, check out this showcase of Sharks with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Dan Boyle as they blast their way to Hockeywood taking on Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson. Get warm and toasty and snuggle in.

No games on Christmas Eve or Christmas, but check your local listings for the week leading up to the Winter Classic on Jan. 2 when the New York Rangers travel to Philadelphia.

 

Summer Hockey Hype

It’s only August and the hype has begun. After the woozying trades and trash, this summer read like more like a gossip column. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were expelled from Philly for bad behavior, LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi  was irked when he was traded damaged goods by Edmonton, and just recently Sean Avery was busted by the cops in Hollywood for shoving an officer.  

If you are sitting by the pool, then you have plenty of time to begin building your fantasy team. Whether you play in a competitive keeper league or drafting an entirely new team, consider the teams who have revamped their lines. However, buyer beware that not all top players perform as well as expected. Duncan Keith’s award-winning 2009-10 season did not carry the same weight in 2010-11. Sidney Crosby’s health is tenuous- one big hit and he could blowout.

Eastern Conference best bets:

New York Rangers- resigning Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan were crucial. Both players have developed their game and are the workhorses of the team. With Brad Richards joining the mix, the Rangers will be a fun team to watch and get behind. With Avery and Brandon Prust, expect some tough guy presence stopping any intruders near Henrik Lundqvist‘s crease.

Philadelphia Flyers– sign Jaromir Jagr. Who knows what to expect? He could be great or gruesome, but you don’t want to be left behind on this one. He snubbed other teams to join the Flyers because of their Cup contention coup. Max Talbot, Claude Giroux and a roster full of hot taletn can be yours if you do your bidding carefully.

Buffalo Sabres- coach Lindy Ruff is still calling the shots on ice, and with newly acquired talents look out. In net, Ryan Miller is one of the best in the NHL. Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr will lend the blueline some direction helping Tyler Myers this season.

Carolina HurricanesJeff Skinner and Anthony Stewart are just two young players to watch in Carolina. Skinner, who won the Calder for rookie of the year, is first line, Stewart 3rd or 4th. Other young talent, Jamie McBain and Chad LaRose need to go on a watch list.

Tampa Bay Lightning– re-signing Steven Stamkos was a necessary requirement before GM Steve Yzerman could go golfing. With Stamkos secured, the Bolts will be out for blood this year. Vinnie Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis may be already drafted, so consider Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell for a stong support system.

Pittsburgh Penguins- with or without Sidney Crosby, the Pens put the pedal to the metal. All energy, all the time. Kris Letang should be on your list. Tyler Kennedy rocked last year and must be a consideration, same for Chris Kunitz and James Neal.

Boston Bruins– I’d sweep up Dennis Seidenberg. Tim Thomas is an obvious choice, but secured by keeper leagues. If the Stanley Cup win was it, then don’t go overboard with the Bruins. However, there are some good bets here in Rich Peverley, Patrice Bergeron, don’t forget Brad Marchand. I’ve found Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ferrence to be good for fights and scruffy play. Milan Lucic and David Krejci have inconsistent seasons but make good trade fodder.

Western Conference best bets:

Los Angeles Kings-  has a great building process in Hockeywood.  Anze Kopitar will be ready come ice time, and with Mike Richards as the extra kick, look out! Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty are key defensemen. Jonathan Quick in goal is a great pick. Captain Dustin Brown didn’t let me down. Justin Williams was the sought after Kings player in our league rightly so.

Detroit Red Wings– always on the list due to the talent they foster. Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Nick Lidstrom are tops on any list if you can get them. Goaltender Jimmy Howard may be a task to acquire but worth if you can make a trade after the season starts- sell low. Johan Franzen and defensemen Niklas Kronwall should be noted for scoring and hits.

Vancouver Canucks– they just couldn’t wrap it up, but that has been their issue. Lessons learned may help Ryan Kesler and the Sedins in creative ways to win. Consider Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa and don’t be wary of goalie Roberto Luongo if you can get him.

Edmonton Oilers– I say this because the whole world will be watching the Taylor Hall/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dynamic. Grab either player and be patient. Hall took some time to warm up and was passed all over fantasy leagues as owners became restless with his growing pains.

Chicago Blackhawks “Car Bomb”Carcillo  will explode in Chicago enforcing the Hawks second revival. This is a tough team who wants the Cup badly. Patrick Sharp is signed and you should do the same. He’s a quiet player who has his ups and downs, but delivers overall. If you can acquire Patrick Kane of Jonathan Toews, then work your magic. Andrew Brunette is a watch list candidate to see if he can generate something.

St. Louis Blues– I pick them every year due to the talent that passes through. Chris Stewart stands out for the Blues. David Backes is a sturdy candidate but can be unpredictable. Kevin Shattenkirk,Alex Steen and Andy McDonald did well last season and are good choices in the second to third-round. Remember to put Alex Pietrangelo on your list as a stellar young defenseman, and keep an eye on Matt D’Agostini.

Don’t see your team? Oh, well, take a look at some of the choice picks to find your best bet:

Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks)– The Sharks can beat the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs, but can’t seem to get further than that. Couture was nominated for the rookie of the year and deservedly so. Grab him before someone else does. Usually a second-round pick now that he’s on the radar.

Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)– Benn broke out last year and was quite dutiful to fantasy owners. If he lands in your queue, consider if you need a productive 3rd liner.

Devin Setoguchi (Minnesota Wild) – great during the playoffs with the Sharks. Minnesota has been on everyone’s radar to be big but remains in the middle. Perhaps Setoguchi can spark some oomph.

Your dream team is in your hands. Not all goes as according to plan and your backup choices can make the difference in all areas from trades to suspensions of a key player. Study the new and improved rosters if you haven’t been keeping up with the transactions this summer.

Hat-tricks and Hits

The NHL and the NFL have come to a head, literally, with both looking at serious consequences for head hits in the game. The NHL has even gone beyond hits on the ice- they’ve gone to the fans. Suspensions came for taking aim at the fans taunting players, such as Rick Rypien who was suspended 6 games for grabbing a Minnesota Wild fan. Rypien was already in a bad mood losing to the Wild and double points for roughing plus a misconduct call. Though he didn’t apologize, Bettman did.

Daniel Alfredsson, Rene Bourque and Steven Stamkos scored hat-tricks early in the week. Alfredsson scored three times in a duel with Buffalo, and the first to score over 1K with a hat-trick. Good news for Ottawa. Up in Calgary, Bourque bounced three in the net rolling into Columbus. Stamkos scored three as a souvenir in Atlanta. Then Alex Semin strolled right in with a hat-trick of his own when the Caps met rival Atlanta over the weekend. The Islanders Tavares picked up a trio despite losing to the Panthers. But don’t forget Brad Richardson‘s triple threat over the Avs at the Pepsi Center.

In the East, The New York Rangers fought hard Saturday in Boston. Sean Avery powered a misconduct call with an instigator and fighting cherry on top. In the first period alone, 30 PIMs for fighting hit the stats. The Rangers are climbing.

The Buffalo Sabres slump is barely in its third week, but feels like a lifetime. Could the high expectations of Myers and Miller be setting the Sabres up for failure? Give it time for this all to work- because it will. Saturday saw a spark with a win by Miller and a goal by Myers.

New Jersey is fighting back, at least David Clarkson that is. Clarkson, who is guaranteed a fight a week met his quota this week with Travis Moen in Montreal. Last week he took on two fights when Washington got on his nerves taking it out on Jason Chimera and Matt Bradley. Another good slugger, Dan Carcillo, finally used the gloves and got his five for fighting in Toronto.

Way out West, cheerleaders will come to Canada, Edmonton sets the trend for some reason. Sad or sexy, obviously Taylor Hall isn’t performing the way they expedcted. So, maybe some T&A will help.

Franzen returned with a bang. Red Wings fans are happy. Detroit has its secret weapon back. The Wings are sitting in the standing nicely right now and should stay with strong play by the Mule. Zetterberg amd Holmstrom are hitting their stride to put the Wings back in a confortable place in the race. After the win at home against Anaheim, third straight win, the Wings goalie Howard continues to perform like a top netminder.

Colorado continues to have fun and maintain some wins, but hovering mid to low pack in the West. Don’t have too much fun if the job doesn’t get done. Even Liles has figured out that he’s a defenseman, so he posted five for fighting with Justin Williams. The Kings are just in front of the Avs, but look out St. Louis Blues hanging with these two talented young teams.

San Jose Sharks scrapper Ryan Clowe has risen from the dead and slugged for five. When Calgary came to town, it put the Sharks on edge, especially when the Flames went up 4-zip in the first.

So the story goes. Jumping into the third week will be an interesting jumbling of predictions that have been set aside for new ones. Don’t be surprised if your team slumps now and again as they all do. It’s a long season- hunker down with your remote and plenty of whatever keeps you going. Load up on candy too for Halloween.

Beyond Fantasy: NHL season comes to a TV near you

Thursday night, the NHL season kicks off with an afternoon game- so consider calling in sick if you are fans of Minnesota or Carolina. The Hurricanes must gain ground this year after a let down last season. Carolina cannot look bad hosting the NHL All-Star game, either. Minnesota has had some buzz. At the Colorado Avalanche training camp, I overheard a conversation suggesting that the Wild looked good this year. As I turned around to see who would make such a statement, I found myself talking with Brian Engblom. Maybe, you want to take a look at the Wild this year, just in case.

If you have to make it to work,then rush home to check in on the Penguins home opener at their new digs against in-state rival, the Flyers. With that talent on both sides, this should be the kick-off game to your season, especially if your fantasy team conists of Sidney Crosby.

Then the Candians let loose: Montreal fights to keep their powerhouse positioned for the playoffs and Toronto recharges with captain Bling. The idea of having Dion Phaneuf as the masthead of the Leafs brings pure in-your-face hockey back to Toronot. But I’ll be watching Edmonton’s Taylor Hall. Colorado did it with Duchene, and the Islanders did it with Tavares, and so shall the Oilers. This kid is nothing to sneeze at. Hall will make watching Oilers games fun and interesting.

To close out the evening, the Stanley Cup champs come to Denver to face last year’s pleasant surprise. The BlackHawks are down a few players, but the base is still strong. Colorado hopes to climb higher than last year and regain more praise from the pundits. Chris Stewart was the star of the Avs training camp and everyone knew it. Look for a competitive game to round out the evening.

Who has the right moves? A summer guide to fantasy hockey

The NHL Entry Draft and July 1 dealing deadlines have mixed the 30 NHL teams into goulash. Yes, it’s a good thing, yet trying to make sense of your fantasy roster next year, could prove enlightening as much research needs to be done. There are many building blocks required to match the force of a Stanley Cup contending teams, but like kids in a candy store agents, players, and managers are gobbling up their sweet deals for next season’s ice time.

I’m already preparing my teams and ranking players for my leagues, and poking around rosters. Should be out in the sun, but the hot weather has me thinking of ice and snow to cool down.

Chicago isn’t the same team that stepped onto the ice last year. Taking out some top players is asking your top guns to perform with more gusto, as Toews, Keith, Sharp and company should be playing hard. If you can get them, get them.

The Western Conference exhibited some dominance last year, and they will continue. The Eastern Conference needs to bulk up and find some identities. These teams are on my radar:

Eastern Conference:

New Jersey Devils- Hedberg backing Brodeur sounds good to me. I hope Hedberg sees some ice time, because Marty needs to rest. The Devils should be able to kick it into the Cup finals with Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson and a whole host of good options for your team. When in doubt, go toward the Devils.

Buffalo Sabres– Tyler Myers and Ryan Miller are top fantasy draft choices. Myers was rookie of the year winning the Calder Memorial Trophy, and Miller taking home the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender. But is this enough? Don’t draft too deep into the Sabres bench because everyone scored equally.

Atlanta Thrashers– are in serious building efforts as the landlords realize more effort must be made in the quality of their brick and mortar. Taking Andrew Ladd and Dustin Bufyglien from the Blackhawks was just plain smart. Ladd has quietly worked his way into scoring zones over the past two seasons. He’s the guy who creeps into fantasy teams due to injured wingers, and for the last push of the season. Dustin B. needs no introduction; he is a slayer who can deliver with his bulk and intellect because hockey is both mental and physical.

Tampa Bay Lightning- Steve Yzerman is all I can say. He’s golden. Piling on the players to pay the piper, the new GM knows his hockey both on the ice and off under the leadership of the Illitch family, who created a dynasty both adored and despised. That’s some power. Nittymaki is a good fantasy goalie option, and Martin St. Louis goes early. Steven Stamkos has won me over his second season matching Sidney Crosby is goals.

Western Conference:

Colorado Avalanche
– youth movement continues to catch all. The Avalanche must continue to play at the top of their game. When they sat in the top three in the West, critics said the team couldn’t keep the momentum and they didn’t. Striving to make the playoffs kept fans on their toes and gives Colorado a head start for next season.  Avalanche players that are must-haves include Matt Duchene, Craig Anderson, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart. Other players are excelling quickly and depth in the Avs means depth for your rotation needs.

St. Louis Blues
– they looked so rough last year, but great the year before. Now, with a few bells and whistles in goal gaining Jaroslav Halak’s contract for a steal, the Blues continued their rally by securing forward Alex Steen on the roster. Steen is a breakout player who could boost the Blues. Alex Steen will be on my fantasy roster. The guy is solid. Halak is tops too.

Edmonton Oilers
– not because they have a chance at the Cup, but I want to see Tyler Hall play in the NHL. I want to see if the Oilers can do what the Islanders are still holding onto. Take a look at videos of Hall placing the puck in net: Ovechkin like but more humble. Draft Hall.

Vancouver Canucks
– has taken over the San Jose Sharks pick for me next year. While I’m curious to see how the Sharks unfold with the new Nittymaki agenda, I turn my head toward the border and offer up Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and the Sedins to the hockey gods. Luongo is a stretch, yet could remold into his former self this season.

Phoenix Coyotes
– Coach of the year,Dave Tippett, is tipping the team in the right direction. And my Petr Prucha posts get a lot of hits on my blog. Wolski, Yandle, no shortage of talent. Shane Doan, super nice guy, disappointed a bit last season. Goaltending is not a problem with Bryzgalov.

Other notables getting a nod:
Los Angeles Kings– love the Johnson-Doughty thing they got going on there. Bordering on the Cinderella team last season, the young Kings have some great abundance to flaunt with all the California hockey hype during the NHL Entry Draft. Good options for fantasy streaks.

Nashville Predators
– adding Matthew Lombardi is a good move in not only points, but he’s a bright spot for you face-off category ranking among the top five usually.  You just have to love this line-up and wonder what is happening out there? Well, they are good but have met opponents that are better. Look at Shea Weber for certain. A lot of great options on this team not to be overlooked by your management staff.

Taylor Hall: A Player to Watch

Memorial Cup MVP Taylor Hall is expected to go early in the 2010 draft.  Having been profiled by the legendary Don Cherry during his Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada, and awarded rookie of the year in both the OHL and CHL in 2008, all eyes are on Team Canada and Hall for the World Juniors. Hall scored a hat trick in the 3-0 shutout of Slovakia following in the footsteps of last season’s top pick, John Tavares. Both scored a hat trick during the IIHF World Junior Championship.

With the search on for the youngest and most charismatic player, hockey boys who used to play the puck on frozen streets now have made it to the big time. Hall led all OHL players with 23 goals, 54 points; Tavares had only two more points than Hall.  Taylor Hall already has the maturity to play in the league.  His style can only be witnessed in the awe of the goals he puts away that most goalies couldn’t even prevent.  If you are not familiar with his work, look up his scoring videos online. Hall finds the tiniest hole and fits the puck through, with skill not miracles.  This young Canadian brings both style and substance.

A product of Kingston, Ontario Hall’s rap sheet includes Canadian Major Junior Rookie of the year for the 2007-08 season, the Wayne Gretzky Trophy in 2008-09, and national attention centered on Hall last year as MVP of the Memorial Cup.  Hall has played the past two seasons with the Windsor Spitfires, a team who reside across the riverbanks from the Detroit Red Wings.  The area lives hockey and for the city of Windsor to bring home the MVP and the Cup was an uplifting time for a downtrodden city greatly affected by the auto industry collapse.

In an interview from the Ottawa Citizen, Taylor Hall was quoted “he patterns himself after players like Phil Kessel of the Boston Bruins and Martin Havlat of the Chicago Blackhawks, because they’re fast and they’re not the biggest guys.”  Hall has shown speed and an ability to excite the fans and the media.  At the World Juniors games, Hall was cheered on as a star, the hopeful for Canada. With the crowd chanting his name, Hall was awarded MVP after winning over Slovakia.  Humble and hardworking, this future NHL star has demonstrated his talents before the masses.

Canada blasted through their opponents with dominance, and faced USA in the quarter semi-final.  It was a voracious scoring match to prove who’s the best on the border, with a 4-4 tie ending in a Canadian shootout victory.

Team Canada and Taylor Hall earned a bye round, and moved on to play Switzerland Sunday in a semi-final match-up. Hall scored a beautiful goal against the Swiss opening up the lead to 3-0 in the second period.  The third period led hall to open ice and an amazing wrap around goal adding to the win over Switzerland 6-1.

Canada met the USA for the gold medal game on Tuesday, and Hall scored one goal; however, it was not enough to beat the USA for Gold. Team USA beat Canada 6-5 in overtime.  Hall had a total of six goals in the World Junior Championships

Hall has patience and plays as a team member rather than a grandstander. With his name atop the rookie draft list for next season, he will become not just a household name in Canada but global.  The draft isn’t close, so no predictions can be made of where he may play.  Put Taylor Hall on your wish list for next year’s fantasy leagues.  I’ve forewarned you.