Steven Ellis

1928 POSTS 10 COMMENTS
Steven took a different route towards his hockey interests. Starting out as a big Habs fan, he started to gravitate towards the more obscure levels of hockey, such as the low level tournaments in Asia, strange club matches between teams most people in North America can’t pronounce, and even some 3am contests between Bulgaria and New Zealand. Aside from his love for strange hockey events, Steven occasionally acts as a mediocre ball hockey goalie following a failed attempt at making it to the NHL as a fourth line house league grinder. Beyond hockey, Steven is an avid racing fan and loves to chat about NASCAR, F1, Indycar, you name it. Oh, and don’t get him started on music. That is, unless you want the whole history of metal and a guitar lesson. Currently, Steven is a credentialed media member with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, as well as with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. Steven has also hosted the television show "The Hockey House" on TVCogeco in Ontario, as well as a segment under the same with on LeafsTV in Toronto. Home page: http://www.thehockeyhouse.net

According to a report from international hockey news website National Teams of Ice Hockey, the second Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament is set to take place from June 3rd-7th.

The tournament, which is set to return to Mexico, was originally a five team event that had it’s debut last March. Last year, Argentina, Colombia, Canada, Mexico and Brazil all took part in the competition, with a team of Canadian selects eventually taking home the gold easily thanks to a 7-0 victory over Mexico in the finals.

There is still no word on which teams will take part in the event, but Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay were all rumored to be interested in the original event. There were some people questioning why Canada was involved in the first place, as the tournament, considered to be a low-level development event, was completely dominated by the Canadians. For some teams, such as Argentina, their roster was filled up of players who could afford the travel to Brazil, and not necessarily the best players from the country.

While it was clear who the top two teams in the tournament were, with Canada and Mexico being the only two ranked IIHF teams in the tournament, it was great for the developing nations to have a chance to play against some higher quality players for a week last year. In Colombia’s case, the team was able to secure their first ever hockey medal,  as American college hockey player Daniel Echeverri was able to lead his team to a bronze medal after defeating Argentina by a score of 9-1. For the bottom three nations last year, the Pan-Am games was the only tournament they would participate in, so competitive action is key for the developing hockey countries.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

USA-born forward Brandon Bochenski will look to play for the Kazakhstan national hockey team this spring, as the former NHLer is currently in the process of receiving a new citizenship.

During his time in the NHL, Bochenski was rarely used as an offensive threat and more as a bottom six depth forward. In 156 career games, Bochenski was only able to muster 68 points with the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks. Since leaving North America in May of 2010, Bochenski has played with the Kazakh KHL team, Barys Astana, where he currently serves as captain. Bochenski has become a very solid KHLer during his time overseas, sitting eighth all time in league scoring with 257 points in 250 games.

Since Bochenski has previously played with the American national team, Bochenski had to spend four consecutive seasons playing in Kazakhstan in order to warrant a transfer. If a player has already competed for one country at an official IIHF tournament, they must require the four year period before being able to transfer to another team that they currently are a citizen for. Just like in the two year case, a player isn’t allowed to compete for their previous country and has to play a minimum of four years in the new country.

Kazkahstan will look to earn promotion back into the top group for 2016 when they take to the ice for the Division IA World Championships in April. The country has failed to stay in the top group for more than a year since their three tournament stint from 2004-2006, bouncing up and down between the top group and Division IA ever since.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Kruise Reddick’s hat trick led the way for Team Canada, who will advance to 2015 Winter Universiade semi-finals after defeating their American rivals 4-0 on Wednesday.

Reddick was able to grab the game’s first goal with 2:30 left in the first. Reddick has been pretty strong all tournament long for Canada, and a quick move late in the first would later turn out to be the game winning goal. His marker wasn’t the only one of the first, however, as Mitch Maxwell was able to add a second Canadian goal with 1:16 left in the frame to give the team a solid two goal advantage heading into the second.

The second period would see both teams trading penalties, but Canada would have to wait until the third minute of the final period before they could increase their lead. The Americans didn’t put up much of a fight in the third, recording just eight shots compared to Canada’s 21. Reddick was able to score on two of them, potting one 43 minutes into the match, and a second one in the final seconds to help secure the 4-0 victory.

With the victory, Canada will re-visit with the Russians for a semi-final match on Friday. Last week, Canada was able to snag a 5-3 victory against Russia, who have Canada’s toughest opponent to date. The winner of the match will take to the ice on Saturday for the gold medal, while the loser will be forced to play for bronze.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

The Czech Republic had struggled throughout the Euro Hockey Tour campaign over the past two months, but after winning a two game exhibition series against the Russians, the team was finally given a reason to celebrate on home ice.

The Czech’s came into the EHT this past weekend with a winless record after two rounds. With the upcoming World Championships getting held at Prague Arena, the same venue that staged the two teams this weekend, there was a lot of pressure on a lot of bubble players looking to make the Czech roster prior to the big event.

The first game was dominated by the hometown team, who finished the contest with a 3-0 victory. Their second and final victory two days later was a much closer one, however, as a late goal gave the Czech’s the 4-3 win to sweep the weekend series. Not much was expected out of the Russians in this tournament, who’s roster featured many players that participated at the recent World Junior tournament. Regardless, their performance in the second game, featuring a roster with an average age of 23, proved that there is a lot to look forward to in Russian hockey over the next few seasons.

The second EHT tournament took place in Sweden, finishing with mixed reactions. The Finns were able to snag the first game by a score of 1-0, but the game in Vasteras had to be cancelled after 22:34 of action due to a hole in the ice surface. The second game would be more rewarding for the Tre Kronor, who got the game winning goal from 21-year-old national team rookie Martin Johansson to secure the 3-2 victory. The victory was bittersweet for the men in blue and yellow, however, who lost goaltender Markus Svensson, as well as Oskar Sundqvist and Dick Axelsson to injuries.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Canada will head into the elimination round with high hopes, as the tournament favourites were able to defeat Russia 5-3 at the Winter Universiade on Saturday.

The first period started off very poorly for Canada. 12:07 into the game, Ivan Petrakov put the Russians on the board first with a quick shot that Kris Lazaruk was unable to handle. Canada would fight back with a few good scoring chances of their own before the period came to a close, but a goal with seven minutes left by Calgary Flames prospect Rushan Rafikov, who played well with Russia at the World Juniors earlier this year, gave the underdogs the 2-0 lead heading into the intermission.

Canada’s start to the second period, however, couldn’t have been any better. 27 seconds in, Kruise Reddick gave Canada their first of the game after firing one past Gleb Evdomikov, cutting Russia’s lead to one. Canada was able to eliminate Russia’s lead for the time being after Tyler Fiddler got his first of two goals just over a minute afterwards.

The final ten minutes of the second saw both teams trading goals. First, Egor Krivchenko scored on the power-play to take back the one goal lead for the Russians with 9:44 left in the second, which actually proved to be their final goal. Six minutes after, Canada’s Jesse Craige fired an absolute blast past Eydomikov for the tying marker, setting the stage for what would be a spectacular third period for Canada. Craige would strike again, scoring the game winning goal with just 33 seconds off the clock in the third. Fiddler would score a second goal five minutes later, extending the lead to 5-3 to secure the victory and first place in Group B following a 3-0 record during the preliminary round.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

The Algerian national ice hockey team is looking for your support.

According to the National Teams of Ice Hockey website, Algeria has played in just five official tournament games in their history, losing all five matches at the 2008 Arab Cup in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Since then, the team has struggled to find the funds to compete again, and has been on the sidelines ever since. Unlike in North America, the team is unable to gain funding from the government and have struggled to find the sponsorship needed to continue.

Fortunately, things look to be getting better in Algeria. The country does have a new rink, and the NHLPA has supplied equipment for kids looking to get more involved in the game. However, they still need more money as a whole to help pay for arena costs, uniforms and travel.

As a huge advocate of the international game, I suggest you help support the team. Anything helps, and if it means more countries have a chance at taking part in the game, then it shows that hockey can grow anywhere, from Algeria to Uzbekistan.

You can help support the team through their GoFundMe website here.

Jana Chytilova/HHOF-IIHF Images

Canada had no issue continuing their strong start to the Winter Universiade, capping of their 11-1 win over South Korea with a 7-0 victory over Sweden on Thursday.

Canada and Sweden usually compete in close, intense match-ups, but as the team in red and white proved on Thursday, the “home of hockey” is superior when it comes to the university game. Their first period effort was commanding, as a 23-3 shot advantage for the 2013 tournament champions got the game started on the right foot. Ten minutes into the game, former Vancouver Giant Neil Manning fired the puck past Emil Helin for the 1-0 lead.

A minute after, Canada grabbed a two goal lead on the very next shot. On the play, Chris Collins sent the puck to Kruise Reddick, who slickly sniped the shot behind Helin to double the lead.

Canada controlled the pressure for the remainder of the period, giving the Swedes very little chances at the other end. As a result, a persistent attack allowed Collins to score one of his own, roofing the puck home with 3:09 left to take the commanding 3-0 lead before the period had come to a close.

The second period saw less solid offensive chances by the Canadians, but they wouldn’t finish without securing the 4-0 lead. Just a minute after Cody Cartier rang a quick shot off the post, Elgin Pearce put Canada up by another goal just before time ran out in the third. The team had a strong third period, scoring an additional three goals and finishing the game with a 59-10 shot advantage by the end of the night, completing the game with a 7-0 win to improve to 2-0 in the tournament with a game against Russia on Saturday finishing off the preliminary round.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

The February stage of the Euro Hockey Tour will actually be split into two tournaments. From February 5th-7th, the last place Czech’s will host Russia in a two game exhibition series, while Sweden and Finland will battle it out in the land of the Tre Kronor from the 6th-8th.

Sweden, who won the Karjala Cup in early November, sits in second place overall, just two points behind Russia with 11 points. Finland is behind in third, just a single point behind their Scandinavian rivals, while the Czech’s have struggled big time, grabbing just two points in their first six games with zero wins to their credit.

To get you prepared for the next round of the Euro Hockey Tour, take a look at five players competing this week that you should keep an eye on.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

5. Martin Rucinsky, F (Czech Republic): No one is going to dispute that Rucinsky’s role is going to be very limited at this event, but after seeing Petr Nedved and Jaromir Jagr play in recent years, it will be interesting to see what another Czech grey beard can achieve. The oldest player at the tournament, Rucinsky is making his first appearance for the Czech’s in an international competition since the 2006 Winter Olympics. A first round selection by the Edmonton Oilers back in 1991, Rucinsky had 612 points in 961 games, with a career high 60 points coming in 56 games with the Montreal Canadiens back in 1995-1996. Ever since leaving the NHL behind back in 2008, Rucinsky has played in the Czech league, most recently with HC Litvínov. While not a big goal scorer, the experienced forward has proven he is still good for around 25 points a season. Not all that outstanding, but at his age, it’s sure something to keep an eye on.

rostislav-klesla
circlingthewagon.wordpress.com

4. Rostislav Klesla, D (Czech Republic): It’s not everyday we get to see Klesla suiting up for the Czech Republic. In fact, he hasn’t done so since 2007. In recent years, the former fourth overall selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2000 has gone on to have a very strange career. Last season, Klesla was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Washington Capitals a day before the trade deadline. The next day, the Capitals sent Klesla to the Buffalo Sabres in the Jaroslav Halak deal. The biggest twist, however, came when Klesla announced his retirement from the NHL after not wanting to suit up for the Sabres, and with the way they’ve been playing recently, who could blame him? The 31-year-old defenseman had 159 points and 620 penalty minutes in 659 NHL games, and while he has since become the captain of Czech league team HC Trinec, those numbers will likely remain untouched for the remainder of his career. Still, the physical blue liner is considered to be quite good in the Czech league, and with many teams bringing young guys in hopes of developing a strong national team in the future, Klesla will be able to bring a wealth of experience to the Czech’s, who sit last in the 2014-2015 EHT standings.

Pekka Rautiainen/yle.fi
Pekka Rautiainen/yle.fi

3. Petri Kontiola, F (Finland): Kontiola has had a strange season so far. The 30-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the off-season, but before even seeing a single game with the club, he was placed on unconditional waivers in mid-June. He played 12 games with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2007-08 NHL season, but really hasn’t proven himself to be a full-time NHLer just yet. However, Kontiola seems to always be a lethal threat when he puts on the blue and white threads from Finland. Kontiola has grabbed three medals in IIHF competitions in the past, including a bronze at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, but his greatest individual performance came at the 2013 World Championships. During that event, Kontiola was named the top forward after recording 16 points in 10 games for Finland, beating out the likes of Paul Stastny, Ilya Kovalchuk and Steven Stamkos when it was all said and done. Kontiola has 26 points in previous EHT competition, so, despite Kontiola’s failed attempts at an NHL career, expect to see some scoring out of Mr. 26.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

2. Ilya Sorokin, G (Russia): It wasn’t all that long ago that Sorokin was in the spotlight. The New York Islanders prospect recently represented the Russians at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Canada, leading his team to a silver medal after a heart breaker against the hometown team in the finals. Currently in his third KHL season, Sorokin has split time with Rafael Khakimov as the starting goalie of Metallurg Novokuznetsk this year. Sorokin has shown himself to have an ability to play against tough competition, showing that with 32 games of KHL experience before getting drafted by the Islanders, so this will be just another good test for the 19-year-old puckstopper. He has already seen action with the Russian national team at the EHT this year, suiting up at the Karjala Cup earlier this year, so he’s no stranger to the event. Sorokin will likely see some valuable time on a team that’s focusing almost solely on prospects this year, and with Igor Shestyorkin and Maxim Tretiak also named to the roster, it’s no secret that Russia has a lot of good options with their final line of defense.

Bildbyrån/aftonbladet.se
Bildbyrån/aftonbladet.se

1. Patrik Hersley, D (Sweden): Remember Patrik Hersley? Yeah, if you’re a North American, probably not. Hersley was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fifth round at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, but despite getting traded to the Philadelphia Flyers and later the Nashville Predators, the Swedish blue liner never actually saw time in the NHL. So does it surprise you that the very offensive defenseman is currently tied for first in EHT scoring this year with eight points? Kind of like Kontiola, Hersley seems to do great everywhere but the NHL, as proved by his award as the best defenseman in the SHL during the 2013–14 season. His 15 goals this season are good enough to lead the KHL in goals by a defenseman this year, so it also should come to no surprise that he’s received attention from the NHL this year, most notably the Edmonton Oilers.  Hersley has a chance to secure the tournament scoring lead this weekend, and if all goes well, he could impress scouts enough to earn him another chance in North America.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

0

It looked like a lost effort for Lulea in the first ever Champions Hockey League finals on Tuesday, but an incredible third period allowed the Swedish league team to come out on top and defeat Frolunda 4-2 for the tournament championship.

Frolunda only required 18 seconds to score the first goal of the match. Lulea’s Joel Lassinantti originally made a save on Montreal Canadiens prospect Artturi Lehkonen’s shot, but he kicked the puck right to Joel Lundqvist, allowing the brother of New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist an easy shot into the back of the net.

Lassinantti’s poor rebound control would come to bit him again near the end of the first, but it wasn’t the only reason that Frolunda finished with a 2-0 lead at the end of the period. Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Andreas Johnsson had the inital shot on net, firing one from the Skoda faceoff circle to the right of the Lulea netminder, who kicked it right off to Mathis Olimb for the goal. Olimb has been dynamite all season long, leading the tournament in points with 25 points before the finals commenced. He was left all alone in front of the net, so it may leave people to believe Lulea’s defensive breakdown was created due to the fact that Olimb, wearing a jersey that was red on the back instead of the usual white due to being the top scorer, meant that Lulea, wearing all red, may haven’t noticed him right away.

The visiting Indians had a plethora of great scoring chances during the second, but Lassinantti stood tall. Lehkonen had a few good scoring chances of his own, while Emil Sylvegard hit the post on a solid chance up close. Lassinantti may have struggled in the first period, but if it wasn’t for him making over 20 saves in the second, the game would have been over fairly quickly.

The third period saw the game completely change. Seven minutes into the final frame, Cam Abbott saucered the puck to Kristian Nakyva, who somehow got the puck over the glove of Linus Fernstrom and in for the 2-1 goal.

A minute later, things officially got crazy. Oscar Fantenberg was given a game misconduct after checking Lulea’s Karl Fabricius in the head, taking both of them out of the contest. On the ensuing power-play, Peter Cehlarik picked up a pass from Marcus Fageruud before firing the puck home from the right face-off circle.

Fernstrom had played well for the majority of the game, but some bad penalties by the team in front of him, as well as some regrettable mistakes in the crease allowed Lulea to take over the lead. The hometown team managed to get their first lead of the game with seven minutes to go when Jan Sandstrom’s shot was tipped by Johan Forsberg, who gave fans their first real chance to erupt. An additional empty netter by Dean Kukan with 1:34 to go in the contest sealed the deal for Lulea, making them the first European hockey champions after an incredible comeback in the third.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Canada put on quite the performance to start off their 2015 Winter Universiade adventure, defeating South Korea by a score of 11-1 on Tuesday.

The first period couldn’t be more one-sided in terms of shots, but goal wise, it would end up all tied at one. The Canadians managed to take 25 shots in the first period alone, but Elgin Pearce’s goal 12 minutes in proved to be the only one they could put past Jangwoo Bae in the first 20. The Koreans, however, were able to score on one of their three shots in the first, Geonhee Han’s blast from the point with 24 seconds left in the first proved to be Korea’s only goal of the contest.

The first period was the only period of the game that wasn’t a total blowout. T.J. Foster got the ball rolling in the second, giving Canada their first of three goals in the first half of the second alone. The game was surely put out of reach in the third, when a hat-trick from Kevin King and two goals from Cody Cartier helped cap off the successful 11-1 victory to start off the tournament.

The Canadians have always been strong when some of the CIS best take to the ice against other strong University-central teams. In 14 all-time appearances at the Universiade tourney, the Canucks have tallied an impressive 13 medals, including a gold at the most recent event back in 2013. They’ll take to the ice again against Sweden on February 5th and later again against Russia February 7th before the medal round begins Feb. 11.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

The first game of the 2015 Winter Universiade was a close one between two Asian rivals, as a late goal by Kazakhstan with two minutes to go ended up being the winner in a 3-2 victory over Japan.

It would take until the second period for the Japanese to begin the scoring. Chuo University’s Makuru Furuhashi got the ball rolling three minutes into the period with a shot that beat Mikhail Smolnikov for the 1-0 goal. Furuhashi is considered to be one of the best young Japanese prospects, and after recording 17 points in four U20 Challenge Cup of Asia games back in 2012, there is no question why. 

The lead wouldn’t hold on for long, however. Renat Safin tied the game up at one for Kazakhstan after converting a pass from Vyacheslav Fedossenko into a nice goal in close. A bit more pressure would allow the Kazakhs to take the lead before the end of the second period as a late marker by German Nesterov gave the boys in blue the one goal advantage heading into the final break.

The third period featured a very close second half. With six minutes left, Japan’s Hikaru Satoh gave the Kazakh’s a big scare by tying the game up at two. Kazakhstan was desperate to battle back and eventually, a goal by Ilya Kovzalov with two minutes to go sealed the deal for the pre-game favourites. 

The opening game by the Japanese proved to be a good one, even if the game resulted in a loss. At the most recent Universiade, back in 2013, Japan’s effort resulted in an 11th place finish, defeating Great Britain by a score of 7-2 in the last place game. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, lost 6-2 to Canada at the gold medal game last year, resulting in their fourth tournament medal since the event first began back in 1962.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

By now, you’ve likely heard that the NHL will be hosting their own international tournament again, the World Cup of Hockey. Among the teams will be a roster comprised of the best European players that don’t have teams in the tournament, known simply now as the European All-Star Select team. Team Europe has some interesting options to work with, and while there is always the chance some key players could say no out of respect for their country down the road, it’s never too early to take a look at who could participate when the puck drops in October of 2016.

Like last time, the team will is based on if the team was picked today. The 14 forwards listed below may all be decent choices today, but down the road, it could be totally different. But that’s just part of the fun.

Check out the first part of Team Europe’s preview here.

Michael Grabner (AUS) – Anze Kopitar (SLO) – Thomas Vanek (AUS)

a5373052b85b280cac6cac9db4395c9d_crop_exactAnalysis: This line, featuring three players from two non-traditional hockey markets, could prove to be one of the most talented. Both Vanek and Grabner have played together before in international events, with the 2014 Olympics being the most recent example. The pair are longtime staples of the Austrian team, and likely the two best hockey players to come out of Austria all-time. Vanek, a scoring superstar who recently joined the Minnesota Wild, is a natural scoring winger that can almost guarantee at least 50 points a season. Yes, Vanek was almost non-existent during the Olympics, but with nearly 600 career points in the NHL and over a point-per-game in World Championship competition, Vanek has the ability to be a big offensive leader on this team.

Grabner is quite the underrated goal scorer. A former first rounder, Grabner had five goals at the 2014 Olympics, finishing the tournament with the most in that category. This year, however, has been a tough one for the New York Islanders scoring star. The team has had an incredible season, and once Grabner, who had sports hernia surgery just before the start of the season, gets back into his rhythm, the Islanders will get a huge boost from the speedy scoring winger.

Everybody knows that Kopitar is the greatest player to come from Kopenia Slovenia. That’s not a major accomplishment, considering Jan Mursak and Greg Kuznik, the other two Slovenians, have just four points combined (all from Mursak), but his pure skill is good enough to make him one of the NHL’s top players. Pair them with two of Slovenia’s biggest rivals from Austria and you should have a very skilled line with the ability to put up big numbers. The biggest question: can they stay consistent?

Tomas Tatar (SVK) – Marián Gáborík (SVK) – Marián Hossa (SVK)

HossaGaborikDLAnalysis: This trio of Slovakian stars represent the present and future of hockey in the country. For Hossa, the 36-year-old winger has a ton of skill and has the ability to put many pucks in the net. However, his production has declined ever since his 77 point campaign back in 2011–12. One of just five players included in my prediction that played in the 2004 World Cup, Hossa has never won any international hockey tournaments during his career, but has two Stanley Cup’s to his credit.

Standing beside Hossa is his good old pal Marian Gaborik. These two know a thing or two about playing together, having done so at various World Championship and Olympic events. Like Hossa, Gaborik’s best days are surely behind him, but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have a lot left to offer. His health is always a question mark, but when he’s good to go, he’s easily one of the best players on the ice every single night. A two time bronze medalist in international competition, Gaborik has over 40 points in men’s tournaments and his explosive speed makes him a lethal threat every shift. If he can hold up, expect him to be a valuable scoring option for the Europeans.

And then there’s Tatar. You’ve probably heard of him, right? He’s kind of a big deal right now. Currently in his second NHL season, Tatar could grab 60 points by the time the season concludes. Named one of the NHL’s three stars twice this season, Tatar has scored pretty much everywhere he’s gone. At the recent World Championships, Tatar finished the tournament as Slovakia’s second-leading scorer, recording four goals and four assists in seven games.  The 2012-13 AHL playoff MVP should continue to be a great goal scorer at the NHL level and once Pavel Datyuk and Henrik Zetterberg finally call it quits, it will be time for Tatar to take over and become a true star.

Mikkel Boedker (DEN) – Zemgus Girgensons (LAT) – Mats Zuccarello (NOR)

Hockey - Russia vs DenmarkAnalysis: At 25 years of age, Boedker, a seven-year NHL pro, is the most experienced player on this line. Boedker’s career started off very slow after getting rushed into the NHL at the age of 18, and after splitting two seasons between the NHL and AHL, it looked as though his career may not be what the Coyotes were looking for. Fortunately, the Danish star’s career is definitely on the upswing, as the speedy winger could come close to matching his personal-high 51 points last year. However, a spleen issue in mid-January means that the Arizona forward is going to be on the shelf for a considerable amount of time, making it tough for him to achieve that success. Boedker does have the traits to become a very valuable player at some point, and if he can stay healthy, expect him to explode offensively soon enough.

If you didn’t know who the heck Girgensons was before this season, you do now. A well-rounded two-way center, Girgensons was voted in the NHL All-Star game despite not being anywhere the near the top of the scoring charts.  Currently tied for second in scoring on a terrible Buffalo squad, Girgensons has already surpassed his rookie season effort of 22 points with very little talent surrounding him. It will be interesting to see what he can do with other talented youngsters, and with two solid options like Zuccarello and Boedker surrounding him, he could be a solid underrated option for the European squad.

Speaking of Zuccarello, talk about a player who doesn’t get enough credit around the league. Another small, speedy winger (which this team has a lot of), the New York Rangers winger put up 59 points last year in his first full NHL season and could very well beat that this time around. He scores everywhere he plays, so, being one of the greatest players from Norway of all time, he’ll be the only representative on the squad. Will his career continue to rise like it has over the past two years, making him a very talented bottom scoring option for Europe?

Nino Niederreiter (SUI) – Frans Nielsen (DEN) – Nikolaj Ehlers (DEN) (Extras: Jannik Hansen (DEN) Tomas Jurco (SVK))

Nino+Niederreiter+Ice+Hockey+Winter+Olympics+Z75oTFL42gMlAnalysis: Niederreiter is famous for helping the Swiss team to an upset of the Russians by scoring two goals in a 3–2 victory over the Russians at the 2010 World Juniors. It took him a while to make an impact at the NHL level but after a less-than-stellar stint with the New York Islanders, Niederreiter has really come into his own with the Minnesota Wild. He’s shooting a lot, he’s scoring and he does that all in a third line role. His ability to win faceoffs (if needed), throw hits and score on the same play makes him a valuable option to move around on the roster. He’s one of the few power forwards on this squad, so if he does indeed make it, he’ll be key when the game are close and need some help all over the ice.

It took Nielsen a while to really shine with the New York Islanders, but Niederreiter’s former teammate is becoming a very good hockey player these days. After a 58 point effort last year, Nielsen could get close to that this year while acting as a third line centre for the strong Long Island club. The skilled two-way center seems to always make his linemates better in the offensive zone, and playing with a familiar winger like El Nino should add to that point.

Yes, Nikolaj Ehlers hasn’t exactly cracked the NHL just yet, but it’s hard to leave off one of the top prospects in the league right now. Ehlers, a ninth overall selection by the Winnipeg Jets last year, was an absolute stud at the World Junior A Challenge in early December, leading the tournament in points after helping Denmark to the silver medal. He followed that up by a great performance at the 2015 World Juniors as the Danes earned a spot in the quarter-finals for the first time ever at the top division of the tournament. Ehlers is an elite player that should crack the Jets in due time, but for now, he’ll continue to a dominant force in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

After a one year break, China will return to Division IIB for the 2016 World Juniors after defeating New Zealand on Sunday for the tournament championship.

The task was simple: win and you’re in. For both competitors, a victory would mean advancement, but after heading to the finals with a perfect 3-0 record, including a 13-0 win over South Africa in their previous game, the odds were laying in the hands of the pre-tournament favourites. Frazer Ellis had New Zealand’s only goal in the final match, but Qing Liu led the way with two goals from the point to help the Chinese win 4-1, securing gold.

With the victory, China will replace Iceland in Division IIB for the 2016 edition of the tournament. It all signifies the end of the World Junior hockey season, with all division of the U20 event officially completed. For news from every single event, click here.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman finally spilled the beans on Saturday, announcing that the World Cup of Hockey will return in September 2016 in Toronto, Canada with an eight team system.

The first World Cup since 2004, the tournament will consist of Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic and Finland. They’ll be joined a team featuring the best European players not competing in the tournament, as well as an U23 team of North American players.

The European team will be allowed to take players from Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Belarus, Estonia, Slovenia, Kazakhstan and Lithuania, among others. As of now, it has yet to be announced as to who will manage the team.

The eight teams will be divided into two Groups of four, with each team playing three games before the quarter-final begin.  For the most part, the tournament will follow IIHF format rules, but on-ice regulations are still to be decided by the NHL and IIHF.

The tournament has been on a hiatus for the past ten years. The last World Cup was also held in Toronto, with Canada defeating Finland 3-2 in the tournament final at the Air Canada Centre. The expectation would be that the tournament would once again be played prior to the NHL season, as the last installment took place from August 30th-September 14th, 2004.

All official tournament games will be played at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto from September 17 – October 1, 2016.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

In a game against the best and the worst, China come out on top with an easy 13-0 victory over South Africa on Friday.

The game was over just 45 seconds in. Hang Li, who has been one of the best players all tournament for the Chinese, scored on an individual effort after catching the South African defense snoozing. South Africa would survive for another five minutes, keeping the puck away from the net for the most part, until Zesen Zhang fired it past Aslam Khan for the 2-0 lead. That was just the start of the onslaught, as China finished the first period with a whopping 5-0 lead after taking just 12 shots. The team followed that period up with two goals in the second and an additional six in the third, securing the massive 13-0 win, the biggest of the tournament.

The biggest blow for China came near the end of the game. Qing Liu, who padded his goal scoring lead to six after a hat-trick today, was given a five and a 20 after a checking from behind penalty. As a result of the game misconduct, he will have to miss the remainder of the tournament, but with just one game on the schedule left, it’s not a major loss. The championship could come down to the final game against China and New Zealand on Sunday, assuming New Zealand has no issue with the win less Turkey team on Saturday.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Turkey was no match for China at the Division III World Juniors on Wednesday, taking just 10 shots in an eventual 6-1 loss on Thursday.

Nobody expected a different result, but with the first period ending in a tie, their may have been a few surprised people in the crowd of 75 in New Zealand. Hang Li got the game started nine minutes into the battle, tipping a shot by Xinhao Yue from the point to secure the 1-0 lead early on.

The lead wouldn’t last for long, however. Berk Ustun matched the score for Turkey after capitalizing on the power-play with China’s Hengnan Lu in the box for unsportsmanlike.

Yongshen Liu was China’s best player throughout, and his great game all began with the game winning goal in the second. Three minutes into the period, Liu took a pass from Li in close and one-timed it past Muhammed Karagul, giving China the 2-1 lead.  The only goal of the second period proved to be the game winner, as Liu would complete the hat-trick in the third on top of Qing Liu’s two markers to finish off the 6-1 victory.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Turkey’s first game of the contest ended on a sour note, dropping a 3-1 loss to South Africa.

Just 1:25 into the match. South Africa had their first lead of the tournament. After losing 5-1 to New Zealand on Monday, a second loss would be tough to overcome, but Keegan Thornton’s goal early on gave the team some life early on. The lead looked like it was almost sealed after the first period, but a shorthanded marker by Doğu Bingol with 21 seconds to go tied it up at one apiece.

The second period saw a lot of special teams action. South Africa, for one, took 12 of their 14 penalties in the middle frame alone. Turkey was unable to create many scoring chances, however, and with six seconds to go in the period, South Africa’s Brandon Husselman scored the only goal of the period on the breakaway to give his team the lead and victory. Thornton added a second goal with seven minutes left to help seal the deal, finishing off the 3-1 South Africa victory in style.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Two goals early in the contest was all it took for New Zealand to defeat South Africa, eventually winning 5-1 to start off the tournament strong.

Just before the period was seven minutes old, Callaum Burns excited the 250 people in attendance with the first goal of the game, defeating Marcello Strydom to make it 1-0 early. Five minutes later, Maxwell Macharg gave Benedict Roth his second assist of the game when he converted on a goal in close to secure the victory before the first period had come to a close.

Two minutes into the second, South Africa capitalized with the extra man to end Liam Henare’s shutout bid. Dylan Compton took advantage of Thomas Carson-Pratt’s interference call 10 seconds earlier with a nice shot to make it 2-1. The goal was rendered useless with four minutes remaining in the period as Roth, who was named the best player at the end of the game, took an incredible shot from the point to make it 3-1 Kiwis. Roth would record another point on Joseph Orr’s goal in the third and a fifth goal was scored by Tayler Kennedy with nine minutes to go in the third to help finish off the victory.

New Zealand will have the day off tomorrow before battling Mexico on Thursday at 1am EST. South Africa will be back in action on Wednesday, taking on Turkey, who has yet to play, at 1am EST as well.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.