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Just one of the many spreadsheets provided on Metcalf’s ExtraSkater.com

The game of hockey is in a state of change. Traditional scouting, while still strong and respected in the ranks of the National Hockey League, is slowly beginning to take a backseat to the analytics and data tracking that has begun in the sport. NHL teams are taking a closer look at their budgets and pushing the entire game towards a new generation of specific data tracking and player analysis. For the first NHL organizations to spend their budgets on different methods of both human and video tracking, hockey analytics has held a treasure chest of information that the less-analytically inclined teams simply don’t have access to. With the money that these organizations have, they’re able to utilize their multiple scouts, as well as upcoming video analysis programs such as SportVU, to identify the best statistics to judge and predict player and team success. However, outside of an NHL Gamecenter subscription, a notepad, and a pen, the casual fan simply does not have access to advanced scouting or data tracking. That’s where Darryl Metcalf, and many others who make up the online #fancystats providers, come into play. Providing anyone with an Internet connection access to some of the advanced statistics used by multiple NHL teams, sites like Metcalf’s Extraskater.com, which provides both raw numbers and informative graphs on these statistics, have became popular reference points among the more informed hockey fanbase over the last few NHL seasons. Metcalf was kind enough to answer some questions for The Hockey House recently, and his answers shed some light on the origins of what is now one of the most useful hockey sites on the web, Extra Skater.

Like many hockey analytics fans, Metcalf began his interest in hockey advanced stats as a fan of both baseball and hockey, and was influenced by the success of Sabermetrics in baseball: “I wanted to better understand the game. I’m also a baseball fan and the impact and visibility of stats there probably helped push me towards the ‘advanced’ side of hockey stats… I think we can look to baseball to get a good sense of hockey’s future. More and more teams will buy in to advanced stats (some publicly), there will be better resources available and deeper analysis done, but there will probably still be a few teams and/or media types that reject the concept.” While hockey analytics have not yet reached the level that Sabermetrics have in baseball, where they are considered important among almost all levels of fans and management, people like Metcalf and hockey sites like Extra Skater are one of the largest influences pushing the casual fanbase towards new discoveries in the sport of hockey. “Stats can help us get a deeper understanding of the game. And they’re pretty basic stuff, too.” Extra Skater acts as a collection of different hockey statistics, gathered over the NHL season from many sources, but it wasn’t simply on a whim that Metcalf designed the site. “Extra Skater has slowly come together over a few years. It’s still a work in progress. At first I gathered stats from some of the great sites that were already out there like Behind the Net [www.behindthenet.ca]. Then I wanted more control so I started collecting data myself in spreadsheets. Then I figured other people might want the same sort of thing, so I started putting together what would become Extra Skater.” Extra Skater is credited by many notable members of the hockey media for its creative, easily-understood graphics, such as the win expectancy charts available on each and every game page, which calculate the chance of a certain team winning their game, updating continually as the game is played live. Along with this, Extra Skater’s player

A win expectancy chart on Extra Skater, this one of Game 7 between Toronto and Boston in the 2013 Conference Quarter-Finals
usage charts shine light on coaching decisions and player effectiveness across the league, and allow even the most casual of fans to analyze both coach and player talent on any NHL team. The easy-to-use interface along with user-friendly charts and graphs have made Extra Skater one of the most popular hockey data sites over the past year, and with a growing interest in advanced stats, it doesn’t appear the site’s popularity will be slowing down anytime.

While hard work has gone into advanced stats since the mid-2000s (estimated) when many originated, they have not been as notable as they are this year. One reason for this may be the recent collapse of a team with hockey’s largest fanbase, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs re-invented the essence of brutal defensive play this year, and although they managed to keep a playoff spot for three-fourths of the year, they eventually fell out in the last 20 games. While this was a giant blow for the Leaf fanbase, especially after the prior year’s playoff collapse, the advanced stats community nearly rejoiced in the team’s failure. After a successful, albeit short, 2012-13 season, analytics experts predicted the Leafs downfall based on poor possession play, unsustainably high shooting percentages, and terrible coaching, and boy, the Leafs did not disappoint. Finishing the season with an almost impossibly horrible four points in fourteen games (a 2-12-0 record), the Leafs did what many predicted (while still outplaying their original expectations) and fell apart. With a massive fanbase spreading outside the borders of Ontario, this predicted collapse likely dragged a few previously-skeptical minds into the world of analytics. “Every year there’s a team or two that advanced stats guys point out early will crash and/or take off based on their underlying numbers, and they get a lot right. Some fans of those teams that are initially skeptical buy in after seeing how things turn out.

James Mirtle, a prominent hockey journalist, utilizes Extra Skater often in his tweets.
In this sense the Leafs’ huge fan base probably had some effect on general knowledge,” Metcalf stated when asked about the potential effects that this years collapse had on advanced stats knowledge. However, it’s important not only to credit this increase in knowledge to what happens on the ice, but what’s written in the mainstream media articles that many fans read on a daily basis. “Having a Leafs reporter who uses stats regularly in James Mirtle probably helped too.” Metcalf is rarely, if ever, incorrect on this topic, and he nails it on the head there. Becoming one of Hockey Twitter’s most popular mainstream writers this season, Mirtle’s use of advanced stats have further vaulted these statistics into the mainstream, and his common use of Extra Skater tables in his tweets have added to the site’s growing fanbase.

It’s easy to credit the growing popularity of analytics or an increased use in mainstream media for Extra Skater’s success, but none of it would have happened without the man behind the site. What was originally a simple idea to share more stats with fans has turned into a well-run, visually appealing site that hosts over 100 unique statistics, a vast majority of which cannot be find on a traditional site such as NHL.com. “There’s a bunch of player stat upgrades on the way: more stats, more ways to slice them, more ways to sort, etc.” Some of these have already been introduced since our interview, with new reports published and an additional 51 statistics added to the site, including more ways to sort stats by situation, and an important set-up passes stat created by Rob Vollman of Hockey Abstract. Extra Skater, once hosting around 25-30 unique statistics, has grown exponentially in the new year, branching into many new areas of statistics that will drastically increase our knowledge of the game fans love. And if Extra Skater faces some competition from a mainstream site such as NHL.com, Metcalf isn’t worried. “If anything, that’ll be a huge driver of general interest. MLB.com has come a long way over the years but people still use FanGraphs.”

Extra Skater will continue to grow, as Metcalf says, and so will the advanced stats community, and the usage of hockey analytics in the front offices of NHL teams. This is truly only the beginning of the stats movement in hockey, and as Metcalf puts it, “what we’re doing today is really just an evolution of Roger Neilson’s approach to the game where he watched, tracked, and analyzed as much as he could.” The introduction of video analysis to the NHL will come soon, and will likely provide teams with more data than they can currently even dream of. When these new statistics become publically available, Extra Skater could find itself bookmarked in every fans browser as an essential part of judging player talent.

A full transcript of the interview with Metcalf can be found here. You can find him on Twitter here: @ExtraSkater.

Follow me on Twitter @CurtisMMorrison.

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Photo: Robert Krůza
Photo: Robert Krůza

According to Slovak reports, defenseman Jozef Salajka has passed away as a result of a motorcycle accident.

Salajka most recently played with HC Dukla Senica in a second tier league in Slovakia. He would see action in both the top league, as well as the third tier league in Slovakia, but would spend most of his time in the Slovakia2 with over 300 games to his credit. After years of playing in the S2 and S3, he finally found himself playing in the top Slovak league this year, playing a five game stint with MsHK Zilina.

Salajka was going to be 31 years old on May 30th. He will be missed.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

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DAB Docler may have come in as the favorite to win their third straight MOL Liga championship in 2014, but that wouldn’t end up being the case as Nové Zámky took home the 2014 league title last Thursday.

To take home the championship, the Slovak based club would need to face the mighty Corona Brasov Wolves in a best of seven final. After taking home the first two games thanks to 4-3 and 3-2 victories, Zámky would drop the third match 6-3. The Wolves had a bit of life heading into the fourth contest, but a narrow 6-5 victory for Nové Zámky resulted in a do or die situation for the remainder of the finals. The Wolves managed to take home game five by a score of 3-2, forcing game six. Unfortunately for the Romanian based club, a goal by Peter Polcik in the early stages of the second period was all it took for Nové Zámky, who’s 4-1 win gave the club it’s first ever MOL Liga championship.

Nové Zámky was originally formed in 1965 and competed in the second division of Slovak hockey for a big majority of it’s lifespan. Goaltender Jan Chovan was the only player on the squad to win an individual award, snagging the top goaltender honour after posting a 2.88 GAA and .921 SP in 37 contests.

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Photo by Shawn Muir / OJHL Images
Photo by Shawn Muir / OJHL Images

My name is Kim Kelly, and I would like to ask for your support today in my journey to Cross Provinces to Cross Out Cancer.

On June 2, 2014 I will undertake a challenging personal adventure. I have committed to cycling by myself across 5 provinces from Burlington, Ontario to Charlottetown, PEI, all in ONE MONTH. My ride will take me 2,900 km through cities, towns, college and university campuses  across Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI all while pulling a large, sign that says CANCER with a big red X through it. My goal is to cross Canada’s eastern provinces and help cross out cancer!

Here’s a little bit about me. I am physically fit, 50 years young , have been happily married for 25 years and have 2 beautiful daughters. I have worked for Halton Regional Police Service as a uniformed civilian for 9 the past years. I have several family and close friends who have been  diagnosed with cancer at an early age. Some have fought the battle and won, while others have lost the fight. My goal is to bring awareness to this important cause that has touched the lives of so many of us and help raise funds for research and treatment. My ride is dedicated to  them, and to all the others who have been affected by this dreaded disease.

All of the funds raised through my journey will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society, a national organization whose mandate is to eradicate the spread of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer through prevention and research.

If we all work together, we can CROSS OUT CANCER!! You can support me liking me on Facebook, sponsoring my ride, making a donation, or attending a fundraiser in our community.

I hope I can count on your support so we can help fight this disease that has affected so many of us.

Sincerely,

Kim

 

You can check out Kim’s website here.

For many fans of the British game, any link to the top is a cause to celebrate.

Whether it was the arrival of Theo Fleury in Belfast or David Ling in Nottingham, or Owen Nolan’s birth in Belfast; every thread that links the British game to the NHL is talked about.

Some players, like Fleury, former Bracknell stopper and current Chicago Blackhawks Director of Hockey Administration Mark Bernard, or current Detroit coach Mike Babcock, are remembered with great fondness by British fans.

One man’s playing career brought him to the British Hockey League, but his coaching career took him all the way to the top – former Paisley goaltender David Rook.

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If you are easily squeamish to gruesome injuries, be warned: There is a graphic image below.

Sebastien Courcelles, a centreman for the LNAH’s Thetford Mines Isothermic, was on the receiving end of one of the scariest accidents you will ever see at a hockey game. The Isothermic captain, who’s known to rack up penalty minutes in the Quebec based league, was deeply cut on the left cheek by a skate and would be rushed to the hospital immediately.

When you first see the picture below, thoughts of what happened to Clint Malarchuk and Richard Zednik quickly come racing back to mind. While it wasn’t as horrendous as getting cut in the neck with a skate, the end result for Courcelles is still horrifying, and as you can see, it turned out to be a very wide and deep gash.

The Journal de Quebec had a little more information on the incident, saying that it wasn’t known “whether sufficient stitches to close the wound or if surgery would be necessary”, but you got to imagine that stitches won’t do the trick.

Courcelles, who recorded 197 points and 780 PIM in 332 career QMJHL contests, was nearing a point per game this season with Thetford, posting 14 points and 104 PIM in 16 games this season. Overall, the forward has 337 points and 969 points in 304 LNAH games, proving that he can both score and punch with ease in the low level Quebec league.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

 

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The Georgian Ice Hockey Federation have re-elected board members Nugzar Paikidze, Zakaria Khechuashvili, Alexander Vashakidze, Ilia Davidov and Mamuka Shergilashvili. Additionally, the board elected President (Mr. Nugzar Paikidze), Vice-President (Zakaria Khechuashvili) and General Secretary (Mr. Alexander Vashakidze) to the Federation.

Georgia, who has an all time 2-10 record at IIHF events, will join the Division III World Hockey Championships, the sixth and lowest men’s level after getting re-admitted into the IIHF this year. Georgia returned to international play in 2010 where they played two friendly games in Yerevan, Armenia against South Africa and Armenia, losing both games 8–1 and 22–1 respectively. Georgia’s only participation in official IIHF competition, however, was last season when they played in the Division III qualifications in Abu Dhabi, losing all three games to UAE, Greece and Mongolia.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

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Gallo Images/Getty Images Europe
Gallo Images/Getty Images Europe

The Pretoria Capitals have won the 2013 South African Interclub Championship following a 5-3 victory over the Cape Town Storm.

The Capitals won the round robin preceding Cape town Storm and Johannesburg Wildcats. Cameron Birrell, arguably the best player to ever compete in South Africa, was the top scorer with 11 goals and two assists. Capitals goalie Marcello Strydom was awarded top goaltender following three wins and a 4.25 GAA in four matches.

Back in April, South Africa won the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III on home ice to earn a place back in Division II Group B.  The South African men’s team is currently ranked 41st in the 2013 IIHF World Rankings.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Georgia, who has an all time 2-10 record at IIHF events, will join the Division III World Hockey Championships, the sixth and lowest men’s level after getting re-admitted into the IIHF.

To get re-admitted, the IIHF had to detirmine whether or not the country had enough of the minimal requirements to compete at a high enough level. For this to happen, there had to be at least one regulation sized rink in Georgia, and after consideration by the IIHF, Georgia’s arena met the requirements required to compete.

Georgia, representing the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, played its first game in 1962 during the Winter Spartakiad which was held in Sverdlovsk,USSR. Georgia played eight games winning their games against the Kirghiz SSR and Armenian SSR, while losing the remaining games to Leningrad, the Lithuanian SSR, Kazakh SSR, Estonian SSR and the Latvian SSR. Georgia returned to international play in 2010 where they played two friendly games in Yerevan, Armenia against South Africa and Armenia, losing both games 8–1 and 22–1 respectively. Georgia’s only participation in official IIHF competition, however, was last season when they played in the Division III qualifications in Abu Dhabi, losing all three games to UAE, Greece and Mongolia.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Czech Republic team HC Kladno have officially signed two former NHLers in defenseman Tomas Kaberle and forward Jan Hlavac.

The Montreal Canadiens bought out Kaberle earlier this season after spending much of the campaign as a healthy scratch. The 35-year-old had one year and $4.5 million US left on his three-year contract that carried a cap hit of $4.25 million. Kaberle began his professional career with Kladno in the 1994-1995 season, when he only took part in 4 games, tallying 1 assist and a -6 rating. The following year, Tomas appeared in 23 games, where he again put up 1 assist but had 2PIM. He did not register a point or penalty during the 2-playoff games he was in. Regardless, Kaberle did enough to be noticed by a NHL team. In the 8th round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Kaberle at 204th overall. He would then play two more seasons with Kladno with a stop in North America with the St. John’s Maple Leafs for 2 games. He would later go on to play with Toronto, Boston and Carolina before landing in Montreal, which he spent mainly as an extra defenseman.

Hlaváč has played in the NHL for the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators. He scored 19 goals and 42 points in 1999–2000, his rookie season, and scored a career high 28 goals and 64 points in 2000–01. During the 2004-2005 lockout, he found himself a job in his native Czech Republic, signing with Sparta Praha. He would spend time during two different stints with the club before eventually returning to the NHL for one last kick at the can with the Lightning. He was traded to the Predators before the conclusion of the season, and after not receiving a new offer, Hlaváč found himself back overseas. To date, he has already played with Kladno twice during his career, including last season, when scored 21 points in 37 games prior to signing with Swedish team Vaxjo HC.

 Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Milano Rossoblu, a team competing in Italy, have signed Springfield Falcons goaltender Paul Dainton, Abbotsford Heat forward Adam Estoclet, Las Vegas Wranglers defenseman Jamie Fritsch and Lillehammer forward Brad Schell.

Dainton has spent the past three seasons split between the AHL’s Falcons and Chicago Express, Reading Royals and Evansville Icemen of the ECHL. During his first season in 2010-2011, he played five games with the Falcons and had an impressive 2.63 goals against average to go along with a 2-2-0 record. The following season, he had a 3.11 goals against average and a 12-11-1 record in 28 games with the squad, and followed it up with a 3-5-1 record last season as Curtis McElhinney and Allen York stole the lions share of the work.

Estoclet played four seasons of NCAA college hockey with Dartmouth College scoring 103 points in 127 games. On September 13, 2011, the Grand Rapids Griffins signed Estoclet to a standard American Hockey League contract, but after 12 games, he was traded to the Abbotsford Heat. During his second professional season last year, he split time with the Heat, as well as the Utah Grizzlies, recording two points in the AHL and 39 in the ECHL.

Undrafted, he was signed by the Philadelphia Flyers on an amateur try-out contract on April 12, 2009, but would only get one game of action with the squad. Fritsch signed with the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL for the 2009–10 season and played in 48 games posting 5 points. On February 5, 2010, he was signed to a try-out with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL and appeared in 2 games. Following the season, he was traded to the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL on August 12, 2010, and played there for three years.

Schell was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 9th round (167th overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. After 23 total games split between the Chicago Wolves and the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL, he didn’t play anywhere during the 2010-2011 campaign, but did sign with Dornbirner EC in Austria2 the next season, dominating the scoring with 50 points in 27 games. Midway through the year, he got a chance in Austria’s top division, playing four games with the Graz 99ers before the season was over. This past year, Schell went on to rip up Norway, recording 64 points while spending the season with Lillehammer.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

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When the AIHL finals (Australia) are held in Melbourne on September 7th-8th, the Newcastle North Stars and Sydney Ice Dogs will hit the ice to see who will be crowned champion.

The North Stars came rocking in their semi-final game, demolishing the Canberra Knights 8-0 after five goals in the third period alone. Beau Taylor managed to record a natural hat-trick for the North Stars, scoring the second, third and fourth goal of the match.

The Ice Dogs had a slightly tougher match, defeating the Melbourne Ice 5-3. Canadian forward Simon Barg recorded two goals and one assist en route of pulling ahead in an exciting competition.

The North Stars have had success during their lifespan, recording four regular season titles, one conference championship and four overall championships. The Ice Dogs, however, are looking for their second Goodall Cup (championship), the first coming in 2004.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Latvian Federation Sports Director Mārtiņš Pagodkins announced today that Metalurgs Liepaja will sit out of any competition during the upcoming season after club funding didn’t materialize.

Metalurgs is a team based in Liepāja, Latvia that recently competed in the Belarus Open League and MHL-B. The club was founded in 1997 and has won six Latvian champion titles. In 2010, the team became an affiliate of Dinamo Riga, allowing the KHL club to call upon up to five players from the lower level pro team.

Just last year, the team competed in the IIHF Continental Cup, winning one game during Group C action after three games.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

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After taking a year off hockey, former NHL prospect Sébastien Bisaillon has signed a contract with the Briancon Red Devils in France. He had recently signed with Epinal, but it sounds like plans have changed.

An undrafted defencemen, Bisaillion is a graduate of the QMJHL’s Val-d’Or Foreurs. A creative defenceman, Bisaillon spent five seasons in Val-dOr. During his time in the QMJHL, Bisaillon opted to sign as a three-year contract as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers in September of 2006. He would spend the majority of his last year in junior with Val-d’Or, however was called up to the Edmonton Oilers once on an emergency basis. Due to a rash of injuries, Bisaillon was recalled on an emergency basis from his Junior team Val-d’Or Foreurs, and played his first game for the Oilers on March 20, 2007 against the Vancouver Canucks.

In his first two professional seasons, Bisaillon spent time between the Oilers two affiliates the Springfield Falcons of the AHL, and the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. On September 3, 2009 Bisaillon signed as a free agent for the Kassel Huskies of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga for the 2009–10 season. Due to the Huskies folding at the end of the campaign Bisaillon secured a try-out with the Montreal Canadiens for the 2010–11 season. On September 27, 2010, Bisaillon was assigned to the Canadiens AHL affiliate the Hamilton Bulldogs before being re-assigned again to the ECHL after only two games with the Dogs. After 44 games with the Wheeling Nailers, he went on to play a disappointing season with the Graz 99ers of Austria before hanging up the skates for a season.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Nathan Walker, an Australian ice hockey player currently playing for the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League, has signed a try-out contract with the Washington Capitals.

Walker, an undrafted left winger, played at the Washington Capitals development camp last season. Prior to signing with the Phantoms last year, the young forward spent six seasons as a member of the HC Vítkovice Steel franchise in the Czech Republic.

Walker first played for the Australian men’s senior team at the 2011 IIHF World Championship Division II Group A tournament which was held in Melbourne. Australia won the tournament and was promoted to Division I Group B for the 2012 World Championships. Walker finished the tournament with four goals and two assists for six points, tied for third overall. He was also recognized by the tournament coaches as the best player on the Australian team.

Walker represented Australia again at the 2012 World Championships. Playing in Division IB, Australia finished last in the group and was relegated back to Division IIA for 2013, a team he did not play for.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America

Nicola Riopel has signed with Denmark’s Frederikshavn for the upcoming season.

Riopel was selected in the 5th round, 142nd overall, of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. Riopel began the 2009–2010 season by claiming a spot in training camp with the Flyers’ top AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms. After posting a 4-6-0 record with a 3.35 GAA and a 0.893 save percentage in back-up duty to Johan Backlund, Riopel was loaned back to his Junior club, the Moncton Wildcats, to finish off the campaign.

After attending both the Philadelphia Flyers’ training camp and then the Adirondack Phantoms’ training camp, Riopel was assigned to the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL. He would later get some time with the Phantoms when Michael Leighton was sent down, but it wouldn’t be for long. Since Riopel wasn’t signed to an entry-level contract by June 1, 2011, the Flyers no longer held his NHL rights, and would sign with the Road Warriors in the summer of 2011. Prior to actually playing with the squad, however, Riopel was invited to the New York Islanders summer camp, but couldn’t make the squad. On August 9, 2012, Riopel inked a deal with the Dundee Stars of the EIHL in Scotland, posting an unimpressive 19-28-3 record.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Mike Danton, who formerly spent 62 months in jail for conspiracy to commit murder, has signed a one year deal with Kazakhstan league team Beibarys Atyrau.

Selected 135th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Danton was a left winger for the St. Louis Blues, who traded a 3rd round draft pick to New Jersey to obtain him. He played 68 games for the Blues in the 2003–04 season. While with the Devils organization, he changed his last name from Jefferson to Danton after becoming estranged from his family. He admitted he adopted the surname “Danton” from the name of a 13-year-old boy at David Frost’s hockey camp, because the name sounded “cool”. He also feuded with Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello and was suspended by the team, prompting his eventual trade to St. Louis.

On April 16, 2004, two days after the Blues were eliminated from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the San Jose Sharks, Danton was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. On July 16, 2004, he pled guilty to attempting to hire a hitman, who was actually a police dispatcher, to murder David Frost, his agent, and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William Stiehl to seven-and-a-half years in a United States federal prison. To this day, however, Frost denies that he was the target. Recently, Danton has claimed that his original target was his estranged father, Steve Jefferson.

Last season, Danton started the year with  IFK Ore, also in Divi 1, and in December signed with Orli Znojmo of the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga. On May 20, 2012, Coventry Blaze of the Elite Ice Hockey League announced the signing of Mike Danton, however his visa was denied by the UK Border Agency. Last year, Danton split time with Kramfors-Alliansen in Sweden, putting up an impressive 38 points in 22 games, and HC Banska Bystrica in Slovakia, posting 10 points in 14 matches.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

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Once an NHL prospect, Duncan Milroy now finds his next professional hockey stop in Norway, signing a deal with Vålerenga in Norway.

Milroy was drafted in the second round, 37th overall, by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. After a few seasons with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL, Milroy was recalled by the Canadiens in February 2007 and played 5 games with the team gathering 1 point (an assist). He was re-assigned to Hamilton on February 25, 2007, where he remained until the end of the 2007–08 season. Following a single season in the German league DEL with ERC Ingolstadt, Milroy returned to North America and signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Wild on July 17, 2009.

After playing the duration of the 2009–10 season with the Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, Milroy again ventured to Europe signing a one-year contract with BK Mladá Boleslav of the Czech Extraliga on September 2, 2010. With only 6 points in 20 games with Boleslav during the 2010–11 season, Milroy left the Czech league to once again sign in the DEL, this time with the Krefeld Pinguine. Milroy earned a one-year extension due to a strong postseason to remain in Krefeld on May 13, 2011. He would get 22 points in his final season with Krefeld before not getting a contract renewal at the completion of the season.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenElisNHL.

Reimer/Scrivens
The goalies will be the most speculated aspect of this Toronto Maple Leafs team. Can one of James Reimer (right) or Ben Scrivens (left) help turn this team around? Or will GM Dave Nonis need to look elsewhere?
Reimer/Scrivens
The goalies will be the most speculated aspect of this Toronto Maple Leafs team. Can one of James Reimer (right) or Ben Scrivens (left) help turn this team around? Or will GM Dave Nonis need to look elsewhere?

It’s finally here. Game day. Not just any game day, however, a Toronto Maple Leafs game day. I honestly didn’t think we would be seeing this day until the 2013-2014 season but it is actually here. The Maple Leafs will begin their 48 game season with a match-up against the Montreal Canadiens tonight (January 19th) at 7:00 p.m. in Montreal. The home opener will be Monday, January 21st against the Buffalo Sabres.

Before we preview this upcoming season, let’s take a brief  look back at the 2012-2013 season. The Maple Leafs stormed out of the gates led by the dynamic duo of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul who were both top 5 in scoring. The Leafs were even #1 in the NHL for a while and #1 in the Eastern Conference for longer. But, all good things must come to an end eventually and did they ever for the Maple Leafs as they went into a complete free-fall in 2012 and ended up finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference.

So, without further ado, let’s preview the 2013 Toronto Maple Leafs.

I’ll begin with the biggest question in Toronto for this upcoming season: goaltending.  The two goalies, at the time of writing, are James Reimer and Ben Scrivens. Obviously these two aren’t the second coming of Patrick Roy but, in my opinion, they aren’t as bad as everyone makes them out to be. Could they use a goalie like Roberto Luongo? Sure, a lot of teams could. But I’d also like to give the Reimer and Scrivens combination at least 10-15 games to see what they can do. We all know the Jame Reimer story. He came from relatively out of nowhere at the end of the 2010-2011 season and helped the Maple Leafs get back into the playoff race to ultimately fall short. Then, going into the 2011-2012 season there was much optimism among Leafs fans and while they did start off extremely well, James Reimer was injured after the 5th game of the season and never quite regained the same form. After an extended off-season, it will definitely be interesting to see how Reimer performs now that he is fully healthy.

Ben Scrivens, as most of you know, is the goalie that led the Toronto Marlies of the AHL to the Calder Cup Finals and to a strong start to this season. Scrivens went undrafted and signed with the Leafs in 2010. He started with the ECHL’s Reading Royals playing 13 games and going 10-3 with a 2.23 GAA and a .938 SV%. Scrivens quickly ascended to the Marlies starting goalie after James Reimer got called up to the NHL. In 33 games with the Marlies in 2010-2011, Scrivens went 13-12-5 with a 2.33 GAA and .924 SV% in his first professional season. Scrivens went into the next season as the starting goalie for the Marlies and performed extremely well, in 39 games Scrivens was 22-15-1 with a 2.04 GAA and a .926 SV%. He was even better in the playoffs going 11-6 with a stellar 1.92 GAA and .935 SV%. Scrivens also spent time in the NHL after Reimer got injured, going 4-5-2 in 11 games and a 3.13 GAA and .902 SV%. So far this season for the Marlies, Scrivens has been pretty darn good as well, going 14-7-1 and posting a 2.22 GAA and .917 SV% helping the Marlies to #3 in the West and 1st in their division. I would like to see Scrivens, since he’s had the better training camp, start the first game against Montreal and have Reimer start the home opener then go from there.

Another aspect of the Leafs fans are going to keep a close eye on is the defense. With 9 defensemen on the roster (Jake Gardiner is on the injured reserve, so 8 healthy), it will make for some interesting defensive pairings. Two of the surprises to make the team on defense are Mike Kostka and Mark Fraser. For Kostka, this will be his first stint in the NHL for a regular season at age 27. Kostka, like Scrivens, also went undrafted. He had 34 points (6-28) in 34 games this season for the Toronto Marlies and was selected to the AHL All-Star game. Fraser was acquired at the trade deadline last season for forward Dale Mitchell from the Anaheim Ducks. Fraser isn’t lie Kostka in that he is more physical and will fight and not get a lot of points. One thing Fraser does have is NHL experience. He has played a career 98 games in the NHL, all with the New Jersey Devils, with a total of 8 points (3-5) and 86 penalty minutes. For the Marlies this season, Fraser has 5 points (2-3) and 114 penalty minutes in 30 games. Another defensive-defenseman to make the Maple Leafs from the Marlies is German-born Korbinian Holzer. Taken in the 4th round by the Maple Leafs in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Holzer was expected to be the 7th defenseman for the Maple Leafs this upcoming season. But with the injury to Jake Gardiner and the play of Mike Kostka, it’s unlikely Holzer will play on opening night.

The rest of the defense was all on the team last season and is led by captain Dion Phaneuf who is looking to build on his 44 point (12-32)  season and will continue to log the tough minutes against opposing teams top lines. His defensive partner last season, Carl Gunnarsson also had a strong season. Gunnarsson was steady on defense last season and will look to continue that this season. Another Leafs defenseman who had a very, very good season is Jake Gardiner. He will be looking to continue his strong development from his rookie year once he recovers from his concussion. The other defensemen are all looking for bounce-back seasons. Mike Komisarek has struggled since signing in Toronto and unless he really impresses this season, will probably be bought out by the team in the off-season. Cody Franson re-signed with the Maple Leafs after a tough first season after being traded from Nashville. John-Michael Liles will look to build on his 27 points in 66 games and justify his contract extension.

The forwards are probably the least of Leafs fans worries. The forward group will obviously be led by star Phil Kessel and his linemate Joffrey Lupul. Both had very good season last year and will look to continue that in the shortened season. Their centre Tyler Bozak also had a good year centering the first line and can hopefully continue that with the good chemistry he’s built with Kessel and Lupul. The second line combination of Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur, and Nikolai Kulemin will look to have stronger seasons, especially Kulemin who only registered 7 goals last season. All three of them played also played overseas during the lockout so they should be good to go and in “mid-season form.” The trading of Matthew Lombardi and waiving Tim Connolly opened up a roster spot for Nazem Kadri who will finally be able to get a real good chance in the NHL and look to prove all of his doubters wrong. He’ll be centering a line with newly acquired James van Riemsdyk, who will also be looking to fulfill his potential like Kadri and prove his doubters wrong, and Estonian pest Leo Komarov who came over to North America this season after playing the majority of his career in Europe after being drafted by the Maple Leafs in the 6th round in 2006. The fourth line consists of fan-favorite Mike Brown, face-off aces David Steckel and Jay McClement (whichever one coach Randy Carlyle decides to play) and tough guy Colton Orr. While some may be shocked to see Orr in the lineup, I have no problem giving him another chance to play in the NHL.

Finally, the coaching staff remain relatively unchanged from last season. Randy Carlyle  is the head coach after taking over for Ron Wilson last season. He will look to mold this group into his style of play and produce more wins. Scott Gordon, Greg Cronin and Dave Farrish will be Carlyle’s assistants and hope to improve the Maple Leafs’ poor penalty kill and remain successful on the powerplay. It will also be interesting to see how new general manager Dave Nonis does this season if the Leafs begin to struggle and if he makes any significant moves for right now or for the future.

I always like to be optimistic, but I’m predicting a 13th place finish in the Eastern Conference for this years group of Maple Leafs. However, if Nonis can acquire an actual goalie, then I would rank them higher and maybe even put them in a playoff spot. But, for right now, it looks like another long year for Leafs Nation. Go Leafs Go! I guess…