Image Courtesy of San Antonio Rampage

Panthers sign Weegar to entry-level deal

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

With the junior season over, the wave of Canadian Hockey League signings continued today with the Florida Panthers announcing they’ve inked defenseman MacKenzie Weegar to a three-year entry-level deal.

A seventh-round pick of the Panthers in 2013, Weegar had an outstanding season in 2013-14, setting career highs in goals, assists, points, and, for what it’s worth, plus-minus.

In 61 games with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Halifax Moosheads, Weegar tallied 12 goals and 47 assists, but really came to life in the playoffs. During the QMJHL’s tournament, the 20-year-old scored five goals and 17 helpers. This season he was named to the QMJHL’s Second All-Star Team.

The nephew of former NHL defenseman Craig Rivet, it’s most likely that  Weegar will suit up with the San Antonio Rampage next season.

(Cover image courtesy San Antonio Rampage/Flickr)

Calder Cup

Back-to-back losses puts pressure on Marlies, Penguins

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

After streaking to the Western Conference Final, the Toronto Marlies are hoping they’re not going to start sliding their way out.

With eight straight wins to start the Calder Cup Playoffs, it seemed like everything was clicking for the Baby Buds. While they were bombarded in game one, they pulled out a victory over the Texas Stars to take the series lead, but their porous defense came back to bite them in game two.

The hope was, especially with a team that had been on such an amazing run into the Conference Final, the Marlies would bounce back in game three at the friendly confines of Ricoh Coliseum. However, following a trend from the first two rounds, the team with the ever-important third goal pulled out the victory — that goal coming off the stick of the Texas Stars’ Travis Morin.

Morin, the regular season points leader and league MVP, struck with the game-winner just under a minute after the Marlies drew even on a TJ Brennan tally. It was just Morin’s fourth marker of the playoffs, but it couldn’t have come at a bigger time for the Stars, who’ve now taken the series lead back from the Marlies.

After a rough outing in game two, Marlies goaltender Drew MacIntyre withstood all eight of the Stars’ shots in the first period before allowing a second period marker to Radek Faksa. After allowing 50-plus shots in each of the first two games, the Marlies tightened up defensively, allowing 30 attempts on MacIntyre in game three.

Across the ice, Stars’ goaltender Christopher Nilstorp held off the Marlies’ extra-man attack and sealed the victory for his squad.

For the Marlies, it will be absolutely pivotal to knock off the Stars in game four if they’ve got any hopes of staying in the series. The problem, however, lies in stopping a balanced Stars attack, and trying to create zone time and shot attempts. Through the first three games, Nilstorp has only seen 69 shots. MacIntyre, on the other hand, has faced 131.

Game four goes tonight at Ricoh Coliseum, with puck drop slated for 7 p.m. ET.

After two tight games, with each St. John’s and Wilkes-Barre pulling out a victory, the IceCaps offense finally exploded, while their defense held, with Michael Hutchinson earning the 30-save shutout.

Only down by two goals heading into the second period, the Penguins defense couldn’t hold fast. St. John’s capitalized, scoring early and often in the second frame, with goals coming from Eric O’Dell and Kael Mouillierat in the first seven minutes. Mouillierat’s marker, a goal coming on a 5-on-3 powerplay, gave the IceCaps an insurmountable 4-0 lead heading into the final frame.

With just a second left in the second period, Zach Redmond buried a Will O’Neill pass past Pens’ goaltender Peter Mannino, which signalled the end of Mannino’s night.

The fourth game of the Eastern Conference Final starts tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET, with the Penguins trying to take advantage of home ice and even the series at two games apiece.

Manchester Monarchs

After deep Memorial Cup run, Ebert gets deal with Kings

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

The Los Angeles Kings announced they’ve signed 2012 seventh-round pick Nick Ebert to a three-year entry level contract.

Ebert, 20, spent last season split between the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires and Guelph Storm. With the Spitfires, where Ebert played most of his junior hockey, Ebert was a steady contributor, but he made his impact felt as a member of the Memorial Cup finalist Storm.

In 2010-11, Ebert was named to the OHL’s First All-Rookie Team, and got the nod to play in the Top Prospects Game in 2011-12.

In 38 games with the Storm in 2013-14, Ebert registered nine goals and 24 assists, and had a tremendous playoff, notching 16 points in 20 games. During the Memorial Cup tournament, Ebert added another five assists in four outings.

At 6’0″, 200-plus pounds, Ebert’s size and mobility make him a valuable asset, and he could turn into a late-round steal for the Kings down the line.

With four ECHL games with the Ontario Reign under his belt, Ebert has already seen the professional game, but it will be a while before he makes the jump the NHL. Expectations for Ebert are that he’ll line up with the Manchester Monarchs in 2014-15.

Lake Erie

With Olver gone, Avs sign Bourke

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

When news came that Mark Olver would be heading to the Kontinental Hockey League next season, a spot up the middle was open on the Colorado Avalanche depth chart. Earlier today, the Avalanche filled that gap.

Troy Bourke, who spent his last four seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Prince George Cougars, was signed to a three-year entry level deal. After his fourth, and final, junior season came to an end, Bourke joined the Lake Erie Monsters for fifteen games.

Bourke, 20, was a third round draft pick of the Avalanche in 2012, and is coming off of his best WHL performance. In 69 games this past season as an over-ager, Bourke scored 29 goals and added 56 helpers for 85 points. His previous career high was 56 points in 71 games.

In his brief stint with the Monsters, the Edmonton native notched three goals and four assists. Next season, it appears Bourke will be suiting up for the Monsters for more than just a handful of games.

Binghamton

Senators sign 2011 sixth-round pick to two-year deal

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

The Ottawa Senators have announced the signing of Max McCormick, their 2011 sixth-round pick.

McCormick, who just completed three years with the NCAA’s Ohio State Univeristy, comes to the Sens after a career-best NCAA campaign. In 37 games, the 22-year-old winger registered 11 goals and 35 points, besting his previous high of 31 points.

In 104 total NCAA games, McCormick racked up 36 goals and 52 assists, along with 97 PIM.

At 5’11″ and 192 lbs., McCormick brings average size to the lineup, and will certainly help fill out the ranks for the Senators. While, according the Sens release, McCormick has been at each of the teams’ three previous development camps, this is the forward’s first deal with the team.

It appears likely that McCormick, barring an incredible pre-season, will begin the season with the Binghamton Senators.

Lindstrom

Former Crunch Lindstrom inks one-year deal with Blues

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

After a two-year absence, Joakim Lindstrom is heading back to North America.

The St. Louis Blues announced earlier today that the now-30-year-old Lindstrom, a second round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2002, has signed a one-year deal with the team.

Lindstrom made his American Hockey League debut in 2004-05, the NHL’s lost season. The shifty winger potted four goals to go along with four assists in his 13 games with the Crunch in ’04-’05, and would stay with the Blue Jackets organization for three seasons before signing a deal with the Phoenix Coyotes.

An impact player at the AHL level — nearly a point per game with 73 goals and 109 assists in 200 AHL games — Lindstrom was an AHL All-Star in 2007-08, the year before he signed his deal with the Coyotes. Following a difficult season in which he bounced between the NHL and AHL, Lindstrom left North America, signing a one-year deal with the KHL’s Nizhny Novgorod.

Lindstrom returned to the NHL for 16 games in 2011-12, appearing in 16 games for the Colorado Avalanche. However, a clause in Lindstrom’s contract allowed for the forward to be released and return to Sweden.

In his last AHL stint, Lindstrom tallied 23 points (8-15) in 24 games.

Milwaukee

Alm on board with Preds, could suit up in Milwaukee

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

After back-to-back championship seasons with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League, free-agent defenseman Johan Alm has signed a two-year deal with the Nashville Predators.

Alm, 22, had “bids from a dozen clubs” according to a report from Norran.se, but chose to sign the rookie contract with the Predators, accomplishing what he calls his, “boyhood dream.” Over the last two seasons, the defensive-minded defenseman has suited up in 85 regular season contests for AIK, and put up four goals and 11 assists.

Coming to North America for the first time in his career, Alm told Norran.se that he felt Nashville was the right fit for him, but understands the possibility that he’ll be playing in Milwaukee on opening night next season.

While Alm could certainly come over and help the Predators D corps right away — if not as an every-night player, than as an injury replacement — it’s safe to say that the organization will give him a chance to adjust to the smaller surface and hone his game in the American Hockey League.

Alm said leaving AIK is sad, but that he feels ready to make the jump to the National Hockey League.

Langelier-Parent out of Syracuse, heading to England

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

After two years of professional hockey, Maxime Langelier-Parent is leaving North America for a spot in Europe.

The 26-year-old forward has signed a one-year deal with the Elite Ice Hockey League’s Nottingham Panthers. Last season, Langelier-Parent suited up for 36 games for the Syracuse Crunch, tallying two goals and seven assists.

Langelier-Parent signed his first professional deal in 2012, and made his debut in 2013, with the Syracuse Crunch. His contract was signed while Tampa Bay was affiliated with Norfolk.

The Quebec native played his college hockey at the University of McGill, where he registered 26 goals and 75 points in 105 contests.

Langelier-Parent announced the deal via his Twitter account this morning:

Travis Morin

Stars hand Marlies first loss of 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs

It may have taken until the Western Conference Final, but the Toronto Marlies have finally shown a crack in their armour.

The Marlies, who took game one from the Stars for their eighth straight victory, walked in to Cedar Park Centre on Monday looking to extend the streak and get one game closer to the Calder Cup Final. However, with their second 50-shot shot performance in two games, the Stars kept the Marlies at bay, doubling-up the visitors by a final score of 6-3.

It looked like it was going to be another tough night for the Stars after a goal by the Marlies’ Peter Holland goal tied the game at three, but a Chris Mueller marker less than a minute later put the Stars ahead for good.

In the third frame, Texas’ Scott Glennie buried a goal with under six minutes left in the period, before Travis Morin iced it for the Stars with an empty-netter.

After standing on his head in game one, Drew MacIntyre was absolutely bombarded again during the second game of the series. Asked again to stop 50-plus shots, MacIntyre allowed five goals, while turning away 46 attempts. The Stars, meanwhile, protected their net, allowing only 30 shots.

Stars’ goaltender Christopher Nilstorp, who had a rough outing in game one allowing three goals on 17 shots, bounced back with 27 saves.

Game three goes Wednesday at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, 7 p.m. ET.

Zykov

Hurricanes, Kings announce entry-level signings

The Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings each announced today they’ve signed draft picks to entry level deals.

The Hurricanes announced that Erik Karlsson — not to be confused with the Senators’ defenseman of the same name — has inked a three-year deal with the team. Ron Francis, in a Hurricanes release, said Karlsson adds to the team’s depth at forward, citing the winger’s speed as his best attribute.

Karlsson, a 19-year-old who has spent his entire junior and professional career with Frolunda, suited up for 51 games with Frolunda in 2013-14, tallying five goals and an assist. He also helped Sweden to a silver medal at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships.

Los Angeles, at work stocking the cupboards even during the Western Conference Final, signed Valentin Zykov to a three-year entry-level deal.

A second round pick in 2013, Zykov’s two-way deal will kick in next season, and will likely see him in Manchester as early as October.

In 53 games last season with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL, the 6’0″, 200 lb. winger registered 23 goals and 40 assists, and another 7 goals and 22 points in 22 playoff games.