Quick off to fast start in the Los Angeles net
Jonathan Quick, who was named the NHL’s No. 1 star of the week last Monday, grew up in Connecticut and played two years at the University of Massachusetts prior to turning pro after an outstanding 2006-07 season with the Minutemen. Now, three-plus seasons into NHL stardom, he is backing a potential powerhouse Los Angeles club, and his decision to bolt college after his sophomore year looks to be on the money.
“Yeah, it was right for me,’’ said Quick, “but I can tell you that first year as a pro, when I was playing in the ‘E’ [ECHL], I’ll admit I had my doubts at that moment. So there’s probably no one answer to it.’’
Trevor Daley finally beat Quick at 14:01 of the first period, ending the run at 202:11. Entering last night’s game at Phoenix, Quick was 6-0-1 with a microscopic 1.12 goals-against mark and a sensational .962 save percentage (better than Tim Thomas’s record .938 of last season).
Vachon, who turned 66 last month, remains with the organization in community relations as the club’s Royal Ambassador. Ron Hextall, the outstanding former Flyers goalie, is LA’s assistant general manager. And ex-Boston goalie Bill Ranford is the Kings’ goalie coach. No shortage of sounding boards for Quick, though Ranford is his main point of contact for matters of the crease.
“Billy lives in Vancouver, but we talk all the time, either in person or over the phone,’’ said Quick, who was selected by the Kings 72d overall in 2005, just months after he went 25-2-0 with Avon Old Farms. “The last couple of years, he’s really helped me, reminding me most of all just to stay within myself when I’m playing, don’t let my game get out of control.
“Before, I might have used too much energy, racing around to make saves. But it’s a long season, each game is taxing, and the more you are in control, that’s energy you’ve got saved for the back end of the season.’’
Based on how his game has evolved the last couple of seasons, Quick could be the top candidate to work the US net at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He was with the Yanks at Vancouver (2010), but never saw action, parked behind Ryan Miller and Thomas.
“Just being up there, being part of that team was great,’’ said Quick. “Just the whole experience, getting to be with a bunch of great guys from your own country, and experiencing all the ups and downs over the course of two weeks. And on top of all that, representing your country was unbelievable.’’
Two high picks are sent down
The Jets liked what they saw of Mark Scheifele, their top pick (No. 7 overall) in last June’s draft, but they shipped the 18-year-old center/wing back to Barrie (OHL) last Sunday, convinced he needed more seasoning and strength. He’ll get a full season under Jets icon Dale Hawerchuk, the Barrie coach, to grow his game and possibly will captain Team Canada at the World Junior tournament around the holidays.
Three days later, the Senators shipped out Mika Zibanejad, the Swedish forward who was the No. 6 pick in June. It became increasingly obvious, as was the case with Scheifele, that Zibanejad, 18, was not up to the daily rigors of the NHL. He headed back to Djurgarden, Sweden, and isn’t expected back in Ottawa until training camp.
With Scheifele and Zibanejad shipped out, that leaves four first-round picks from the 2011 draft still active:
-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1), Edmonton - A clever, darting center, great with the puck in high-traffic areas, he connected for a hat trick in only his third NHL game. Looks like he’ll be a fixture on the No. 1 line for years to come for the Oilers, along with right winger Taylor Hall, the first pick overall in 2010.
-Gabriel Landeskog (2), Colorado - Veteran NHL coach Ken Hitchcock told the Denver Post that the Swedish left winger’s game reminds him of Peter Forsberg’s. The praise gets no higher than “Foffa-like’’ in the Mile High City. He was on Causeway Street for an Oct. 10 matinee and looked like he had been playing the wing for five years.
-Adam Larsson (4), New Jersey - The first defenseman picked, Larsson has fit in seamlessly with the Devils, averaging a beefy 23:36 in ice time, tops among their defensemen, entering the weekend. Smooth and smart with the puck, the 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pounder looks as if he will be a master craftsman with a Nick Lidstrom-like game along the blue line.
-Sean Couturier (8), Philadelphia - His dad, Sylvain Couturier, played a few games with the Kings after they drafted him 65th in the 1986 draft. This kid is significantly bigger (6-4, 195) and was briefly considered a potential No. 1 overall pick. As of early last week, he had an identical stat line (eight games, 2-2-4) as budding superstar James van Riemsdyk.
Any of those four could be Rookie of the Year. The early bet here is on Larsson.
Panthers pad their nest egg
Forward David Booth, part of the old Panthers regime, wasn’t a Dale Tallon guy, making it easy for the Florida GM to flip him last weekend to Vancouver for what amounted to a salary dump that gives Tallon slightly more than $6 million (Booth’s and Steven Reinprecht’s combined salaries) to shop with next July. The Panthers added $4.5 million in salary by bringing in ex-Bruin Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson, but their deals expire after this season. Meanwhile, Booth is back with fellow Michigander Ryan Kesler, a childhood buddy even before their days in the US National Team Development Program. Kesler and Booth now ride on an “All Yank’’ line with New York’s Chris Higgins.
Metropolit wants back
Ex-Bruin Glen Metropolit, last seen wearing NHL gear with the Canadiens, has been telling Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette that he’d like to play again for Les Glorieux. Metropolit, who joined the Swiss League last year, is one of five “imports’’ playing with Zug, in a league that allows only four imports to dress per game. Coach Doug Shedden has decided to rotate the odd-man-out position, leaving the 37-year-old Metropolit to sit every five games. Not the worst situation, but also not conducive to putting up points as barter for a contract extension. Metropolit figures he might be able to convince Zug to cut him, even though part of the five-import strategy is to have a roster deep enough to cope with postseason wear and tear. Meanwhile, the Habs could use Metropolit, or anyone capable of providing consistent offense.
What is the NHL Players Association’s key objection to the way the league is factoring hockey-related revenue? I am told it’s the $25 million that the city of Glendale, Ariz., hands over to the league each season the Coyotes show a loss exceeding that amount. Obviously, the current CBA, hammered out in the summer of 2005, didn’t include fine print for that kind of “ancillary’’ cash. Provided business doesn’t change dramatically for the Coyotes, that alone will amount to a $50 million chunk by the end of this season, which makes it a beefy bone of contention. But, boy, does that feel like blood money, and it only underscores again the need to close the money pit in the desert. Quebec City, anyone?
A timely return
The free-falling Blue Jackets finally welcomed back prized summer free agent James Wisniewski to their back line after they went 0-7-1 while he served an eight-game suspension for his dastardly hit on Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck in preseason. Cost to Wisniewski: $536,585. Cost to the Blue Jackets? That depends on whether they can gain any traction now that Wisniewski is aboard to try to provide some pop. Though he delivered an impressive 51 points in 75 games last season, Wisniewski was a considerable overpay (six years/$33 million) for the CBJs. But with attendance rolling back at Nationwide Arena and only one playoff appearance in 10 seasons, fifth-year GM Scott Howson had to take a shot. If Wisniewski doesn’t help get it turned around, second-year coach Scott Arniel could get the hook in a hurry and Howson might also be out the door.
Frightening scene, yet again, last Monday when veteran defenseman Chris Pronger was poked in the eye by Mikhail Grabovski’s stick during a puck scrum. The Flyers say Pronger will be OK, but will miss 2-3 weeks and then wear a visor upon his return (make that an official maybe). Nearly a third of NHLers still don’t wear visors and won’t wear them, and the Players Association reiterated last week that its players prefer to decide the matter as individuals. Such are the vagaries of free will. Bruins coach Claude Julien suffered a severe eye injury in his minor league days, and he prefers players to cover up. “Today, players are coming up the ranks with a visor,’’ said Julien. “They’re used to them. I don’t know why they’d want to take them off. When I played, those things had just started coming in; you never used them before and you just couldn’t adjust to it. Today, I find that players coming into the league take it off, sometimes they feel the pressure that it’s a tough game and they’re going to have to drop their gloves. Lot of guys who drop their gloves now have visors, so to me, I would protect myself the best way I can and I would encourage anybody to keep wearing the visor.’’
Center of interest
Label the Patrick Kane experiment a success in Chicago. Converted from right wing to center, he will remain between wingers Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp (not bad company, if one must do the middle man’s dirty work). The Hawks top line usually has captain Jonathan Toews between free agent pickup Andrew Brunette and Viktor Stalberg. Can’t figure why Brunette, even at 38, didn’t draw more interest as a free agent last July. He produced 157 points the last three years in St. Paul (where point totals historically have been depressed) and has proven durable and productive since entering the league back in the leather-and-wood era. The Hawks gave him $2 million this year and he’s free again next July 1.
Turning a new Leaf?
As long as he is facing one of the 28 other teams not named Boston, Leafs winger Phil Kessel is the toughest gun in town. The ex-Bruin first-rounder led the league in scoring (9-7-16) entering yesterday, and that’s a spot no Leaf has held at the end of a season since 1937-38 when Gordie Drillon (52 points) and Syl Apps (50) finished 1-2. Drillon, among the least-heralded players in the Hall of Fame, won a Stanley Cup with the Leafs in 1942, and was only 29 when he played his final NHL game with Montreal in 1942-43. With World War II raging, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in the spring of 1943, and ultimately returned home to New Brunswick, where he worked as a Leafs scout.
Going into last night’s game, Patrice Bergeron had won 111 faceoffs, which was fourth in the league. If the Bruins center keeps up that pace over 82 games, he would win 1,011, nearly 200 more than the 815 he won last year . . . Leafs forward Tyler Bozak was still limping around last week after being drilled in the leg here Oct. 20 by a Johnny Boychuk slapper. “Had it been a [Zdeno] Chara slap shot,’’ Bozak told a Toronto reporter, “my foot would be dust.’’ . . . The Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame will swing its doors open to nine new members, including ex-Bruins Fernie Flaman, Mike O’Connell, and Bobby Miller, at its annual induction ceremonies Nov. 9 at Lombardo’s in Randolph. Late scribe Jack Falla, the godfather of backyard rinks, also will be inducted. For tickets ($60), contact Jim Prior at email@example.com or 781-938-4400 . . . Last night, the Bruins saw old pal Petteri Nokelainen, traded last week from Phoenix to Montreal, for the second time in three nights. He took 20 draws Thursday, the most of any Hab, and won nine. The Bruins obtained Nokelainen in September 2007 for Ryan Walter and a second-round pick. Walter, 27, a former UMass-Lowell standout, is the son of ex-NHLer Ryan Walter and is playing this season for the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, on a roster that includes ex-Boston College star Krys Kolanos, now 30. Abbotsford is Calgary’s top affiliate . . . The popular coffee table tome, “Black and Gold: Four Decades of the Boston Bruins in Photographs,’’ graced by the pictures of Steve Babineau and words of Rob Simpson, is out in a second edition, with all sorts of good stuff from last season’s Stanley Cup run. The bearded Chara, holding the Cup high over his head, is on the cover (Wiley, $39.95) . . . Max Iafrate, 17-year-old son of ex-Bruin Al “The Planet’’ Iafrate, was traded from Plymouth to Kitchener prior to the OHL season and last week stood 0-4-4 after 11 games. Max was born March 28, 1994, exactly seven days after his old man was dealt to the Bruins for Joe Juneau. He is now 6-2, 220, and is expected to go high in the 2012 draft . . . Mika Zibanejad, by the way, wore No. 93 (his birth year) with the Senators before being sent down. He had contributed a lone assist to the scoresheet. His dad is Iranian, his mother Finnish, but he grew up in Sweden. Must make for interesting meal selections at the family dinner table. Shinzawa sure to blog.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.