The Big Club is on the brink, and interestingly, no official Black Ace callups. So, presumably, with the ice kept in here, there are players still skating in Bridgeport. Not sure who or how many.
We stopped in at our appointed time on Monday, which was too late to catch the college kids and some of the Worcester guys, and too early to catch Josh Ho-Sang, who had a late meeting time after we had to get out of there. (And here I mumble that the Jesuits weren’t the only ones spent.) Think we got a few words with almost everybody else, so we’ll do the annual wrap-day notebook dump to complement the wrap package. Started out team-wise with most of them, unless noted, generally on the split feeling between a good season and a devastating end.
Since then, big news from the Ontario Hockey League, where Bode Wilde and Blade Jenkins’ Saginaw team blew a series lead and lost in the OHL semis, freeing them up to join the Sound Tiohhhhhh. The QMJHL Final indeed includes both Noah Dobson’s Rouyn-Noranda team and Arnaud Durandeau’s Halifax Mooseheads, though, so they’ll both be on to the Memorial Cup in a couple of weeks, hosted by Halifax.
Great find by Patrick Williams: The 1964-65 AHL Yearbook.
Top women’s hockey players say they won’t play in the NWHL this season.
The annual Long Version:
As of 4/2 (Jobst), 37 NHL contracts for 2019-20 (4 G, 17 D, 16 F) (including unsigned RFAs, 41 (4 G, 17 D, 20 F)).
(Numbers in parentheses for signed players are years remaining on the contract; those without numbers are signed only through next season. All signed players are NHL deals except AHL deals in italics. Lots of help, as you can surely expect, from the lamented CapGeek (RIP, Matthew Wuest), CapFriendly.com and other sources. Corrections welcomed.)
SIGNED: Thomas Greiss, Jakub Skarek (3), Linus Soderstrom, Johnny Boychuk (3), Noah Dobson (3), Thomas Hickey (3), Nick Leddy (3), Scott Mayfield (4), Adam Pelech (2), Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews, Bode Wilde (3), Josh Bailey (5), Mathew Barzal, Casey Cizikas (2), Cal Clutterbuck (3), Ross Johnston (3), Leo Komarov (3), Andrew Ladd (4), Matt Martin
GROUP 2: Anthony Beauvillier, Michael Dal Colle
GROUP 3: Robin Lehner, Luca Sbisa, Dennis Seidenberg, Jordan Eberle, Valtteri Filppula, Tanner Fritz, Tom Kuhnhackl, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson
SIGNED: Christopher Gibson, Sebastian Aho, Kyle Burroughs, Seth Helgeson (V), Grant Hutton, David Quenneville (2), Yannick Rathgeb, Mitch Vande Sompel, Parker Wotherspoon, Kieffer Bellows (2), Bobo Carpenter (2), Scott Eansor, Ryan Hitchcock, Mason Jobst (2), Otto Koivula (2), Matt Lorito, Travis St. Denis, Oliver Wahlstrom (3)
GROUP 2: Josh Ho-Sang, John Stevens
GROUP 3: Jeremy Smith, Steve Bernier (V), Stephen Gionta (V), Mike Sislo (V)
AHL: Evan Buitenhuis, Mitch Gillam, Chris Casto (V), Mike Cornell, Ryan MacKinnon, Tyler Mueller, Chris Bourque (V), Ryan Bourque (V), Matt Gaudreau, Ben Holmstrom (V), Josh Holmstrom, Connor Jones (V-320), Jeff Kubiak, Yanick Turcotte
Group 2 players are restricted free agents if given a qualifying offer by 5 p.m. on June 25. The other free agents are all unrestricted. (V) indicates he’ll be a veteran next year by AHL rule. (V-320) means he’ll be a veteran but will qualify as that one exempt player a night with 320 or fewer pro games.
Thanks to Alan and all the PR staff, and to Stan and the off-ice gang, and to the trainers and coaches and players, for putting up with me one more time.
More as it comes, and/or when lacrosse allows.
“We built off last year. The biggest thing was all our young guys stepped up from last year. The rookies we had were great. From that standpoint, building, from the rookies on up. We had a good veterans corps.
It was one of those years I think we believed we could’ve gone a lot farther. Credit to Hershey, the way they played. It was a tough series. Game 5, overtime: It happens. But I think, looking at the year, we can be proud of the way we played, where we finished in the standings, but it’s always tough to have the year end in the first round.
That’s what it was. That overtime goal, I’m not discrediting his goal, but it was one of those things, a little bit of a fluke, maybe. It happened to go in. That’s playoff hockey, when it comes to overtime games, that’s what happens. They end up getting that one. That was tough.
I was saying, I’m getting older. It’s becoming one of those things where it’s a younger league. I’m kind of learning new stuff from the younger guys. (anything in particular?) Being … an older guy on the D-corps, it’s been good seeing the way these younger kids have developed from last year to this year, if you can look at it from an organization standpoint, these kids are the real deal. It was great to be a part of that and see them develop last year to this year. Hopefully, it’s obviously a numbers game, but you’d like to see these guys get some NHL action. That’s kind of what I’m focused on, to get these younger guys to make that jump and maybe be in the NHL sometime soon.
I thought we played well enough to win. We controlled most of the play. A couple of bounces, it goes the other way. That’s a playoff series. You’ve got to tip your cap to them. They did what it took to win the series, got some bounces and got some good goaltending.
It’s definitely tough. Overall, I think it was a pretty successful year for our team. We went through some peaks and valleys. A young team: We came together as a group pretty quickly there. It was really fun to be a part of. The future’s bright for, I think, the Sound Tigers and a lot of the prospects going forward for the Islanders
(Coming to Bridgeport)
It exceeded expectations for me. I was really excited to get the year going, a new organization, new coaches, everything that comes with it. It was a blast coming to work every day to play for Tommer, Carks, Bogy. The guys were awesome to be around. A really good group of guys.
(Talk next year?)
Basically I don’t want to play anywhere else. … I talked to the coaches a little bit, ultimately they don’t really make that decision, but if it was up to me, I could see myself finishing my career here.
We made playoffs my first year here, and after that, we didn’t make playoffs until this year. It’s a great thing, and I think this organization is going in the right direction for sure.
(What got his season on track)
Relax. I feel like I was overthinking, a little bit, my game. It never helps out if you overthink your game. I think it was relaxing, trusting myself, trusting the team, trusting the coaching staff, trusting T-Bone (Chris Terreri) and whatever he was going to say.”
(I had to ask: Gibson had not seen Bull Durham.)
Actually, we had a good year. We didn’t get too many downs all year. We had a few after Christmas, but that was it. We were able to maintain throughout the season, which is hard, 76 games, to play the same way all the time. I thought we did a good job. It was a great series. Game 5, losing in overtime it could go both ways. We’re not a bad team because of it, but obviously it hurts a lot.
(And an even series)
That’s my point. They had a good team, we had a good team. We just couldn’t score in overtime. We had a few Grade-A scoring chances at the end of the third. We were not due.
(On his season)
I felt great. I felt great all year. I play exactly the way I wanted to play. You always want to improve. You want to do more. Looking back, I was able to do what I wanted to do at the beginning of the season. But you always wanted more, never being satisfied.
(on next year… but he hadn’t gone in yet)
I like it here, my kids like it here, my family like it here, so we’ll try to come back, for sure, but it’s not my decision at that point.
That’s the general feeling. We had a good regular season, but everybody’s plan was to be here a lot longer than we are, so we’re disappointed that we’re done right now.
Overall, the consistency was pretty good. It’s hard to make playoffs, and you play 76 good games, to finish second in the division speaks a lot to guys coming to work every day and playing hard every game. … We want to make playoffs, and we want to go a lot further.”
It was definitely tough, but you try to be as professional as you can about everything. You’ve still got a job to do. Show up and go to work every day, practice hard and still help pull guys along as best you can. At the end of the day it doesn’t change what I do on a daily basis.
Biggest things you learned)
Just rest, recovery, recuperation, those are the biggest things, because you’re going through a long season, back-to-backs, three-in-threes and stuff like that. You have to be ready every single night to play your best. The biggest thing is to create that time to recover.
(Playoffs a boost going to the offseason?)
Yeah, most definitely. I thought I really hit my stride during the playoffs. I felt more like myself. I was playing my game. I was very happy with it. But it just, team-wise, it wasn’t enough. I’m disappointed in that, because I care about winning. I love winning more than anything. But having that little burst right there in the playoffs most definitely has a little bit of confidence going into the offseason.
(Biggest things working on)
Just work on my puck protection, on my skating, my all-around game. I’ve got stuff to improve on to help me try to make that team next year. That’s going to be my focus the whole entire year.
(Getting in with this team)
It’s been great. Most of the year has been a positive experience for me. Obviously I didn’t play every game, but the attitude around here is good. It’s a positive attitude, as opposed to some other places where it hasn’t been as positive. Obviously it didn’t end up the way we wanted it to, the way I wanted it to, either. Unfortunately I wasn’t there to battle with the boys, we ended up losing. It’s been a positive experience here. Hopefully I have a chance to come back here. If not, some good memories.
(Dealing with the ins and outs)
It’s a developmental league, and I get that I’m not the youngest guy in the room anymore. I’d like to think I have a chance to play in the National League still, but for the younger guys who could be more of a mainstay in the National League, they need to play every game. Unfortunately that means some of us older guys can’t play every game. It gives us a little bit of an advantage that we’re fresher for the playoffs or the games we do play. We’ve got to take advantage of the chances we get.
(On the mix)
This is probably one of the oldest teams I’ve played on in the American League. I think we had a pretty good mix of older guys and the younger guys that respected the older guys, which is, a lot of times you get the younger guys kind of come in thinking, ‘gosh, I don’t have to listen to anyone else.’ Almost all the younger guys kind of respected what we’ve been through. We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve won games, won playoff games. It’s good to kind of nudge the younger guys in the right direction.
(On his season, coming back)
I thought it was pretty good, considering the injury I came back from. It was the first time I had to deal with something that, surgery and all that. It definitely wasn’t easy physically and mentally. It was challenging, but I think I did a good job getting past it, playing through it, even though it kind of lingered all year. It was something I had to deal with. Now my focus is getting healthy, 100 percent, getting raedy for next year.
I never really felt a hundred percent, myself. When you’re dealing with pain all the time, it wears on you. I did the best I could to try to manage it, but at the end of the day, I knew I wasn’t a hundred percent. I tried to do my best and play through it.
There were a lot of positives to take from this year. Getting home ice in the playoffs. We developed a lot, which was good. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but we had a team that battled hard all year, which is good. It sucks to lose Game 5. … It’s that close sometimes. Hershey has a good team. We battled hard, but we came out on the wrong end.”
It was a solid regular season. We played some good hockey. Yeah, tough ending, but there were some good things. We played really good hockey over the year. So many up and downs, but I think only one super-, like, down, where we lost six in a row. We always bounced back. That was the key to success, to always bounce back. We played good hockey, but not enough.
(We’d talked a lot recently about his year, but:)
Last year, I was always thinking about scoring, and offense. This year, I got a chance to play centerman, and, yeah, I am now a different player than a year ago, a two-way guy now. I like the defense. Last year, I didn’t like the defense, always thinking about offense. Now, I want to be a good two-way solid centerman.
Just a couple of weeks to think about other things, golf, some other things, frisbee golf. I want to see my friends. After that, like the past 10 years, I want to improve my skating for the summer, my footwork, my speed, everything I have to do to get better. Skating is still the main thing.
We can be proud of kind of the season we had, but not playing right now is tough. … We can’t be pleased with that. Unless you’re winning the last game of the season, you look back, reevaluate. Obviously we’re going to do that. We’re going to enjoy each other’s company here, look forward to next season and put the work in to not have this feeling next year.
(This mix of players)
It was awesome, a really tight group, from on the road going out to eat, to off days, to being at the rink, it was a really good group that meshed really well. … It’s tough not getting ready for Charlotte. It’s going to sting for a bit. But we move on.
Every season has its ups and downs. For myself, I like to work, and if I work, I’m usually happy with myself. It was no different, try to do that kind of thing night-in, night-out. I was pretty happy with that. It was another experience to learn from and put toward next season, try to come back a better me.”
It was exciting to get an opportunity and kind of take advantage of it. It provided me with a lot of confidence. In terms of the offseason, it’s ‘don’t let up.’ Continue to push and work toward getting a spot every day. That’s kind of where my focus is.
For me it’s my balance and my flexibility. It’s something I’ve been told over the course of a couple of seasons now that’s big for me, and I think that goes with my skating. It’ll help with my skating.
(Have they talked about next year?)
Not yet, so we’ll see how that kind of works out over the course of the next month or so. Would love to be back.
I think we came together as a group. The start of the year was a little rocky, trying to figure out our identity and what we wanted to do here. I think pretty early on, we found it. You know what I mean? We came together as a group, and we had a really good squad. It’s unfortunate it came to such an early end.
I think working with T-Bone (Chris Terreri) and Mitch (Korn). T-Bone really helped, being here, watching me. He really helped find my game for me, my control, make it look easy. The biggest stride was having the opportunity to work with T-Bone, Chris Terreri. I can’t thank him enough.
It’s always tough when the year ends kind of abruptly like that, but we know we were a good team all year. We kind of showed that. So, we’ve got lots to be proud of in that aspect. We played hard all year, earned one of the top seeds in the conference. Getting that playoff experience is nice, but obviously you want to go further.
(Dealing with the injuries)
(Going down twice), it’s tough to get back in and get your timing, game speed. I was glad I was able to get back in and play 25 or so games and get that playoff experience. The medical staff did a great job getting me back ready to play. I was glad I was able to play as many games as I did.
(Things to work on)
Get some time off here, get 100 percent healthy and have a strong summer. Obviously I want to continue to work on my skating, get a little quicker, stuff like that, stuff I do every summer, build on that.
The ending’s tough. You’re winning games, you come to the rink every day and know you have a team on the ice that can win every night, it makes it more fun to come to the rink. But it’s a tough way to go out. I don’t think anybody expected we were going to be out, you know?
(Four years here — not many guys here longer)
I think I’ve kind of dug myself a role here. Any time I go out there, I try to do things to help the team win, whether that’s score a goal, have a hit, block a shot, win a faceoff. I thought it was a good year. Felt good, stayed healthy, just another solid year.
(next year – they haven’t talked yet)
“It’d be nice to be back, but you never know.”
It’s disappointing. We had a really strong corps, really talented group of guys. Just a tough series, a five-game series; preferably a seven-game series could’ve been a different outcome. It wasn’t what we wanted, and I think we really had a tight team that could’ve done some damage.
(The ins and outs )
It was not a fun year, very disappointing. Yeah. I don’t know if there’s much more than that. I’d have liked to been in more, have a stronger year. I controlled what I could control. I loved my teammates. I really enjoyed a lot of them, one of the best teams I’ve been a part of in my career. That made not playing a lot easier.
Getting my confidence back really is the biggest thing. Enjoying the summer with my family. Working on just about everything in my game. I’m strong already. I’m at the right weight, so just maintaining my weight. Continue to improve everything on the ice.
I think there’s definitely a lot of positives we can take. Obviously it’s still pretty fresh, the loss. … I think every year you kind of wrap up, once everything settles, the dust settles, you take the positives and try to learn from it. It was an awesome year, great guys in that room. We had a lot of fun. For the young guys, definitely, that experience will help moving forward as an organization. Hockey’s such a tight sport, where you gain friendships, relationships that really will last your entire lives. Although it is still pretty sour, obviously tough to digest, you look at the big picture and try to take the positives from it.
Like I said, every year there’s ups and downs, positives and negatives, but I think each year you try to approach it the same way. That’s the way I try to approach every day, try to get better each and every day. I think it was a productive year. I learned a lot. I’m going to continue to learn a lot and work on the things I need to work on going into the summer.
(What’d you learn?)
You’re never done learning, even systems. With the coaching staff we have here, they do a great job of teaching. Whether it’s the offensive or the defensive side of the puck, you’re always learning new things. Also, the adversity we faced as a team, even individually, you learn new ways to handle it every day. You just try to — I think the big thing for me was focus on things I can control. This year was all in all very productive, and there’s things I’m going to take moving forward.
We’re happy we made playoffs. It’s pretty open if we would’ve just taken that game on Saturday. It feels like it would’ve been open for us to make a long Cup run. It’s tough. I feel like we’ve got the right group of guys to go all the way. It is what it is. It doesn’t always pan out the way you wanted.
(Mix on D)
Great group. I mean, we’ve got a little bit of everything. We’ve got a couple of offensive guys. We’ve got guys that are better on the defense. It didn’t feel like we ever had a problem with the D corps during the year. No matter who was in the lineup, we always played good hockey.
(personally, biggest step forward)
I’d say my positioning in the D-zone. It’s always come pretty naturally, the offense, for me. I’ve had to work a little bit harder on the defense. I feel like I took a couple of steps forward. I’ve just got to go home and get a little stronger, to push some people off the puck. Other than that, it was a fun year. It was nice to go to the all-star game, do all that cool stuff, actually. It was a good year.
(Tape got botched; talked about being a good team that won 43 games in a tough division.) It sucks that it ended that way, for sure, a little squeaker in front of the net.
I felt like moving my feet. I skated a lot better this year. Made good passes. It felt like I could go against the top players and shut them down, get in the play and contribute on the offensive side.
When I get back to training, I want to work on getting faster and stronger. Keep my feet, come in ready for camp. I think those are two big things I can accomplish this summer.
MITCH VANDE SOMPEL
For me, it was a building year again. I think there were strides in a number of aspects in my game. At the same time, there were ups and downs. There’s going to be. It’s part of the process of playing pro. You can look back on things, and there’s things you want to improve on. You always want to improve on a daily basis. It’s cliche, but at the end of the day, it’s true. I know the way our season ended, it was definitely not how we wanted it to go.
It was a massive step, going from chasing the playoffs the whole season to holding a spot. We were second the majority of the year. The group we had, I think, I honestly thought we were really going to make a push for something special. That’s the way it ends sometimes, unfortunately. Nothing we can do about it now.
Same stuff as always. Same stuff in the gym. Working on stuff on-ice when you can. Coming back to challenge for a spot and be the best you can be as yourself, I guess.
Especially for the younger guys to get a chance to play in the playoffs, it shows what it takes to win, what it takes to advance, what you may need to do in the offseason. It’s a Game 5 overtime: It’s a game of inches. It could’ve gone either way. It’s a hard-fought series. For some of these younger guys to get that experience, to have a series go the distance in the overtime, and see what it’s like, the grind that it is, I think it’s something that’s a huge benefit, even though the season ended. It’s something that will help some of the younger prospects, carrying on with their learning experiences.
(His season: From a tryout, in, out…)
We had a bunch of vets that could all play. We kind of did the rotation, and everyone accepted their role, and it worked. It’s not the most ideal situation, having seven vets when only five can play, and all of them that can play and contribute. But I think the organization did a good job keeping everyone fresh and ready for playoffs. The PTO, I couldn’t let last season end the way it did, with surgery, the shoulder, the injuries I went through. To get the chance to come back and play and contribute was awesome. You realize how fun playoffs are when you get a chance at them.
(Handling the ups and downs)
At the end of the day, it’s playing hockey for a living. I had a great time this year. I learned a lot of things through the ups and downs. I think it’s going to make me a lot better player and moving forward in my career. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Second half of the year, I got to go play, get a lot of confidence back and be ready to go next year.
(What was that time in Worcester like?)
It was great. I was playing the best hockey of my life, honestly. I got better each month. I was playing a ton. I got to learn through experience in pro hockey as opposed to potentially watching, or what it might’ve been here. For that, I think it’s going to be a weapon coming into next year. Even getting to watch a lot of games here, you learn from that, all the different experiences. I think it happened for a reason, and hopefully it’ll help me going forward.
Strength, my shot, two things I thought also got a lot better throughout the year. I’m going to keep working on those things. You can’t be fast enough, so I’m going to work on my speed through strength and explosiveness.
(What do you take out of the time in Worcester?)
It was a big learning experience for me, obviously, first-year pro. I ran into a lot of injuries early, which I think took the wind out of my sails. It took longer for me to adjust than I kind of wanted. The second half of the year, when I was healthy, my game started to elevate, and I started to play some really good hockey.
(What were those adjustments?)
Just in my D-zonem playing a little harder. That adjustment from junior to pro is a big one. I just needed a lot of time to kind of learn and get those experiences, playing against bigger, stronger guys. That was the big thing for me. I kind of struggled with that as one of my weaknesses. We’ve kind of talked about, at the end of last season, that it was a big focus for me. By the end of the year, it got a lot better, so, trending in the right direction.
Got to keep working on my skating, coming to camp in terrific shape and be ready to go. It’s guys competing for jobs every year. I lost out this year and didn’t make the team. Obviously the goal is to come into camp ready to go to make the team.
TRAVIS ST. DENIS
I thought we had a great regular season. Whenever you make the playoffs, it’s a step in the right direction as an organization. I’ve got to give credit to the coaches and the guys in the locker room. We had a great group of guys, all the way from the veterans to the first-year guys that came in. It was really fun coming to the rink every day and fun playing with those guys.
(We talked not that long ago, but what do you take out of the year?)
Personally I thought it was a good year, wasn’t a great year. I kind of had higher expectations for myself. I’ve got to get ready for next year now. There’s nothing I can do with this year. It’s over with. I’ve got to turn the page and get ready for next year.
Pretty much the same thing as I do each summer. We’ll continue on lower-body strength, so I can focus on my speed and agility and be a fast player out there. To be even quicker, you’ve got to do the right stuff in the gym, and that kind of translates onto the ice. I’m also doing little things, shooting pucks, stickhandling, stuff like that.
(Take from the season?)
It was a bit of a tough start for me, with the injuries and everything. I was trying to find my game again. Not that I didn’t know how to play my game, but I was struggling in doing it. Once I found the right way to play my game, being hard to play against, physical, finish every hit, just be me, my game went just like this. (raises his hand like an upslope). That was great. I ended the season on a great note. I was being more reliable defensively, killing penalties. I started expanding my role with the team. That was good. Obviously I wanted to play more games with Bridgeport this year. Everyone wants to be up in the American League. It’s a development process, and I think I improved my game a lot in Worcester.
(Tough ending there, too…)
It’s tough. At some point we were in playoffs, and we started losing games, and losing games, and it was just hard to catch up. Like I said, it was a development process. I learned a lot. I’m only a second-year pro. I’m going to keep learning and learning. Just taking everything from the staff to the older players. I just want to get better.
(Treated really well in Worcester?)
Really good. The owner’s really good. Apartments are nice. We’re treated pretty good.
You don’t want to have a disappointing playoff loss cloud your judgment on the year. Everyone in the room wanted to win that game. We were in a position to win, arguably deserved to win, but sometimes the puck bounces the other way and you’re left on the wrong side of it. Hopefully guys can take the experience and learn from it, so the next time we’re in the playoffs we give it a little bit more, clean up a few mistakes here and there, and all of a sudden we’re moving on in rounds and winning championships.
You look at the big picture organizationally, we took huge steps in the right direction. Our young guys were part of intense hockey. We finished second in the division. We had an absolute war in the playoffs. We made the playoffs. That was step one. Our objective is to win a championship.
That one stings, because we had a group that could’ve gone a long ways and done some damage. You’ve got to look at the big picture, with Chris (Lamoriello) involved, bringing in some solid free agents, we took steps in the right direction as far as having a real good hockey team here.
A lot of our young guys, we had Otto Koivula who went from wing and being in and out of the lineup to being a regular top-six centerman, and producing for us offensively, which probably surprised a lot of people, but we saw the skill set in him. Kieffer Bellows went through a year of adversity. The experience he’s gained from playing in the playoffs: I thought he was outstanding in the playoffs. He played great hockey, played hard and played the way you need to play to be successful, so hopefully he translates that into next year. One through seven, I think all our defensemen took steps in the right direction as far as development, being able to play and defend on the big stage. Look at a guy like Vande Sompel who last year had 30 points but was minus-10. This year, he was plus-4 and had the same amount of points, granted, more games, but at the end of the day, huge steps. Wotherspoon, a plus defenseman. Burroughs. The list goes on. Our leadership was definitely a huge asset, depth and leadership that helped our young guys along through the course of the year. Our room was good. Those are things we can build on. We want to be better. We want to improve next year. We want to win a playoff series. We want to win the Cup. From that, I think the guys will learn what it takes and hopefully make the NHL and help the Islanders win the Cup.
(Is there a big next step here, or more staying-the-course…)
I think it’s stay the process, for me, stay the course. With Chris and Lou and the support, just stay the process. Guys’ve got to continue to work hard and commit to what we’re asking them to do, and things’ll take care of themselves.