Mid-summer heats up as 2009-10 looms

With the summer season hitting its second phase, national evaluation camps are hitting the radar as players ramp-up for the 2009-10 season. Miami University sophomore Connor Knapp will be one of four goaltenders and 43 players overall in Lake Placid, NY for USA Hockey's U20 Evaluation Camp running from August 8th-17th. The Americans will play three intra-squad scrimmages before a four-game set ensues against a team of Russian hopefuls. Dmitri Kugryshev (WAS), Kirill Petrov (NYI), and Andrei Loktionov (LAK) will be among the Russian shooters testing Knapp. Drafted players Nikita Filatov (CBS), Dmitry Kulikov (FLA), and Igor Bobkov (ANA) will not participate, nor will top '10 eligibles Kirill Kabanov and Evgeny Kuznetsov. A reader recently questioned Knapp's inclusion on the USA invite list, suggesting that he can't be a serious contender since another freshman ended the year as Miami's starting goaltender. I'm not sure that's a valid argument. While that was the case in Oxford, Cody Reichard was definitely more experienced as a 22-year old freshman compared to the 18-year old Knapp, and thus got the call for Miami down the stretch. A 6'5 EJHL product and former Rochester high school standout, Knapp went 13-5-3 with a 2.09 GAA to earn CCHA All-Rookie honors as a "true" freshman and recently performed well at the Sabres Development Camp. The invite is warranted when looking at it from that angle. Over the border, Tyler Myers, Zack Kassian, and Luke Adam will be in Saskatoon for Canada's National Junior Team Development Camp from August 5th-10th. The camp roster consists of 41 forwards and defensemen, and four goaltenders. Red/White scrimmages will be held on August 8th and 9th. A veteran of Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence, Myers returns after he and Keith Aulie (CAL) performed as the top shutdown combo for the 2009 gold medal winners. The 6'8 Calgarian struck gold a year earlier at the U18's in Kazan, Russia. Kassian, 18, played with Brayden McNabb on Canada's 4th place entry at U18's in Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN this past April. Last summer, he was an U18 gold medalist at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial. The camp will be the first world junior invite for Adam. The 19-year old forward serves as the sole representative from Hockey Newfoundland & Labrador. A week prior to the U20 activities, Bob Boughner and his U18 Summer Team staff will host 38 2010 drafts eligibles and a pair of 2011's in Calgary for Canada's Hlinka selection camp. Team USA has already finalized their U18 Select Team roster for the tourney that will be held in Slovakia and the Czech Republic from August 11th-15th. In Europe, German hockey association DEB concluded their summer camp in preparation for the 2010 Olympics. In a competitive setback, bench boss Uwe Krupp was without the luxury of any NHL players in his five-day gathering.
The candidates from the National Hockey League – Robert Dietrich, Christian Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc, Philipp Gogulla, Thomas Greiss, Jochen Hecht, Christoph Schubert, Felix Sch├╝tz and Marco Sturm – will not join the camp due to insurance reasons after discussions between DEB and the players.
Back on North American soil, the Sabres selection of Marcus Foligno continues to draw positive press. A blue-collar, Buffalo-born player getting drafted by the same team that his father once wore the "C" for makes for a story worth following.
Mike, who is also the head coach and general manager of the Sudbury Wolves, said it was his son’s physical play and competitive spirit that made him stand out on the ice this year. “Everybody knows he’s a physical player,” the coach said. “He’s the type of guy who wants to win, he cares about his teammates, and he knows the physical game is his strength.” Marcus said he will be bringing his energy and strong work ethic to the Sabres organization. “Knowing you have your teammates looking at you to make something happen, to just spark them up and give the energy back to the team,” he said. “There’s nothing better than trying to put up points in the NHL and it’s one thing I’m capable of. I just need to keep working hard as the off-season goes on ... to develop into an NHL player.” Marcus said his goal for the remainder of the off-season is to continue getting bigger and stronger. “This is a player that has worked very hard to accomplish this first step of making it to the NHL, and he’s paid the price both on and off the ice,” the Wolves’ head coach said. “I think Marcus is really motivated right now to accomplish the dream of playing in the NHL.”
Mid-July also saw the annual Stanley Keg tournament play out in Montreal.
Held in the vibrant city of Montreal, the Montreal Stanley Keg is a summer hockey tournament that features eight teams of professional players from across North America. The trophy is an actual beer keg with a cup (similar to the Stanley Cup) mounted on the top, and the winning team gets its members’ names engraved on the trophy. The tournament is held at the beautiful 4 Glaces Sportplexe Pierrefonds facility and runs from July 17th – 19th, 2009.
NHLers Jason Pominville, Alex Burrows, and Guillaume Latendresse skated for the same side in the no-contact 5-5 summer staple. Other notables in the shinny included 2008-09 Portland Pirates Mathieu Darche and Kenny MacAulay, and Harvard's Danny and Michael Biega, brother of current Sabres defensive prospect, Alex. Marc-Andre Gragnani was a member of the winning side last season. Another summer happening of Quebecois flavor involves former Sabres property, Benjamin Breault (2006, 7th round). After completing five years of QMJHL service, the 5'10 offensive forward has signed on with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL.
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