Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Simon Despres blows up Sean Couturier, Umberger vs Despres fight



Tonight, I was watching the Flyers and Penguins game. Check out this clean, hard hit.

In my opinion, this is a thing of beauty. Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Simon Despres absolutely blows up Sean Couturier with a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. The video from this angle doesn't do a good job of showing it. Of course you have the obligitory fight between R.J. Umberger and Despres.

Providence Forward Mark Jankowski Won't Travel to North Dakota

The Providence Friars beat writer Mark Divver tweeted that junior center Mark Jankowski won't be making the trip to North Dakota this weekend when UND plays Providence College at the Ralph this weekend. That's a significant loss for Providence College.

During his career at P.C., Jankowski has scored (20g-23a—43pts) in 73 games. Jankowski was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the first round of the 2012 NHL draft.

Drake Caggiula Is Set to Play This Weekend against Providence

For those that are wondering, junior forward Drake Caggiula will be playing this weekend... Last Saturday, during the third period of UND’s game against Colorado College, Caggiula was hurt (took hit to the head) and went to the locker room with the trainer Mark Poolman. Because of the injury, Caggiula didn't return to the game.

Fast forward to this week. According to UND head coach Dave Hakstol, Caggiula is practicing this weekend and is set to go this weekend against the Providence Friars.

Check out the latest addition to the UND locker room remodel.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

USHL Arena Impressions #3 - Sioux City, IA - RW77

Tyson Events Center - Sioux City, IA

The Tyson Events Center is home of the USHL's Sioux City Musketeers.  It's not very easy to spot, even though it is adjacent to the northbound lane of I-29.  Why?  Because that big, brick monstrosity actually mostly obscures it.  The brick monstrosity is actually the former Sioux City Auditorium, which (for an outdated and obsolete structure) is actually quite nice looking for its time.  Luckily for everyone's sanity, though, the Tyson Events Center actually houses the hockey team.  Tyson opened in 2003 and seats 10,000 per the website.

The facility is pretty nice.  I believe it is a bit nicer than Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, but it should be, as it is also home to concerts, events, and the NAIA basketball team for Morningside College.  The seats are about the same as Cedar Rapids as well.

It's got a pretty unusual format in that the seating is almost U-shaped.  There isn't much for seating at the side of the arena that the visitor defends twice a game.  Very odd.

Though of no fault to Tyson, Tyson is hurt by the fact that almost every path to the arena is under massive construction (not just the indefinite perpetual construction that I29 is going through... that project is going on beyond the 6 year mark... it was ongoing when I moved to Omaha in 2008).

Nevertheless, I have to admit that the facility is very good for the size of the town.

Grade:  A

Food

Big points from me for the fact that they serve Coke products, but the real sale is their drink policy itself:  Free refills with the purchase of a large beverage.  If you refill the cup once, you've cost the Tyson Event Center almost $5.00 in lost sales.  I doubt I'll ever see that at the Ralph.

Otherwise it is typical arena food.  Ok but massively overpriced.  Oh yeah, the mini-donuts are a huge hit at the arena.  So huge that if you don't buy them before approximately half way through the second intermission, they usually run out.... or they did when I was there.

There is a lot of variety of food.  I didn't try it all.

Grade:  A-

Entertainment

Believe it or not, there wasn't a whole lot I remember in between periods.  Maybe that's because it was during the playoffs.

The PA guy and the music choices were ok, though.

Grade:  B*  (Guesstimate)

Fans

These fans are just as passionate as UND fans, in my opinion.  However, they are a lot like me (to be brutally honest).  They complain A LOT about the refs.  And, I can't blame them.  USHL officiating is, on average, bad if not terrible.  To make a point of it:  I'd take Todd Anderson or the Shepherds over the USHL refs.

Nevertheless, it's all we heard, to the point of openly mocking them back.  They'd yell a penalty and we'd yell back idiotic combinations of penalties like "Interference roughing slashing!" or my personal favorite:  "Contact to the head tripping!"

All in all a fun time.  And they tend to be like their team:  They leave it on the ice.  After the game, many Sioux City fans made it a point to come over to me (I was in my Omaha jersey) and shake my hand and say good game and thanks for coming.  Drive Safe.

Funny, though, I do not recall getting hit by Sioux City's reputation:  Foul smelling air.

Oh well.

Grade:  A

Overall:  If not for Lincoln, Sioux City might very well be the premier road destination to see a USHL team.

Grade:  A

Ryan Kesler Hits Mikael Granlund at the End of the Game With Unnecassary Hit



I know this is about four days late, but it's something that I feel strongly about. This hit on Ryan Kesler on Mikael Granlund with .02 seconds left in the game is unnecessary.

Second, Kesler is one of the biggest frauds to play the game of hockey. He dives and embellished up and down the ice. That in my opinion cheapens the game of hockey and is poor sportsmanship. This is also the reason why I don't like the rule that prohibits fights after five-minute minute mark of the third period.
46.12 Instigator in Final Five Minutes of Regulation Time (or Anytime in Overtime) - A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at any time in overtime shall be assessed an instigator minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting, and a game misconduct penalty, subject to the conditions outlined in 46.22.
This rule gives players the ability to run around the ice and take runs at other players, without fear of retribution. With that bush league move, Kesler should earn himself a beat down the next time the Wild play the Ducks.

Michael Russo thought that the Ducks were taking runs at the Wild in the second and third periods.
The Ducks, getting dominated like Boudreau asserted, definitely tried to go after the Wild’s lesser players physically in the second and third periods. Ryan Getzlaf went after Jonas Brodin all game, and once Coyle jumped to Brodin’s defense. Astonishingly, referee Eric Furlatt gave Coyle four minutes and Getzlaf two (nothing for two cross checks on Brodin) and no extras for Anaheim even though both Getzlaf and Matt Beleskey removed their gloves to fight. The ignored calls on Anaheim and the fact the Wild wound up on the PK turned the momentum bigtime for several minutes here. The Wild still escaped though.
Again, the Wild seem to run into the refs that are having bad performances on the nights the Wild are playing. That's fine, maybe the Wild should start taking runs at the other teams star players if this behavior continues.

The Score on Brock Nelson: Fact or Fiction: 3 players to watch using advanced stats

Here's a little blurb on former UND Fighting Sioux forward Brock Nelson that was written by Ian McLaren of the Score. While it is early, Nelson is having a good season. Thinking of which, I might have to add ole Brock to one of my fantasy teams. Seriously, he could probably score more points than some of the stiffs I have on my teams now.
Brock Nelson, F, New York Islanders

With four goals and four assists in five games, Nelson finds himself tied for second among the NHL's scoring leaders after a hot start on a line with Ryan Strome and Mikhail Grabovski.

Owned in only 49 percent of Yahoo leagues, it leads the other 51 percent to wonder if they should unleash a full Nelson on the opposition.

Nelson had a distinct advantage in terms of his deployment in the first few games of the season, largely enabling his early success. Head coach Jack Capuano slotted Nelson as a center on the second line as opposed to John Tavares's wing man, meaning he's been kept away from the opposition's top defensive units.

As a result, Nelson's rolling with a 57.58 Corsi For percentage at even strength, while starting only 41.7 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone (according to War On Ice).

Providence Journal: Highly ranked PC hockey should be Frozen Four participant

Here's an interesting article by Providence College hockey beat writer Mark Divver. UND plays Providence College in a high profile series at the Ralph this weekend.
Mark Divver, Providence Journal -- On Friday night at Ohio State, Providence College drops the puck on what has the potential to be a season for the ages.

Coming off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 13 years, the Friars were ranked third behind perennial powerhouses Minnesota and North Dakota in both preseason national polls. Hockey East coaches picked PC — which returns 19 players from last season — to win the league title.

With the NCAA East Regional scheduled for the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence next March, followed by the Frozen Four at the TD Garden in Boston in April, the Friars have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a magical season.

Coach Nate Leaman is pleased but not satisfied with the progress that’s been made since he came to PC in 2011 from Union College — where he helped build the program that won the national championship last April.

“That’s what (PC) hired me to do. They hired me to get the program moving in the right direction,” he said.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Calgary Flames Forward Johnny Gaudreau Scores 1st Goal of the 2014-15 Season



Former Boston College Eagles All-American forward Johnny Gaudreau scored his first goal of the 2014-15 season last night. As you can see, Johnny Hockey's first goal was a thing of beauty. The Calgary Flames rookie has scored (1g-1a--2pts) in six games.

Phil Kessel Humor



I thought this tweet was really funny.

UND Ranked 3rd in Both National Polls

USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll

Rk.      School (First place votes)       
1.         Minnesota (39)                         
2.         Union (11)                                
3.         North Dakota                           
4.         Colgate                                    
5.         Providence                                
6.         Boston College                          
7.         Massachusetts-Lowell                 
8.         Ferris State                               
9.         St. Cloud State                          
10.       Miami     
11.       Denver                                  
12.       Boston University                       
13.       Minnesota State                           
14.       Michigan                                           
15.       Quinnipiac                                         
16.       Alaska                                                
17.       Vermont                                            
18.       Cornell                                               
19.       Minnesota Duluth                             
20.       Alaska Anchorage                           

Others receiving votes: Omaha 78, Robert Morris 67, Notre Dame 62, Bowling Green 47, Michigan Tech 36, Merrimack 27, Northern Michigan 24, New Hampshire 21, Princeton 17, Ohio State 14, Yale 10, Dartmouth 6, Harvard 6, Northeastern 6, Bemidji State 2, Clarkson 1, Mercyhurst 1.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll

Rk.      School (1st place)                     
1.         Minnesota (23)                                 
2.         Union (10)                                        
3.         North Dakota (1)                        
4.         Colgate                                              
5.         Providence                                      
6.         Boston College                                
7.         Ferris State                                        
8.         Massachusetts-Lowell                                     
9.         St. Cloud State                                  
10.       Miami                                                
11.       Boston University                            
12.       Minnesota State                               
13.       Denver                                              
14.       Michigan                                           
15.       Quinnipiac                                          

Others receiving votes: Alaska 45, Vermont 33, Cornell 27, Notre Dame 18, Robert Morris 15, Minnesota Duluth 14, Omaha 14, Yale 9, Alaska Anchorage 8, Bowling Green 6, Merrimack 6, Michigan Tech 5, Ohio State 3, New Hampshire 1, Bemidji State 1.

Hockey Is a Dangerous Sport - Yikes



Here's a picture of Penn State  defenseman David Thompson's abdomen after he was cut with a skate. Thompson laceration came in last Friday's game against UAA during the Brice Goal Rush tournament in Fairbanks, Alaska. Thankfully, Thompson should be back on the ice soon.

"Yeah, he's going to be great," said Penn State Head Coach, Guy Gadowsky of Thompson. "He's going to be fine. They took really good care of him. It was scary at the start, and we took every precaution, but he's going to be back at 100 percent very soon."

Back at it and Timber

After a week of vacation in central North Dakota, I am back at it. First, I want to give a big thanks to Sioux_7, Zach Hawkins and Redwing77 for filling in while I was gone. All three guys did a wonderful job while I was out depleting the North Dakota duck population. Yes, I also had a beer or two.

But I digress.

I wanted to take some time off before the hockey season kicked off full steam ahead. Yeah, because I am so taxed, right? Well not really, but I might as well use up that vacation time. I get 208 hours every year.

After watching UND get rolled 5-1 in the first game of the season against the Bemidji State Beavers, in the last three games UND has given up a grand total of four goals.

On the plus side, UND has scored 12 goals in the last three games. I don't think we need to worry about scoring all that much.

After four games, senior forward Marc MacMillan leads UND with (5g-2a—7pts). Coming in second is sophomore defenseman Paul Ladue (2g-4a—6pts).

After getting lit up in the first game of the season, UND goalie Zane McIntyre has been rock solid and really settled in. In four games, McIntyre has posted some really good numbers. Here’s the McIntyre line (3-1-0. 2.21 GAA and a .929 SV%).

Busness Insider: Jeremy Roenick Describes Life After 13 Concussions

This is kind of scary.
Aaron Taube, Busness Insider-- Five years into his retirement, the nine-time NHL All-Star says that the brain damage inflicted by his hard-hitting career makes it so he can no longer remember many parts of his past — games he played in, trips he went on, and friends he spent time with.

"My wife will ask me, 'Hey, remember we did this? Remember we did that?' And I totally don't remember any of it," Roenick says. "My short-term memory is good, but there's a lot of times I'm asked questions that I couldn't remember for the life of me."

Now an analyst with NBC Sports, Roenick says the concussions also hinder his speech. Sometimes on television he will have trouble finding the right word, even if it's one he knows and uses frequently.

He's worried that his brain will continue to deteriorate as he gets older, and he fears that he could one day suffer from dementia.

UND Women 9th in USCHO.com Division I Women's Poll


October 20, 2014

Team
(First Place Votes)
Record
Points
Last Poll
1
Minnesota
(15)
5- 0-1
150
2
2
Wisconsin
6- 2-0
128
1
3
Boston College
3- 0-1
115
4
4
Harvard
0- 0-0
103
3
5
Cornell
0- 0-0
91
5
6
Boston University
3- 1-0
87
6
7
Quinnipiac
4- 0-1
51
9
8
Mercyhurst
4- 1-1
33
8
9
North Dakota
4- 2-0
20
10
10
Clarkson
3- 3-0
19
7
Others receiving votes: Minnesota-Duluth 12, Northeastern 10, St. Lawrence 6.

Developing: Lawsuit filed against Canadian Hockey League over financial compensation

The CHL has been sued via a class action lawsuit. The suit alleges that the CHL players are underpaid.
The Canadian Press -- A class action lawsuit has been launched against the Canadian Hockey League seeking financial compensation for allegedly underpaid players.

The suit claims the players are paid less than the minimum wage in their regions and that they should also get holiday, overtime and vacation pay.

The lawsuit alleges the average OHL player devotes 35 to 40 hours per week to his team and receives $50 a week.

Toronto lawyer Ted Charney says the lawsuit seeks to hold the CHL and its teams accountable.
The Toronto Star has more on this subject. Of course the CHL President, David Branch is going to defense the way the CHL does business.
Robert Cribb, the Star -- An unprecedented class action lawsuit striking at the economic foundations of junior hockey in Canada alleges the Canadian Hockey League and its teams “conspired” to force young players into signing contracts that breach minimum wage laws.

A statement of claim filed in a Toronto court Friday and obtained by the Star, seeks $180 million in outstanding wages, vacation, holiday and overtime pay and employer payroll contributions for thousands of young players given as little as $35 a week for practices, games, training and travelling that could add up to more than full-time hours.

The league and its teams “conspired and agreed together . . . to act in concert to demand or require that all players sign a contract which the defendants knew was unlawful,” the claim alleges. “Such conduct was high-handed, outrageous, reckless, wanton, deliberate, callous, disgraceful, wilful and in complete disregard for the rights of the (players).”
It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic boards Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin



Three nights ago, Milan Lucic was penalized two minutes for boarding Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin. This is the replay of the hit. You can see that Emelin turns at the last moment. I don't really agree with the call in question, but oh well.

One has to wonder if Lucic was trying to send a message.

Apparently, Lucic also made an obscene gesture to the Montreal fans and was fined $5,000.00. Yesterday, Lucic apologized for his behavior. What's troubling to me is that the league is more concerned about obscene behavior than dangerous hits. To me, that's a travesty.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Canada is About to get Krzyznasty

Earlier today Hockey Canada announced their women's hockey roster that will be competing in this year's IIHF Four Nations Cup this November and UND sophomore defender Halli Krzyzaniak was one of the seven defenders named to the roster.

In her first season at UND, the Neepawa, Manitoba native did not miss a single game for UND on the blue line and was a huge factor when it came to positive plays. With 10 points and a plus 12 rating, the very disciplined defender is a key point to the UND blue line and will likely be the same for Canada as well.

The IIHF Four Nations Cup Will start on November 4 and will take place in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. Congratulations to Halli and best of luck to you on your first stint with the big club in Canada.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Arena Impressions - Cedar Rapids - RW77

Ok, Part II so far.

The Cedar Rapids Ice Arena -- Cedar Rapids, IA

Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, home of the USHL's Cedar Rapids Roughriders, is a modern arena opened in 2000.  It seats 4,000 people and has two sheets of ice, as well as a small store that sells Roughtriders merchandise and a decent sized open area that could be used for many different kinds of events.

Though this arena only holds about 600 more than Des Moines, the age of the building isn't the only stark difference between it and Buccaneer's Arena.  This arena is adorned with modern seating, projector screens behind both goals, great lighting, and a great feel around the upper walkway.

The walls were festooned with Cedar Rapids alumni like UND forward Michael Parks and LA Kings hero Alec Martinez.

The facility looked very well cared for.  Aside for a few random dents in the steel siding (most probably from VERY stray pucks), this arena looked new despite its 14 year old age.

If I were to build a USHL facility on a limited budget, I'd start in Cedar Rapids, IA (knowing full well what palaces Ralston Arena is and what the new rink in Sioux Falls seems to suggest).

Facility Grade:  A-.  Would be an A+ with an updated scoreboard.

Ice:

Not unlike the facilities, the ice was great.  The boards seemed not to be as lively as Des Moines.  I think this helped Omaha because the boards seemed to react very similarly to Ralston Arena.

Grade:  A

Entertainment

They had a VERY interesting way of doing things pre-game.  Even at UND, there wasn't that much to do between the end of warm ups and the opening lineup ceremony.  Not at Cedar Rapids.  From the minute the last player left the ice until roundabout 3 minutes prior to them stepping onto the ice, there was a nonstop series of montage videos featuring different songs.  Some featured highlights from last season.  Some featured behind the scenes stuff.  Others the history of the franchise.  All in all, I was VERY impressed.

Pregame Grade:  A

Intermission Entertainment:  They had a chuck a puck competition, and a slingshot bowling thing.  The chuck a puck was pretty straight forward except the prizes were a bit lame.  We did not participate.

The slingshot bowling is always a crowd favorite.  And it was done right.  Good on them.

Intermission Grade:  B+

PA:  We met this guy but really, all he had to do (like I said before) was to know the player's names and numbers and pronounce them correctly.  He did.

Grade:  A

PS:  He's a nice guy.

Fanbase:

A LOT more people came to the game in Cedar Rapids than in Des Moines, but I do not recall them announcing it during the game.  I'm fairly sure that it was between 2,000 and 3,000 people from the looks of it.  Still, there were some empty seats.  A lot in our section.

Though we had rumors that Des Moines fans were less than fun, we had no such preconcieved notions about Cedar Rapids.  For the most part, we were left alone, just like in Des Moines.

Two exceptions:  One fan came and talked to us as a fan of a former Lancer player (Gage Hough, now of UMass Lowell).  She was nice.  As for the other, these three nagging older ladies did not take too kindly to my razzing the goaltender (The old UND standard (Goalie's Name x3, you suck) and made a rather crude reference of a more homophobic nature.  Hey, I'm not sensitive, but if you are going to mock me, at least be original or creative.  She wasn't.  Sad for her.

Cowbell/Vuvuzela Factor:  This arena really pushed cowbells and they were everywhere.  Naturally, this concerned me.  I shouldn't have been concerned.  They knew when to ring the cowbells and when not to and responded to prompts accordingly.  There was no gratuitous noise.  No one rang them in anyone's ears intentionally or otherwise.  It was very well orchestrated.  That speaks a lot to a strong, loyal, and well-informed fan base.

Fanbase Grade:  A-

Overall Impression:

Omaha's fanbase doesn't travel...especially with the year Omaha's having.  However, this was an easy 4 hour drive from Omaha and one that every loyal Omaha fan should make.  I would not hesitate in the slightest to return to Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.  BTW, even the Roughrider website is cool.

Overall Grade:  A-

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dufault, Kohler, Krzyzaniak UND's Now, Canada's Future

The UND Women's Hockey Team  has had its fair share of dynamic players and probably none better than two time Olympic silver medalists Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux. However, there are three players on the roster who are leading the way for UND and are the future of Canadian Women's Hockey. Becca Kohler, Meghan Dufault, and Halli Krzyzaniak have done everything to solidify them in Hockey Canada's future plans.

This past weekend, the trio put their skills on display in UND's sweep against Mankato. Kohler tallied up five points this weekend and was named WCHA offensive player of the week. Her play out front of the net is some of the best in the country and look for her to do big things this season as UND looks to charge back into the NCAA tournament.

As for Meghan Dufault, she has been getting big line minutes since coming to UND, showing that size isn't everything, it's heart. Her hat trick this past Friday night is just a little example of her big time play on the ice. She is always someone you expect to produce and no matter what you throw in front of her, she usually gets at least one point out of a weekend.
Dufault also put on a show at Canada's development camp this past summer, stealing the show on offense and turning the heads of the women's hockey community, all be it no surprise to me.

Halli Krzyzaniak is the workhorse on the blue line for UND. Although Tanja Eisenschmid may be seen as the top defender in a UND uniform right now, Krzyzaniak is much to UND as Ryan Suter is to the Minnesota Wild. You will always find her on the ice at key points of the game, and will rarely take a penalty or make a costly mistake. She does not score often, but that's not her role with UND. She does have that ability, which is a nice added bonus with her, but her strength to play big minutes will only make the UND
blue line that much better.

These three have what it takes to take their games to the next level. Hockey Canada should be put on alert because there is a green wave about to take over in the likes of Dufault, Kohler, and Krzyzaniak, in the very near future.

From Warroad, Minnesota, Number 29 Brock Nelson

As if UND fans needed an introduction to Brock Nelson, the rest of the NHL world is getting a taste, finally, of what UND fans saw in his two seasons representing, the then Fighting Sioux, colors and that is the ability to score goals and help produce them. Tonight was no different, scoring his fourth goal of the season for the Islanders, and the game winning goal in tonight's contest against the Rangers as well.

Playing on the Islander's top line with John Tavares, Nelson has found his niche to find the net in this young season. He has tallied a four point night, and is tied for top scoring in the NHL with 7 points with the likes of Rick Nash and John Tavares. Now I do understand that the season is very young, but I see him playing as well, if not even better than, when he played with Danny Kristo and Corban Knight in his 30 goal sophomore campaign at UND.

Brock has put the NHL on notice that he is one to keep a sharp eye on in the near, and probably the distant future. Look for Nelson to impress on the ice for many seasons to come. UND fans knew what the Islanders were getting, now everyone knows what they have, a future superstar.

Brock Nelson - ESPN story

I found this little article on Brock Nelson over on ESPN.  If you don't remember Brock played for UND in the 2010-11 and 2011-2012 seasons.

Sometimes in hockey it appears there's just a "poof" moment when it all falls magically into place.

At least that's how it must appear to fans when it comes to a guy such as Brock Nelson.

Brock who?

Exactly.

New York Islanders fans certainly know Nelson now, and if the early returns from the 2014-15 season are any indication, it won't be long before lots of hockey fans hear the name and nod their heads appreciatively.

Two games into the season, Nelson has six points on three goals and three assists and is tied with a guy named Sidney Crosby for the league lead in point production.

It's not like head coach Jack Capuano rubbed an old lamp he found in his office at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and a big, talented center appeared out of the smoke, though frankly, that's a better -- or at least more evocative -- story.

Capuano knows the path out of obscurity isn't nearly that neat and tidy.

The Isles coach knew Nelson as a rail-thin, 180-pound rookie at the Islanders' development camp a few years back, after they made him the 30th overall pick in the 2010 entry draft.

He has seen him evolve from a solid American Hockey League prospect -- he scored 25 goals and collected 52 points in just 66 games two years ago -- into a young man learning the NHL game the past season and occasionally finding his way onto the power play or penalty kill.

Now Nelson is well over 200 pounds, having focused on getting bigger and stronger with a more explosive skating stride, and Capuano decided the Warroad, Minnesota, native, whose uncle Dave Christian was part of the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic gold medal team, can handle the pressure of being the team's No. 2 center.
[+] EnlargeBrock Nelson
James Guillory/USA TODAY SportsIslanders forward Brock Nelson had 14 goals and 12 assists in 72 games the past season.


"When I think of Brock Nelson, I think of a guy that has a very high hockey IQ. Tremendous intelligence of the game," Capuano told ESPN.com before the Islanders (2-0) prepared for what promises to be an emotional home tilt against the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

The Isles coach said he has always been impressed by Nelson's ability to play on both sides of the puck, but when he came to the NHL, Capuano wanted Nelson to use his skill more and not play it safe, as many young players do in simply trying to stay in an NHL lineup.

Now that is happening with Nelson, who has been playing with Ryan Strome and newcomer Mikhail Grabovski, as well as getting top power-play minutes.

"So far, I've been able to be on the fortunate end of a couple of nice plays," Nelson told ESPN.com.

With a significant change in personnel in the offseason, Nelson said he knew there would be opportunities for a different or expanded role.

"If you go out there and execute, you're going to build trust with the coaching staff," he said. "Whenever you get that opportunity, you want to take advantage of it. I want to grab this by the horns."

The past season, when he played 72 games for the Islanders, Nelson stayed first in a local hotel and then roomed with defenseman Thomas Hickey. The two are continuing to share a place, though Nelson insists they aren't thinking ahead to the team's move to Brooklyn next season.

"I know everybody has the move in the back of their mind, stored away," he said.

But the focus has been on a solid start to this season.

He said the atmosphere for Saturday's home opener, a win over Carolina, reminded him of the team's playoff series against Pittsburgh two springs ago.

"I think guys are pretty dialed in and want to make a splash," Nelson said.
If Nelson predictably downplays his early success, one person who doesn't is longtime Islander and broadcast analyst Butch Goring. He said Nelson was the best player in the Islanders training camp, including higher profile veterans.

"You have to have those guys down the middle," Goring said. "This guy has enough ability to bring some offense. His game has just evolved so much so quickly."
And there's the intriguing future landscape of the Brock Nelson story.
Sure, his mini point explosion out of the gate has created some nice buzz for a team desperate to get back to the postseason after missing out this past year. But it's the long-term impact that will be interesting to follow.

Nelson has played some wing, and there were some who thought he might start the season playing on the Isles' top line with captain John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. But Capuano opted to use Cory Conacher on the top line and Nelson as the second line anchor.

If Nelson grows into that role, the Isles will look like this down the middle: Tavares, Nelson, Frans Nielsen and Casey Cizikas, with a number of other wingers who have some experience at center.

"It's as strong as we've ever been [down the middle]," Capuano said.

Goring, for one, believes the Isles will find their way into the top eight in the conference, but after that, a lot will depend on how the rest of the season goes for the team's currently unheralded scoring star.

"How far they go, a lot will depend on how much more Brock continues to develop," Goring said.
"Poof" moment indeed.  (Link to Story)