Avalanche win right to select Jones first overall, Oil Kings draw on past experience for tonight’s Game 7 and two teams added to the KHL

 

Seth Jones could begin his NHL career in the same place he first began to play hockey. (Leech44/Wikimedia Commons)

Seth Jones could begin his NHL career in the same place he first began to play hockey. (Leech44/Wikimedia Commons)

The Colorado Avalanche won the draft lottery last night, earning the first overall pick and chance to select defenseman Seth Jones who began playing hockey in Colorado and is ranked as the number one prospect according to Central Scouting. This will be the first year since 2009 a team other than the Edmonton Oilers will have the first pick.

Jones, son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, is currently playing for the Western League’s Portland Winterhawks who are waiting to see who they will play in the Ed Chynoweth Cup final. In his first year of major junior after two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program, Jones recorded 14-42-56 with a plus-46 and 33 PIM in 61 games and another 5-8-13 with a plus-11 and four PIM in 15 playoff games. He is third among defensemen and second among rookies in WHL playoff scoring and will try to help the Winterhawks reach the Memorial Cup this season after they lost in Game 7 of the final last year.

This is a big win for the Avalanche who struggled all season. They have a good group of forwards to build around, but Jones could be the first good prospect they’ve had on defense in a long time. From Mike Brophy of NHL.com:

It was a turbulent season for the Avalanche, beginning with the contract dispute with centerRyan O’Reilly and concluding with the dismissal of coach Joe Sacco. Still, with forwards O’Reilly,Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and PA Parenteau, the Avalanche has a solid foundation from which to build.

“Clearly, given the talent we have on this team right now, we’re adding another elite prospect to the solid foundation that we have,” (Colorado GM Greg) Sherman said. “It is certainly a big day for the franchise; it’s a big night for our fans and we’re very excited about the outcome tonight.”

This could be just the third time since 1996 a defenseman goes first overall after a blueliner was selected with the number one pick four out of five seasons between 1992 and 1996 (1992: Roman Hamrlik, Tampa Bay; 1994: Ed Jovanovski, Florida; 1995: Bryan Berard, Ottawa; 1996: Chris Phillips, Ottawa). These players were never spectacular, but all had solid careers. More from Brophy:

The last two defenders chosen No. 1 — Erik Johnson (St. Louis Blues, 2006) and Chris Phillips (Ottawa Senators, 1996), are solid players, but not star players. The Blues passed on the likes of productive forwards Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom and Phil Kessel to choose Johnson. The 1996 draft was regarded as weak and it is somewhat ironic the best player from that class was another defenseman, Zdeno Chara, chosen 52nd overall by the New York Islanders.

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The Edmonton Oil Kings will host the Calgary Hitmen tonight at Rexall Place for Game 7 of the WHL’s Eastern Conference final. Fortunately for them, the team has experience in Game 7s having defeated the Winterhawks last year in seven games to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup and head to the Memorial Cup. As Terry Jones of The Edmonton Sun explains, the Oil Kings have a greta record at home over the past few seasons. From Jones:

“We have a lot of experience to look back on. We’re playing in our building where we’ve been pretty successful,” (Oil Kings coach Ed Laxtal) said.

The Oil Kings are 6-2 at home in the playoffs with both losses in overtime. The Hitmen, 8-1 at home, are 3-4 on the road.

Edmonton has gone 55-11-6 in the regular season and 16-3 in the post season these past two years.

But really they only have to go back to last Wednesday and Game 4 of the series in Calgary when they found themselves down two games to one.

Edmonton came out with a strong performance on the road to take the game 7-3 and even the series before taking a 3-2 series lead two nights later. A loss in Game 6 led to tonight’s all-or-nothing Game 7 they hope to win for their veteran players, many of whom will not be back next season. More from Jones:

Laxdal took his veterans aside in the morning. Pointed out to many of them that for veteran players in junior hockey there’s no next year. And Edmonton has a lot of veteran players.

T.J. Foster, Dylan Wruck and Trevor Cheek are the 20 year-olds who won’t be back for sure. Keegan Lowe, Michael St. Croix, Travis Ewanyk, Martin Gernat, Laurent Brossoit and David Musil, it is expected, will play in the AHL next year. Henrik Samuelsson and injured captain Griffin Reinhart are either NHL or back after a nine-game trial in the big top.

In addition to Reinhart, Edmonton has Henrick Samuelson, David Musil, Mitch Moroz, Keegan Lowe, Travis Ewanyk, Michael St. Croix, Martin Gernat and Laurent Brossoit who have all been drafted.

Reinhart, Samuelson, Lowe, St. Croix, Ewanyk, Brossoit and Trevor Cheek (as a free agent) have already signed entry level contracts.

Curtis Lazar and Tristan Jarry are expected to be first and second round picks respectively in this June’s entry draft.

The Oil Kings would love to get back to the Memorial Cup this year expecially after they finished fourth in the tounament last season. They need only look to their opponents to understand how important it is to win now. The Hitmen lost the WHL final in 2009 and won the next season before losing in the Memorial Cup semi-final. They then failed to make the playoffs and lost in the first round the next two seasons respectively to show just how quick teams can go up and down in major junior.

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The Kontinental League will expand by two teams next season as Medvescak of Zagreb and a not-yet-named team from Vladivostok. Medvescak (translated to Bears in English) will be the first Croatian team in the KHL after their application met standards required by the league. Here is what KHL President Alexander Medvedev had to say on the inclusion of Medvescak via the KHL’s official English website:

“Medvescak is one of the most famous and consistent clubs in Central Europe,” said Alexander Medvedev after the meeting. “It is a team with half a century of history, an impressive number of titles and a strong tradition. I would like to pay tribute to the determination of the club’s owners to increase the popularity of the hockey in the region: this season Medvescak played in the ancient Roman coliseum in Pula overlooking the Adriatic Sea, and its games at the 15,000-seater arena in Zagreb invariably attract a full house. I would like to welcome the Bears to the KHL and wish them many successful and exciting games.”

Medvescak owner Damir Gojanovic believes with their Canadian-sized rink and core of North American players, they will “be bringing hockey with a transatlantic flavor into the KHL.”

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