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Vancouver Province article (Today's number: 212)

May 3 2012 at 7:13 AM
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Today's number: 212

The digits sports fans should know today

The Province

May 3, 2012 5:38 AM

Jonathan McDonald's Numbers Game.

Photograph by: Joseph Llamzon , PNG

Why: On Wednesday, the WHL announced its annual award winners. The player of the year: Winnipeg’s Brendan Shinnimin, who scored 58 goals and 76 assists for a league-leading 134 points as a member of the Tri-City Americans. It’s one heck of a season, and it’s significant for the WHL, as it marked the highest single-season points total since Pavel Brendl scored the same number of points during the 1998-99 season. Shinnimin, who averaged close to two points per game, had more than three points per game in February, when he scored an incredible 23 goals and added 20 assists in just 14 games.

Numbers-wise, it pales in comparison with the WHL’s all-time best. Rob Brown, whose second season in the NHL produced a stunning 115 points, skating with Mario Lemieux, finished his junior career in 1986-87 as a Kamloops Blazer by recording a record 212 points in 63 games. That eclipsed future Canuck Cliff Ronning’s record of 197 points, set two seasons earlier. Of course, much like in the NHL, those were different times. Brown’s mark may never be broken; Shinnimin’s achievement is also significant.

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Vancouver Province article (WHL's top picks Barzal and Musil NHL bound material)

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May 3 2012, 7:16 AM 

WHA's top picks Barzal and Musil NHL-bound material

By Steve Ewen, The Province

May 3, 2012 3:02 AM

To hear John Batchelor tell it, the comparisons to Ryan Nugent Hopkins are just starting for Matt Barzal.

Barzal, who played bantam hockey this past season for coach Batchelor with Burnaby Winter Club, is expected to go first overall today to the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL bantam draft. Nugent-Hopkins, the Edmonton Oilers wunderkind, was the opening selection in 2008 to the Red Deer Rebels.

Batchelor says that Barzal has onice vision akin to Nugent-Hopkins, explaining "they see things very similar out there."

What's more, Batchelor believes that Barzal could also be an early arrival to the NHL.

He thinks the same of another BWC forward in today's selection of 1997-born players, Adam Musil. The son of former NHLer Frank Musil and brother of Vancouver Giants rearguard David Musil is projected to go in the early picks as well.

Nugent-Hopkins, of course, was one of the best Oilers this past year as an 18-year-old "Both of those guys could be playing in the NHL at 18 if they continue to develop," Batchelor said of Barzal, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 159 pounds, and Musil, who came in at 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds at last measure. "It's up to them, and how they end up being used by their NHL teams, but they both have the packages to be in the NHL at a young age.

"We'll be paying to watch them play very soon."

Musil could also slip in the draft today, too. There are rumours that he and his family want to be selected by either the Giants, the Calgary Hitmen or the Edmonton Oil Kings.

David Musil demanded to play for the Giants when his family moved to the Lower Mainland from the Czech Republic prior to the 2009-10 sea-son, and, after the Kootenay Ice won his rights in a special draft, they dealt him to Vancouver.

The Giants are the first of those teams to be selecting today, with 15th overall choice.

Another BWC forward to watch for is Ty Ronning, the son of former Vancouver Canuck Cliff Ronning.

His scouting report reads much like his father's, considering he's smallish (listed at 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds) but hard working.

"You sometimes wonder if he wouldn't be better if he was bigger, but then I think he wouldn't have the same character," said Batchelor, whose team, not surprisingly, won the Western Canadians this past sea-son.

Today's picks can only play five regular season games with their WHL clubs until their minor hockey seasons are complete. They can play regularly in 2013-14, when they are 16-year-olds.

You can follow the draft at www. whl.ca. It begins at 7: 30 a.m.

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Edmonton Journal article (Winterhawks' Rattie hottest scorer in playoffs)

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May 3 2012, 1:34 PM 

Winterhawks’ Rattie hottest scorer in playoffs

Lack of size doesn’t hurt St. Louis Blues’ prospect in WHL

By Jim Matheson, edmontonjournal.com

May 2, 2012

Ty Rattie of the Portland Winterhawks practises at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta.: May 2, 2012.

Photograph by: Candace Elliott , edmontonjournal.com

EDMONTON - Ty Rattie has been in Sven Baertschi’s shadow since the Swiss-born Portland Winterhawks forward created a huge buzz in Calgary with some late-season offensive pyrotechnics for the Flames.

But Rattie leads everybody in both goals (17) and points (29) in 15 Western Hockey League playoff games.

It’s heady stuff for the 19-year-old, who was named for legendary bull rider Ty Murray, a nine-time world champion who is married to the singer Jewel.

Rattie’s mother, a secretary for a helicopter company in Calgary, had the say on the name. Her family’s big on rodeo.

“I’ve never done the bull-riding. I don’t want to ... they’re crazy,” said Rattie, who takes a pounding in hockey, but bulls are a different story. “I know I’m named after that guy, but I’ll never be in his shoes.

“I don’t want to come anywhere near those horns. I’ll stick to roping sheep, riding horses, being around calves.”

Rattie surprisingly lasted until the second pick in the first round, 32nd overall, at last year’s NHL entry draft despite acing the Wingate test at the NHL combine. He had the highest score on the bike test, where players pedal as hard as they can, as fast as they can, with as much resistance as they can stand, for 30 seconds.

“You wake up that morning and it’s weighing on your mind that you’ve got to do it. You do the VO2 test (which registers how fast a subject can recover from exhaustion), then they put you in a tent for 10 minutes and they say, ‘OK, now comes the Wingate,’ ’’ said the 170-pound Rattie, a St. Louis Blues prospect. “You’re thinking, ‘This is the worst thing in the world.’ It’s only 30 seconds, but it feels like you’re on the bike for five minutes. You start pedalling, they count to five, then they put every single ounce of tension onto the bike. It feels like you’ve been hit by a truck on your legs.”

Lots of players in top shape lose their cookies.

“You’re in the tent between the bike rides and it reeks of puke. I didn’t puke, but I almost did because of the smell,” he said.

The bike test helped Rattie with the scouting directors of NHL clubs, but his size worked against him. Also, some scouts thought his skating needed some work.

“I weighed 165 then and I may have been cheating a bit,” said Rattie, who hopes to be up to 185 as a pro, if his frame allows for extra calories.

Rattie, who was born in Airdrie, plays wing on the No. 1 line with Baertschi and Marcel Noebels, who was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds during the season. He scored 57 goals in 69 regular-season games and has been almost unstoppable in the playoffs. Overall, he’s got 74 goals in 84 games this season.

Baertschi is second in playoff scoring with seven goals and 25 points while Noebels is eighth with 17 points. They can expect to see the Edmonton Oil Kings’ shutdown defensive pairing of Mark Pysyk and Keegan Lowe pretty much every even-strength shift in the WHL final.

“Rattie and Baertschi are both highly-skilled. Baertschi will go through traffic to score a goal and I’ve watched some video of Rattie and he finishes his hits and seems to be getting more physical as he gets older,” said Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal. “They remind me of Yen Yaremchuk and Randy Heath when I played in Portland (in 1982-83). Two typical players who’ll do whatever it takes to score goals in the Western Hockey League.

“We won’t reinvent the wheel ... we’ll match up Keegan and Mark against them as much as we can.”

Rattie is used to seeing top pairs against his line.

“I’m playing with two amazing players who’ll be in the NHL sooner rather than later. Makes it easy on me,” said Rattie, who was thrilled when Baertschi scored three goals in five games as an emergency call-up with the Flames in March.

“He proved to everyone that he belonged there and he brought that (confidence) back to our team. He’s run with it,” said Rattie, who has been watching the Blues throughout the playoffs, trying to keep tabs on T.J. Oshie, David Backes and Alex Pietrangelo, who will hopefully be his teammates in a few years.

“I’ve met Ken Hitchcock once or twice. Our coach (Mike Johnston) knows him pretty well and he says he’s a defence-first guy and, if I want to play for him, I think I’ll have to get my defensive game up, but I’ve been working on it,” he said, with a large smile.

The Oil Kings put the boots to the Winterhawks 8-4 in their only meeting this season at Rexall Place last October.

jmatheson@edmontonjournal.com

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

 
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Edmonton Journal article (Baertschi learned plenty during trial by fire)

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May 3 2012, 1:38 PM 

Baertschi learned plenty during trial by fire

Swiss prospect was called up for five games during Flames’ playoff drive

By Jim Matheson, edmontonjournal.com

May 3, 2012

Sven Baertschi practises with the Portland Winterhawks at Rexall Place in Edmonton, May 2, 2012.

Photograph by: Candace Elliott , edmontonjournal.com

EDMONTON - The day after Brent Sutter decided he didn’t want to coach the Calgary Flames any longer, he was asked about Svensanity — the stir over the goal-scoring exploits of Swiss prospect Sven Baertschi.

“Oh, he’ll play for the Flames next year. For sure,” said Sutter.

Sutter watched the Portland Winterhawks winger score three goals in five games when he answered a Flames S.O.S. in March to help with their playoff drive when Calgary ran out of healthy bodies. Sutter liked the Swiss winger, who was Calgary’s first pick in 2011 (13th overall), so much he played him in overtime against San Jose one night. He threw him into the deep end against the Sharks.

Baertschi never blinked. The kid has big time talent.

“He proved to everyone that he belonged there and he brought that (confidence) back to our team. He’s run with it,” said Portland teammate Ty Rattie.

Baertschi scored his first NHL goal against the Minnesota Wild and it still resonates in his memory bank.

“The D-man had the puck at the point and I was battling in front of the net … and trying to find a way where he could look at my stick so he could give me a shot/pass,” said Baertschi. “Perfect shot onto my stick and I looked back after it hit the goalie’s pad and it was like in slow-motion. The puck was flipped up and I could see the NHL sign. I looked at the goalie, looked at the puck. Had lots of time and put it in.

“Weird feeling. It’s the same sort of feeling when you get drafted, and to score the goal where you get drafted in Minnesota. Couldn’t be much better.”

Baertschi’s last Flames game was against the Oilers in Edmonton on March 16. He flew back to Calgary on their charter after the game, then was sent back to Portland.

“I kind of knew it was coming. They weren’t playing me as much anymore (seven minutes and change) and it wasn’t the greatest game. I was in touch with the guys who were injured and I thought it was my last game,” he said.

He looked over at the Oilers bench a few times and saw former Swiss national team coach Ralph Krueger, but didn’t get a chance to talk to him.

“As I was growing up, he was always on TV at the world championship,” said Baertschi. “It was fun to play against him. He’s done such a good job in his coaching career, building the Swiss team.”

“I don’t know him very well outside of his game. Just that he’s a hard-working, talented, solid kid,” said Krueger.

What did Baertschi learn from Sutter?

“Oh, a lot of things. He boosted my confidence to another level. Playing in overtime against San Jose against Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. It was exciting. It made me a little nervous, but I tried to do things. I learned so many things,” said Baertschi. “Getting called up in the situation Calgary was in was a dream. We played five games and won four of them. Everybody was a great teacher for me.”

Now his mind is on the Western Hockey League championship against the Oil Kings, but the NHL is fighting for time in his brain.

“I don’t look forward too much, but I want to be on the Flames next season. I want to make sure I have a spot,” Baertschi said. “I have the experience of those five games in a critical situation which should be huge going into camp. Maybe my confidence will be better. I won’t be so nervous.”

jmatheson@edmontonjournal.com

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

 
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Edmonton Journal article (Intangibles separate Oil Kings' Lazar from the pack)

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May 3 2012, 1:42 PM 

Intangibles separate Oil Kings’ Lazar from the pack

WHL rookie has always been a big scorer with a flair for the dramatic

By Chris O'Leary, edmontonjournal.com

May 3, 2012

Edmonton Oil Kings Curtis Lazar celebrates after scoring against the Moose Jaw Warriors during the second period of the WHL Eastern Conference Final in Edmonton on Friday April 27, 2012.

Photograph by: Larry Wong , Larry Wong/Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - When Curtis Lazar of the Edmonton Oil Kings skates onto the ice at Rexall Place on Thursday night, he’ll be under the brightest spotlight of his young hockey career.

Lazar will likely soak up the atmosphere of the Western Hockey League final for a minute and then go about his highly productive business, like he’s always done.

“I remember we were in a Lethbridge tournament early in the season,” Ross Jewell, Lazar’s peewee coach in 2006, said by phone from Vernon, B.C. “We won the tournament, but we were down three goals to St. Albert late in the game and Curtis went out and scored one of the two (to tie the game) and scored the overtime winner on just a beauty single-handed effort.”

Before joining Edmonton last season, Lazar played for the Okanagan Hockey Academy under head coach and general manager Robert Dirk, who had a nine-year NHL playing career before stepping behind the bench in 1997.

“He would always see when we needed a goal,” Dirk said. “He would either score it himself or he would make the play that someone scored on. He was very instrumental in our team’s success last year, just like he is right now with the Oil Kings and he will be for the next 20 years for the teams he’s going to be playing for.”

From the time he was playing novice and atom hockey in Salmon Arm, B.C., Lazar had a gift for offence. He had a pair of six-goal games within a week in spring hockey in 2004 at Vernon. He racked up hat tricks, four-goal games and five-goal games in minor hockey. When he was 10 years old, before he played in the Brick tournament at West Edmonton Mall, Lazar won a hardest shot contest in 2005. The shot was clocked at 110 km/h.

Filling the net is one thing, but Lazar has stood out in the playoffs with brilliant bursts of clutch plays. He’s fearless when he goes to the net and seems to perform better the higher the tension gets. Lazar has been in on almost every rallying goal or knockout play of the post-season for the Oil Kings.

His two former coaches point to Lazar’s desire to win as his standout trait.

“You could tell he was a special player,” Jewell said. “It wasn’t so much the skill level, although it was a solid skill level. It was just his passion to win. He never did anything in a disrespectful manner. The way he played, he was always respectful, clean on both ends of the ice. But he’d do whatever he could do to help his team win. That’s what really stood out for him.”

“He’s the total package,” Dirk said. “His skill set is exceptional, his skating is exceptional and his hockey sense and his discipline for the game is very, very good. What separates him is there are a lot of high-end players that have those qualities, but he has a mean streak. That’s why he’s the total package.”

Lazar had a decent rookie season in the WHL, scoring 20 goals and 11 assists in 63 games. He ramped up his play from Game 1 of the first-round series with the Kootenay Ice.

Coming into the season as a projected top-five pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft, Lazar has scouts and teams willing the clock ahead to next year.

“I think it’s very tough for any 16-year-old to go into the Western Hockey League and be dominant,” Dirk said. “I think he had his learning period over the first five, six months of the season, but in March, the last month of the regular season and the playoffs, he’s sort of stepped into his own and shown a preview of the player he’s going to be.

“I’m sure that’s pretty exciting for a couple of NHL teams that aren’t going to make the playoffs next year.”

Jewell said the ingredients were there on and off of the ice for the player that Lazar has grown into even when he was playing atom.

“For him, it’s never been about the personal accolades,” Jewell said. “I think from a very early age, he probably told himself he wanted to be in the NHL. Of all the kids I’ve coached, he’s the one that I said to my boys, who both got a chance to play with him (in pee wee), I said, ‘If anyone in this town will make it, it’ll be Curtis, just because he had all of those attributes.’

“He was modest about it. He knew he was good, but he didn’t flaunt it. He knew he had to get better. Every time he stepped on the ice, he worked to make himself better and those around him better. I mean, geez, everybody wanted to be on Curtis’s line,” he said, laughing.

On Thursday night, Lazar will skate out onto another big stage and another opportunity to stuff his already bulging resume. Captaining Team B.C. at the Canada Winter Games in 2011, Lazar broke Sidney Crosby’s points record and Steven Stamkos’s goals record, thanks to a hat-trick performance in a gold-medal victory — just three of his 17 points in the tourney.

Tasked with more responsibility in the playoffs this year, he’s responded yet again.

“We knew he’d elevate his game and we hope that he elevates it in the finals,” Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal said. “He’s been outstanding. He’s been a totally different player than he has been in the regular season and, on that stage, we’ve given him more of a responsibility and he’s taken it and run with it.

“We’ve got a dressing room full of big-game players and there’s no bigger game than Game 1 (Thursday) night.”

coleary@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/olearychris

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

 
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Edmonton Journal article (Rachinski dances around competition in WHL)

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May 3 2012, 1:45 PM 

Rachinski dances around competition in WHL

Undrafted Oil King hopes to catch someone’s eye in WHL final

By John MacKinnon, edmontonjournal.com

May 3, 2012

Edmonton Oil Kings’ Rhett Rachinski and Brendan Walker of the Brandon Wheat Kings battle for the puck in Game 2 of the WHL Eastern Conference quarter-final series in Edmonton on April 7, 2012.

Photograph by: Bruce Edwards , edmontonjournal.com

EDMONTON - Edmonton Oil Kings forward Rhett Rachinski, as the hockey players might say, can ‘dance.’

That’s no metaphor for skating prowess either, but the stone truth. The 20-year-old Western Hockey League veteran can cut a rug. And any which way you want, at that.

“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” said Doug Rachinski, Rhett’s dad, who, with his wife Roxanne, owns and operates Dance Unlimited, a well-known Edmonton academy. “His tapping (tap dancing)? Wonderful.

“He did Ukrainian dance, he did jazz. He danced ballet. Hip-hop, yes. Not much of it, but a bit.

“What am I missing? Musical theatre. (He did) pretty much everything.”

At the moment, Rhett Rachinski, who’s also a pretty fair drummer when he has time, is intensely focused on another sort of dance, the WHL best-of-seven final series the Oil Kings open tonight against the Portland Winterhawks.

The teams are playing for a berth in the Memorial Cup in Shawinigan, Que., from May 18-27.

This rigadoon is no studio recital. It’s the culmination of a four-year career with the Oil Kings for Rachinski, who is one of two athletes still playing from the club’s first season in 2007-08. The other is captain Mark Pysyk.

“Going through the hard times, and looking back on it, something like this (WHL finals) seemed a little bit out of reach at the time,” the Oil Kings’ Rachinski said. “Being able to close out your junior career by having a year like we’re having is pretty special because you’re able to finish at a peak. This is getting pretty close to as far as you can go.”

For a guy who was not chosen in the WHL bantam draft, who remains undrafted by any NHL team as he hits the final strides of his WHL career, Rachinski already has come quite a distance.

Only one player on the reincarnated Oil Kings has played more regular-seasons games with Edmonton than Rachinski’s 244, and that’s T.J. Foster, with 269. Pysyk is one shy of Rachinski, with 243.

“Being an undrafted guy out of (bantam) and not being drafted now, I like to think I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder,” Rachinski said. “You want to go out there and make an impression.

“Having this type of a season definitely helps with that. I don’t know if it makes it more special, but you want to have something to prove.

“As long as you’re winning as a team and you’re doing well as an individual, it’s fun and hopefully it opens a couple more doors for me.”

It might, at that. It was a breakout season for Rachinski, who scored 27 goals and added 23 assists for 50 points, seven more than his previous three seasons combined.

If his on-ice performance does not lead to an invitation to a pro camp, it is likely Rachinski will play Canadian university hockey next season. He has just finished his first year at the University of Alberta.

The well-rounded Rachinski certainly seems a good fit for the university route.

From about the age of 15, his Bantam AAA year, Rachinski has focused on hockey as single-mindedly as the next player. But growing up, cultural pursuits included hockey, dance, being the drummer in a rock band, playing volleyball, on and on.

“My parents did a good job, exposing me to a lot of different things as a kid, so I was able to pick and choose what I ended up being good at,” Rachinski said. “I was really into anything athletic, really passionate about sports, in general.”

Doug Rachinski grew up in tiny Glendon, about 135-kilometres northeast of Edmonton, between Bonnyville and St. Paul. He grew up believing you “touch more than one base.”

“That was in the days and the location when you could be on the volleyball team, you could play hockey, baseball in the summer, you could, in my case, do cultural stuff like Ukrainian dance,” Doug Rachinski said. “It might be an era gone by, it might be where I’m from — sort of rural. But that’s part of what I believe.”

The crossover benefits from dance to hockey seem obvious — balance, agility, foot speed, body awareness, strength.

“I’m sure it does help, but at the same time I don’t know what having one without the other really feels like,” Rhett Rachinski said.

If he had time to ponder, ­Rachinski, like poet William Butler Yeats, might wonder how we can know the dancer from the dance.

But right now he’s got an important hockey series to play.

jmackinnon@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/rjmackinnon

Check out my blog, Sweatsox, at edmontonjournal.com/blogs

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

 
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Edmonton Journal article (Oil Kings GM Green chosen as WHL executive of the year)

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May 3 2012, 1:49 PM 

Oil Kings GM Green chosen as WHL executive of the year

By Cam Tait, edmontonjournal.com

May 3, 2012

Oil Kings GM Bob Green on the left presents their new assistant coach Steve Hamilton with a jersey at Rexall Place in Edmonton on July 13, 2010.

Photograph by: Candace Elliott

EDMONTON - By nature, Bob Green is shy.

So when the Edmonton Oil Kings general manager was singled out as a Western Hockey League award winner Wednesday in Calgary, he was obviously uncomfortable.

“Bob rolled his eyes when they announced his award, sat there, and then walked up like a gentleman to accept the award,” said Edmonton Oilers president and CEO Patrick LaForge, whose club owns the junior Oil Kings.

LaForge said Green earned the Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy as WHL executive of the year and is the main reason the Oil Kings have been successful this season.

“I think an award like this is always gratifying, but in an expansion situation, this is a great time,” said Green, who was hired by the Oil Kings when they were given an expansion franchise for the 2007-08 season.

Now in his fifth campaign, Green directed his team to a 107-point regular season — tops in the league.

The Oil Kings’ quest for the league championship starts Thursday at Rexall Place against the Portland Winterhawks. That’s quite impressive for only five years on the job.

“Bob has to take most of the credit because he is the guy who asked people to work harder and stick to a plan,” said LaForge.

Green selected sixteen players on the current Oil Kings roster and drafted eight of the team’s top 10 scorers in the annual bantam draft.

He is known for his sharp eye, and ensuring that young players have several years to fully develop their potential.

LaForge said Green played the game as a kid and admits he wasn’t that good. But in doing so, he became a student of the game.

“He knows an Oil King when he sees one,” said LaForge.

In an interview last fall, Green said the biggest thing he learned in his first WHL gig was patience. Stick to the plan, he said. Don’t rush the kids.

That philosophy has trickled down to his coaching staff.

“He has taught me how to be patient with younger players as they will develop throughout the season and over their junior career,” Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal said after Wednesday’s practice.

LaForge said keeping young players was a big key to the Oil Kings’ success.

“We could have traded a lot of our young players in our first few years in the league for older players so we could win sooner,” said LaForge. “But Bob kept our young players so we could develop them.”

Laxdal said Green has put together a scouting staff he could trust.

Green hired Laxdal almost two years ago as head coach. Their roles are very defined: Green recruits and Laxdal coaches.

“Bob is very fair and lets us coach the way we coach, but we are open to input, which makes our staff cohesive,” said Laxdal.

ctait@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/camtait

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Calgary Herald article (Diminutive Shinnimin says 'I told you so' in big way)

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May 3 2012, 2:08 PM 

Diminutive Shinnimin says ‘I told you so’ in big way

Americans forward wins WHL’s top player award for 2011-12 season

By Kristen Odland, Calgary Herald

May 3, 2012

Brendan Shinnimin of the Tri-City Americans was named the WHL’s player of the year at the league awards in Calgary on Wednesday. ‘‘It’s been quite a ride,’’ Shinnimin said as he showed off the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy. He also won the Bob Clarke Trophy as the league’s top scorer.

Photograph by: Ted Rhodes , Calgary Herald

Ignored in the Western Hockey League’s 2006 bantam draft and passed over in consecutive National Hockey League drafts, Brendan Shinnimin has always played with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

But nothing said ‘I told you so’ quite like the two pieces of hardware — the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy given to the league’s top player and the Bob Clarke Trophy awarded to the league’s top scorer — he held under his arm Wednesday at Calgary’s Deerfoot Inn and Casino after the Western Hockey League’s annual awards lunch.

It also said a whole lot about the five-foot-10, 175-pounder’s maturity and growth as a player through his time spent in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans.

“Being told I was too small, that I was never going to play — it made me want to make it even more,” Shinnimin said. “To be able to have that drive is something you can’t find in everyone.

“I think I’ve developed that in the Western Hockey League and just tried to follow a dream.”

For four seasons, he did that in Kennewick, Wash., a long ways away from where he grew up in Winnipeg.

Now, after a ridiculous 134-point, 58-goal season to cap his WHL career the centre posted 23 goals and 20 assists in 14 appearances in February alone the dream is continuing for Shinnimin who signed a free agent contract with the Phoenix Coyotes at the beginning of March.

Immediately following Wednesday’s award ceremony, he hopped a flight from Calgary to Phoenix to join the Coyotes, locked in an NHL playoff tussle against the Nashville Predators, as a black ace.

“I went there for camp at the beginning of the season and they offered me an AHL contract, but I respectfully turned it down,” said Shinnimin who is also the league nominee for CHL player of the year. “I felt like me going back to junior was a good idea. It really gave me an opportunity to work on some things.

“Looking back then and being here now, it’s been quite a ride.”

Shinnimin, who also led the Americans in playoffs with seven goals and 16 assists in 15 games, beat out Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers for the WHL’s top player award. Etem, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, also had a phenomenal season with 61 goals in 65 games.

Meanwhile, Sam Reinhart capped off his stellar 16-year-old debut, collecting the WHL’s top rookie nod after finishing fourth in scoring among first-year players with 28 goals and 34 assists in 67 games for the Kootenay Ice.

Which, of course, sets the bar awfully high for next season.

“It’s not going to be easy to build on it,” Reinhart said. “I’ll definitely spend the summer getting stronger, bigger, and just a lot quicker in every aspect of the game.”

The youngest son of former Calgary Flame Paul and brother of Flames prospect Max represented the Eastern Conference and beat out Kamloops Blazers forward Tim Bozon, who is expected to be a top prospect at next month’s National Hockey League draft.

Top defender Alex Petrovic of the Red Deer Rebels couldn’t be at the awards ceremony as he is busy with the San Antonio Rampage in their American Hockey League playoff run. Wednesday, the Edmonton native beat out Spokane Chiefs blueliner Brenden Kichton for the honour.

Calgary native Taylor Vause, a Dallas Stars prospect, earned the humanitarian award (Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy) in his final season with the Swift Current Broncos to best Western Conference nominee Brendan Gallagher of the Vancouver Giants who starred for Canada at the 2012 IIHF world junior tournament.

His Canadian world junior teammates Mark Stone and Ryan Murray were up against each other for the most sportsmanlike player (the Brad Hornung trophy), but Stone, the Brandon Wheat Kings captain and Ottawa Senators prospect, beat out the Everett Silvertips defenceman.

Edmonton Oilers prospect and Medicine Hat Tiger Tyler Bunz was the WHL’s top goalie after posting 39 wins in 61 games, a 2.57 goals-against average and 0.921 save percentage.

The Western nominee was Tri-City Americans netminder Ty Rimmer.

Calgary Hitmen graduate Jimmy Bubnick was beat out by Spokane Chief Reid Gow for the WHL’s scholastic player of the year award (Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy).

Tri-City Americans head coach Jim Hiller, who led his club to the Western Conference final before losing to the Portland Winterhawks, picked up the WHL coach of the year award to beat out Regina Pats boss Pat Conacher.

The Edmonton Oil Kings, bound for the WHL championship series against the Portland Winterhawks, picked up the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the regular season champions with a 50-15-3-4 record.

Edmonton also clearly hit the books hard and was dubbed the WHL’s most scholastic team while general manager Bob Green collected the WHL’s executive of the year nod.

However, Green insisted his work isn’t finished yet.

“It’s nice to get recognized but it’s a reflection of our team,” Green said. “I’m very proud to work with great people.

“Calgary, Kootenay, and Vancouver have all given us a great template to work with. We have a ways to go yet to achieve what those teams have achieved.”

Pat Smith was named the WHL’s top official while the Moose Jaw Warriors were given the annual marketing/business award.

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Calgary Herald article (Brendan Shinnimin named WHL player of the year)

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May 3 2012, 2:17 PM 

Brendan Shinnimin named WHL player of the year

By Kristen Odland, Calgary Herald

May 3, 2012

Brendan Shinnimin of the Tri-City Americans poses with the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy after winning the WHL Player of the Year honors Wednesday May 2, 2012 at Calgary's Deerfoot Casino.

Photograph by: Ted Rhodes , Calgary Herald

It was the Brendan Shinnimin show at the Western Hockey League awards lunch on Wednesday at Calgary`s Deerfoot Inn and Casino.

The 21-year-old who was undrafted in the WHL`s bantam draft and passed over in the National Hockey League draft was dubbed the WHL player of the year and collected the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy after putting up a ridiculous 134 points, including 58 goals and 76 assists to pace the league in the regular season.

As such, he also hoisted the WHL’s Bob Clarke Trophy as the league’s top scorer.

The Western Conference sniper, who signed a contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, beat out Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers for the nod even after Etem, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, hit the 61-goal mark in just 65 games this season.

Sam Reinhart, who starred for the Kootenay Ice as a 16-year-old, collected the WHL`s top rookie nod after finishing fourth in scoring among rookies with 28 goals and 34 assists in 67 games. The youngest son of former Calgary Flame Paul, and brother of Flames prospect Max, represented the Eastern Conference and beat out Kamloops Blazers forward Tim Bozon who is expected to be a top prospect at next month`s National Hockey League draft.

Edmonton Oilers prospect and Medicine Hat Tiger Tyler Bunz was the WHL`s top goalie after posting 39 wins in 61 games, a 2.57-goals-against-average and 0.921-save percentage. The Western Conference nominee was Tri-City Americans netminder Ty Rimmer.

Top defender Alex Petrovic of the Red Deer Rebels couldn`t be at the awards ceremony, busy with the San Antonio Rampage amid an American Hockey League playoff run. Wednesday, the Edmonton native beat out Spokane Chiefs blueliner Brenden Kichton for the nod.

Calgary native Taylor Vause, a Type 1 diabetic and Dallas Stars prospect, earned the humanitarian award (Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy) in his final season with the Swift Current Broncos to best Western Conference nominee Brendan Gallagher of the Vancouver Giants, who starred for Canada at the 2012 IIHF world junior tournament.

His Canadian world junior teammates Mark Stone and Ryan Murray were up against each other for the most sportsmanlike player (the Brad Hornung trophy), but Stone, the Brandon Wheat Kings captain and Ottawa Senators prospect won the honour and beat out the Everett Silvertips defenceman.
Calgary Hitmen graduate Jimmy Bubnick was beat out by Spokane Chief Reid Gow for the WHL’s scholastic player of the year award (Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy).

The Edmonton Oil Kings, who square off with the Portland Winterhawks for the WHL championship series starting Thursday, picked up the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the regular season champions with a 50-15-3-4 record. Edmonton also clearly hit the books hard and was dubbed the WHL’s most scholastic team while general manager Bob Green collected the WHL`s executive-of-the year nod.

Tri-City Americans head coach Jim Hiller, who led his club to the Western Conference final before losing to the Portland Winterhawks, picked up the WHL coach of the year award to beat out Regina Pats boss Pat Conacher.

Pat Smith was named the WHL’s top official while the Moose Jaw Warriors were given the annual marketing/business award.

Also recognized Wednesday were the Eastern and Western Conference first and second team all-stars.

Kodland@calgaryherald.com
Follow on Twitter at KristenOdlandCH

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Leader-Post article (Regina Pats pitching stability)

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May 3 2012, 2:30 PM 

Regina Pats pitching stability

By Greg Harder, Leader-Post

May 3, 2012 12:00 PM

Regina Pats general manager Chad Lang.

Photograph by: Don Healy , Regina Leader-Post

Much like their on ice product, the Regina Pats believe their sales pitch is beginning to evolve.

By virtue of a much improved performance during the 2011-12 WHL season a winning record (37-27-6-2) and a playoff berth for the first time in four years the Pats' organization is in a better position to sell itself heading into today's WHL bantam draft in Calgary.

"To be able to have success and get back in the playoffs, that's a huge part when it comes to recruiting," offered GM Chad Lang. "At the end of the day kids all want to be given the opportunity to not only play in the league but play in the playoffs. It means additional exposure for them. Parents want their kids to go to organizations that have had some success. From a recruiting stand point it was real beneficial for us to get into the postseason."

Lang is quick to give credit where it's due, pointing out that head coach Pat Conacher runner up for the WHL coach-of-the-year award - was instrumental in the club's turnaround this season. Conacher's proven formula, in collaboration with full-time assistants Malcolm Cameron and Josh Dixon, could make the Pats a more attractive destination for players. The same goes for the perceived stability of the organization after a period of three years during which there were major changes in the hockey operations department.

"The success of our coaching staff, that plays a huge part in it, seeing how some of these young guys grew not only as individuals but as players," noted Lang. "That will be very beneficial moving forward. You talk about stability, there's a plan in place. Myself, (president) Brent (Parker), (head scout) Dale (McMullin), Pat and the coaching staff, we're are all working toward a common goal. We understand there's still work ahead of us and yet there's a plan on building with this group of kids and making sure we give them the right opportunities to have success. I think that will pay off long term for us."

With their reputation apparently on the upswing, the Pats' task could become somewhat less complicated heading into the draft. Rather than steering clear of players from B.C. and the U.S., who are traditionally tougher to recruit, Lang is now even more confident in sticking to his philosophy of drafting the best players available.

"If it came down to two players of very, very similar qualities both on-ice and office, I think we always want to lean closer to home," he said. "Yet, sometimes it doesn't work out that way. In order for our organization to continue making strides we're going to have to do our best to project where these guys are going to be in two to three years and ultimately take the best players. Sometimes that's a local kid and sometimes that's not. At the end of the day we want the best players to be wearing our jersey."

The Pats believe they'll unearth some quality talent at the draft, even though they aren't slated to pick until the second round (31st overall). From that spot, they won't get a sniff of centre Matthew Barzal of Burnaby, B.C., who's expected to go first overall to the Seattle Thunderbirds. Barzal is among a handful of forwards slated to land in the top group, including Giorgio Estaphan of Edmonton, Jansen Harkins of Vancouver, Calgary's Nick Merkley, Burnaby's Adam Musil and White City's Jayden Halbgewachs. Halbgewachs and defenceman Tate Olson of Saskatoon are the top-ranked players from Saskatchewan, both projected to go in the first round.

"You could argue that there's probably 10 to 12 high-end players, so-called franchise players that teams would consider that they could build around," added Lang. "Not to discredit any of those other kids in the first round but there's probably a little bit of a drop-off after that. And yet there's still a lot of quality players that are going to be available in those first four rounds. Right now there's probably more defencemen than forwards, yet I think in the top 10 you're going to have a better chance of seeing forwards taken than D-men.

"Overall it's going to be a real balanced draft. It's probably more of a preference thing because I think a lot of kids are very similar in their skill sets and abilities. It's just trying to project where they're going to be two or three years down the road."

gharder@leaderpost.com

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Leader-Post article (Conacher endorses Hiller as WHL coach of the year)

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May 3 2012, 2:35 PM 

Conacher endorses Hiller as WHL coach of the year

By Greg Harder, Leader-Post

May 3, 2012 11:58 AM

Regina Pats head coach Pat Conacher.

Photograph by: Don Healy , Regina Leader-Post

Pat Conacher had no argument with the WHL's coachof-the-year voting - even though it didn't end in his favour.

The Regina Pats' head coach finished as the runner-up to Jim Hiller of the Tri-City Americans when the WHL announced its yearly award winners on Wednesday in Calgary. Under Conacher's guidance, the Pats were among the biggest surprises in the league this season as they posted a winning record (37-27-6-2) and claimed a playoff berth for the first time in four years.

Hiller, meanwhile, guided Tri-City to the best record in the Western Conference (5018-2-2).

"I wasn't disappointed," Conacher said from Calgary. "To lose to a guy like Jimmy Hiller, I'm not losing anything. I'm happy for him. He's a tremendous person and he's proven he's a tremendous coach in the league too. I tip my hat to Jimmy."

The fact that Conacher and Hiller ended up as finalists for the same award is an example of how small the hockey world can be. Their paths had previously crossed as players with the Los Angeles Kings during the 1992-93 NHL season.

"He only played half a season there and we ended up trading him to Detroit but you could tell what he was," said Conacher. "I've seen him through the years too. He worked tremendously hard to be a very good coach in this league and he is."

Hiller got his start as a WHL head coach with the expansion Chilliwack Bruins (now Victoria Royals) in 2006-07. He parted company with the club after just three seasons but landed on his feet immediately with the Americans, who have been one of the league's elite teams on his watch, averaging 47 wins over the past three seasons.

"(Hiller) has done a tremendous job everywhere he has gone," noted Conacher, who joined the Bruins in 2010-11 as an assistant coach/assistant GM before landing the job in Regina last summer. "He did a great job in Chilliwack as far as dealing with that expansion (scenario). I came in on the heels of him leaving. Jim did a great job of putting in his footprint and establishing Chilliwack into the league and doing what he had to do. Then he goes to Tri-City, they have a great team there and you can see what kind of coach he is."

Conacher made an imprint of his own in his first season as a WHL head coach, helping turn around a franchise that was stuck in a three-year rut. For his efforts, Conacher was recognized as a finalist for the league's coach-of-the-year award.

"You're always humbled when it's something chosen by your peers," he added. "I look at that type of award, it's still a team award. There's many people who make it work. First of all (GM) Chad (Lang) for supporting me in how I go about things. He and I were on the same page from Day 1 so that was a good fit. Then the Parkers giving us the resources to go out and hire two other coaches (Malcolm Cameron and Josh Dixon), that was a big part of it. Then of course the players. It's not just me, it's everybody."

WHL AWARDS

Player of the Year, Four Broncos Memorial Trophy

Winner: Brendan Shinnimin (Winnipeg), Tri-City Americans

Runner-up: Emerson Etem (Long Beach, Calif.), Medicine Hat Tigers

Rookie of the Year, Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy

Winner: Sam Reinhart (Vancouver), Kootenay Ice

Runner-up: Tim Bozon (Cureglia, Switzerland), Kamloops Blazers

Goaltender of the Year, Del Wilson Trophy

Winner: Tyler Bunz (St. Albert, Alta.), Medicine Hat Tigers

Runner-up: Ty Rimmer (Edmonton), Tri-City Americans

Defenceman of the Year, Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy

Winner: Alex Petrovic (Edmonton), Red Deer Rebels

Runner-up: Brenden Kichton (Spruce Grove, Alta.), Spokane Chiefs

Most Sportsmanlike Player, Brad Hornung Trophy

Winner: Mark Stone (Winnipeg), Brandon Wheat Kings

Runner-up: Ryan Murray (White City), Everett Silvertips

Scholastic Player of the Year, Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy Winner: Reid Gow (Killarney, Man.), Spokane Chiefs Runner-up: Jimmy Bubnick (Saskatoon), Calgary Hitmen

Coach of the Year, Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy

Winner: Jim Hiller, Tri-City Americans

Runner-up: Pat Conacher, Regina Pats

Executive of the Year, Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy

Winner: Bob Green, Edmonton Oil Kings

Runner-up: Craig Bonner, Kamloops Blazers

Humanitarian of the Year, Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy

Winner: Taylor Vause (Calgary), Swift Current Broncos

Runner-up: Brendan Gallagher (Delta, BC), Vancouver Giants

Marketing / Business Award

Winner: Moose Jaw Warriors

Runner-up: Spokane Chiefs

Top Official, Allen Paradice Memorial Trophy

Pat Smith (Vancouver)

Regular Season Champions, Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy

Edmonton Oil Kings: 50-15-3-4, 107 points

Top Scorer, Bob Clarke Trophy Brendan Shinnimin (Winnipeg), Tri-City Americans

GP - 69 G - 58 A - 76 Pts - 134

gharder@leaderpost.com

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StarPhoenix article (Focused on Memorial Cup run, Saskatoon Blades swing big trades)

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May 3 2012, 2:45 PM 

Focused on Memorial Cup run, Saskatoon Blades swing big trades

By Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The StarPhoenix

May 3, 2012 2:02 PM

Saskatoon Blades coach/GM Lorne Molleken

Photograph by: Greg Pender , The StarPhoenix

While most Western Hockey League general managers were busy building their teams for future success at Thursday’s WHL bantam draft, Lorne Molleken was focused solely on the present.

The Saskatoon Blades head coach and general manager made good on his post-season promise to reshape the team for their impending 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup run by pulling off two huge deals at the draft table.

The Memorial Cup hosts acquired veteran forwards Shane McColgan and Jessey Astles from the Kelowna Rockets for 18-year-old centre Ryan Olsen and a second and fifth round pick in the 2012 draft.

The Blades also pick up a conditional third round selection in the 2014 draft as part of the deal.

Minutes later, the Blades added to their depth up front, acquiring Brenden Walker from the Brandon Wheat Kings for two second-round selections (2012 and 2013) and a third (2014). Brandon also has the right to swap first round picks in 2014.

McColgan, 19, scored 18 goals and 64 points in 70 games for the Rockets last season. The Manhattan Beach, Calif., native was selected in the fifth round (134th overall) of the 2011 NHL draft by the New York Rangers. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound winger has 202 points in his WHL career.

Astles, 18, enters his fourth season in the WHL after playing his first three seasons in Kelowna. The Coquitlam, B.C., product had two goals and seven points in 42 games last year. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-winger also added 84 penalty minutes.

Walker is coming off a career season that saw him post 26 goals and 81 points in 68 games, while mostly playing with Canadian world junior standout Mark Stone. The St. Anne, Man., native will be an overager this season. The 5-foot-11, 181-pound winger has 152 points in his three-year WHL career, all with the Wheat Kings.

In Olsen, the Blades gave up the player they selected 20th overall in the 2009 draft.

The Delta, B.C. native had 15 goals and 32 points last season, building off a rookie campaign in 2010-11 during which time he recorded seven goals and 14 points.

Olsen was the 178th rated eligible skater by NHL Central Scouting in their final pre-draft rankings, released April 9.

After the Saskatoon Blades were swept in the WHL’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal, Molleken promised there would be massive changes to the Blades’ 2012-13 roster.

"It's two years now where we haven't been able to win with these players so we're going to have to look elsewhere and see what we can do in that category,” he said on March 29, referencing the team’s second-round departure to Kootenay in 2011 and Medicine Hat in the opening round this year.

"We're going to have to bring in a number of players next year. We knew that coming in to it. We have the assets to do that.”

dnugent-bowman@thestarphoenix.com

Twitter.com/DNBsports

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StarPhoenix article (Sniper searches for magic touch)

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May 3 2012, 2:49 PM 

Sniper searches for magic touch

By Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The StarPhoenix

May 3, 2012

Portland Winterhawks left winger Taylor Leier will likely return to his old form when the 2012-13 WHL season begins in September, terrorizing goaltenders the way he once did in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.

The former Saskatoon Contact was one of the most feared snipers in the province last year as he finished second in SMAAAHL scoring with 31 goals and 74 points.

But as a rookie with the Winterhawks, Leier was forced to change his stripes to a more defensive role in 2011-12.

Led by veterans Ty Rattie, Sven Bartschi and Brad Ross, no team found the net more often than the Winterhawks did this season.

And, although Leier hasn't forgotten his scoring touch, he's had to adapt.

"In key situations, you always want to stay on the defensive side of the puck," said the Saskatoon native. "Defence leads to offence."

The defending Western Conference champion Winterhawks begin the WHL final tonight in Edmonton against the regular season champion Oil Kings who've won 23 of their last 24 games dating back to late February.

While it's the high-profile, NHL prospects who tend to get most of the accolades in Portland because of their scoring prowess, Leier's steady play has also been essential to their success.

Building off a regular season that saw him net 13 goals and 37 points - good for 14th in freshman scoring - while suiting up in all 72 games, the 18-year-old has chipped in with five markers so far in the post-season.

But, most importantly, Leier - the Winterhawks' 2009 second-round bantam pick - continued to skate alongside overager Oliver Gabriel and 20-year-old Taylor Peters to form a formidable defensive trio.

"With our team, our top two lines are so talented," said Leier. "My line with Taylor Peters and Oliver Gabriel, I love playing with the two of them.

"They're really responsible in both ends. It's been really good playing with them. You learn a lot (from them)."

Leier has proven to be a quick study. Winterhawks assistant head coach and assistant general manager Travis Green was tasked with helping Leier round out his game when the then-17-year-old attended the team's training camp last summer.

However, Green - a centreman who played 970 games in the NHL for six franchises, mostly in a defensively role - said there was little instruction he had to give to the 5-foot-11, 178-pound forward.

"I don't know if we've had to so much teach him anything," said Green. "He's got really good hockey sense. He knows the game well.

"He has an unmatched work ethic among our group, which says a lot because we have a lot of good players here who work extremely hard at times. He doesn't take a back seat to any of them."

His former Contacts coach Marc Chartier echoes those sentiments.

Chartier played with Leier's father, Tim, on the 1982-83 Canadian university champion Saskatchewan Huskies and said the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

He also noted that Leier's game really evolved after he was named MVP of the Mac's AAA midget tournament in January 2011 after guiding the Contacts to a spot in the final.

"He's a kid you can count on," said Chartier. "He goes out there and he plays hard. He's the kind of kid you want to coach.

"It's one thing to have skill, which he does, but it's another thing to get the most out of that skill by his work ethic."

Green said that skill level will allow Leier - who is the cousin of former Saskatoon Blazers and Medicine Hat Tigers forward Boston Leier - to move up the lineup next season.

"We don't look at him as a player that's just going to be a checking kind of guy," said Green.

"As he matures into the league, I believe he'll be an offensive guy.

"We'll be counting on him for that. We're expecting that out of him."

By that time Leier will have the experience of wearing the maple leaf for Canada at the World under-18 Ball Hockey Championship. He'll compete in the Czech Republic next month where he'll share the floor with Oil Kings centre Cole Benson, as well as Kelowna Rockets forward Tyrell Goulbourne.

Leier could also be a late-round pick in the NHL draft as he was rated 131st among eligible skaters in the league's Central Scouting final rankings, released April 9.

But for now, he's pushing all that aside, including any scoring concerns, to concrete on his chance to win an Ed Chynoweth Cup.

"This is going to be an experience of a lifetime," said Leier. I'm really looking forward to it. I've been anxious ever since the last game we had against Tri-City (in the Western Conference final).

"I can't wait to see what it's going to be like."

dnugent-bowman@thestarphoenix.com

Twitter.com/DNBsports

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StarPhoenix article (Titans of WHL prepare for final battle)

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May 3 2012, 2:51 PM 

Titans of WHL prepare for final battle

By Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The StarPhoenix

May 3, 2012

The Ed Chynoweth Cup is up for grabs starting tonight with the opening game of the best-of-seven WHL final going at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

On the visiting side of the ledger are the Portland Winterhawks, who are representing the Western Conference for the second consecutive year after having lost to the Kootenay Ice in 2011.

The Winterhawks take on the Edmonton Oil Kings, winners of the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy for their regular season prowess. The Oil Kings enter the series having won 23 of their last 24 games dating back to Feb. 22.

The series appears to be the clash of the titans:

(1) Edmonton Oil Kings (50-15-3-4, 107 points) vs. (3) Portland Winterhawks (49-19-3-1, 102 points)

Season series: Edmonton 1-0-0-0.

Round 1: Edmonton defeated Kootenay in 4. Portland defeated Kelowna in 4.

Round 2: Edmonton defeated Brandon in 4. Portland defeated Kamloops in 7.

Round 3: Edmonton defeated Moose Jaw in 5. Portland defeated Tri-City in 4.

There are so many reasons why the Edmonton should win this series.

The Oil Kings come into the matchup against Portland with a loss to Moose Jaw in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final standing out as their only blemish in over two months.

They have a veteran-laden team with a well-rounded scoring punch as five players are in double digits in playoff points, despite only playing 13 post-season games.

And the league's best defensive unit during the regular season has allowed just 22 goals so far throughout their impressive playoff run.

However, the Oil Kings haven yet to face an offence like the Winterhawks employ.

Portland scored the most goals during the 72-game season with 328 and have continued to bulge the twine.

Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi are leading the WHL in scoring with 29 and 25 points, respectively, while Brad Ross is right behind with 20. The Oil Kings will have their hands full.

The Winterhawks also have the advantage from an experience perspective as the core of their team all played in last year's final. Conversely, these series wins in the 2012 post-season are the first three in the history of the Oil Kings.

While Winterhawks will have to win a game in Edmonton, they are 5-2 on the road in the playoffs to date.

It'll be close, but look for Portland to have the edge.

DNB says: Portland in 7.

E X P E R T S ' PICKS

SP sports editor Kevin Mitchell's picks:

Edmonton in 5

Record thus far: 10-4

LP sports editor Rob Vanstone's picks:

Edmonton in 6 Record thus far: 12-2

SP reporter Daniel Nugent-Bowman's picks:

Portland in 7

Record thus far: 12-2

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StarPhoenix article (WHL hands out awards)

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May 3 2012, 2:54 PM 

WHL hands out awards

The StarPhoenix

May 3, 2012

Brendan Shinnimin of the Tri-City Americans was named WHL player of the year at their awards luncheon in Calgary on Wednesday. The 21 year old centre led all scorers with 134 points in 69 games and added 23 points in 15 playoff games. Medicine Hat Tigers' sniper Emerson Etem, who led the league with 61 goals, finished as runner-up.

Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice picked up rookie of the year honours while Tigers' Tyler Bunz was named goaltender of the year and Americans' coach Jim Hiller nabbed coach of the year.

The WHL scholastic player of the year was given to Reid Gow of the Spokane Chiefs. Saskatoon's Jimmy Bubnick, playing for the Calgary Hitmen, was runnerup for this award. He tallied 36 goals and 77 points in 72 games this season.

For all the results see the Sports Report on B2.

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Victoria Times Colonist article (Tri City's Shinnimin WHL MVP)

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May 3 2012, 3:01 PM 

Tri-City's Shinnimin WHL MVP

Postmedia News

May 3, 2012

Ignored in the Western Hockey League's 2006 bantam draft and passed over in consecutive NHL entry drafts, Brendan Shinnimin of the Tri-City Americans has always played with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

But nothing said 'I told you so' quite like the two pieces of hardware - the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy given to the league's most valuable player and the Bob Clarke Trophy awarded to the league's top scorer - that he held under his arm on Wednesday in Calgary after the WHL's awards luncheon.

"Being told I was too small, that I was never going to play - it made me want to make it even more," said Shinnimin, who had a 134-point, 58-goal season to cap off his WHL career and signed a freeagent contract with the Phoenix Coyotes in March.

Immediately following the ceremony, he hopped a flight from Calgary to Phoenix to join the NHL playoff run against the Nashville Predators.

Shinnimin beat out Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers for the WHL MVP nod.

Meanwhile, Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice was named Jim Piggott Trophy winner as WHL rookie of the year for his 28 goals and 62 points.

Alex Petrovic of the Red Deer Rebels won the Bill Hunter Trophy as WHL defenceman of the year, while Tyler Bunz of the Medicine Hat Tigers was selected Del Wilson Trophy winner as top goalie with a 2.57 goals-against average.

Tri-City bench boss Jim Hiller, former Alberni Valley Bulldogs coach, was named Dunc McCallum Award winner as coach of the year.

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Victoria Times Colonist article (Build through draft is Royals' way)

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May 3 2012, 3:05 PM 

Build through draft is Royals' way

By Cleve Dheensaw, timescolonist.com

May 3, 2012

The Western Hockey League draft of graduating bantams, the 2012 edition which goes today in Calgary, has become almost as famous for who wasn’t picked as who was.

But as much a crapshoot as it can be, there is an adage that holds true — at minimum teams need to land eventual day-to-day players, if not true impact performers, in the first round.

The Victoria Royals/Chilliwack Bruins franchise has for the most part managed to do that, grabbing current AHL pro Ryan Howse in 2006, Buffalo Sabres-prospect Kevin Sundher in 2007, since-traded defenceman Mitch Topping in 2008, current Royals forward Steven Hodges in 2009, current Royals defenceman Keegan Kanzig in 2010 and blue-line prospect Joe Hicketts in 2011.

With two first-round picks today their own at No. 8 and the No. 13 acquired through the trade of Sundher to Brandon the first round looms large for the Royals.

Meanwhile, last year’s first rounder Hicketts is expected to make the Royals roster next season as a puck moving defenceman.

“He had a good season [in midget at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton and with the Canadian U-16 team in the Youth Winter Olympics ] and everybody glows about him,” said Royals GM and head coach Marc Habscheid.

“We hope he’s ready for the next step.”

Hicketts knows what is expected from a first rounder and doesn’t shy away from it.

“[As a first rounder], you have a target on your back,” he said, from Penticton.

“But I like high-pressure situations. I know I have to earn my spot and nothing will be given to me.”

He’s already taken the step of moving from his hometown of Kamloops to play midget in Penticton, with a move to the Island pending. It’s all part of the game when you are on the first-round fast track.

“You have to push through those days when you’re tired and worn down and missing home,” said Hicketts.

“Those are the days that make you a better person and a better player.”

Hicketts turns 16 on Friday and will celebrate just like any other B.C. teen — by going for his learner’s driving test. Bantam first-rounders could be on the carousel to fame but they are still basically kids like any other.

“I know I have to keep a level head,” said Hicketts.

The 2012 draft begins at 7:30 this morning.

Rob Milliken, who coached the Racquet Club Kings to fourth place in B.C. this season in bantam triple-A and is regional scout for the Royals, listed the top-five Island prospects for the 2012 draft: forwards Haydn Hopkins and Ethan Waitzner of Racquet Club, forwards Brodie Smith of Parksville and Patrick Bajkov of Nanaimo and goaltender Markus Daly of Racquet Club.

ICE CHIPS: The Royals announced Wednesday the club raised more than $320,000 for local organizations and charitable causes during its inaugural season in Victoria . . . Corey St. Laurent, a graduate of UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, is the Royals’ new manager of communications and hockey operations co-ordinator. He replaces the departing Matt Human.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

 
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Vancouver Sun article (Ex-NHLers' sons figure in top picks)

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May 3 2012, 3:19 PM 

Ex-NHLers' sons figure in top picks

Ty Ronning, Adam Musil are in the mix

By Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun

May 3, 2012

He's not too tall, scores a ton, plays hockey for the Burnaby Winter Club and his name is Ronning. Son of Cliff, you wonder? Absolutely.

Ty Ronning, a 14-year-old right winger, is expected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick in today's WHL bantam draft, a 22-team affair that begins at 7: 30 a.m. Pacific time. The Vancouver Giants will be selecting 15th.

"It's exciting," said Cliff Ronning. "As a parent, it's also a little different. You kind of hope your kid stays close to home. We'll see what fate brings and where he ends up going."

Ty Ronning played this past season with the crackerjack BWC bantam team that won both the B.C. and western Canadian championships.

The team captain, centre Mathew Barzal, is widely touted to be the best player in the draft and will almost certainly go No. 1 overall to the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Another teammate, Adam Musil, is also considered top-10 material. Musil has the bloodlines, too.

He is the younger brother of Giants defenceman David, the son of former NHLer Frank Musil and the nephew of Bobby Holik. Adam Musil is a centre and already stands 6-1.

Two other members of the BWC bantams, blue-liner Ty Schultz and goalie Nick McBride, could join Barzal, Musil and Ronning in the first round. It's no wonder this group had so much success.

"I coached a spring team with a lot of these kids, so I know them kind of inside and out," Cliff Ronning said.

"Barzal is a good player. He's a right shot, a centreman, and he reminds me of Pat LaFontaine. Adam Musil is big and kind of like his uncle Bobby Holik. He can handle the puck, he can score, he's good on faceoffs and he's competitive."

So what about Ty? Is he any-thing like his old man?

"It's hard to explain," responded Cliff Ronning, now 46. "It's your own kid, right? The last two years he's just really developed. He's a fun player to watch. I would say he's very similar to Brendan Gallagher. The characteristics of him are that he's usually one of the hardest workers on the ice and he just seems to be one of those kids who finds open space and finds the net."

Ty is listed at 5-7. Cliff Ronning appeared in 1,263 NHL games (including playoffs) at a listed 5-8, but admitted, after retiring in 2004, that he was only 5-7.

He is hoping Ty will outgrow him.

"He looks like he is going to be bigger than me," Cliff said. "His shoe size is bigger than mine already."

The Giants, meanwhile, will have four picks in the top 42 as they attempt to regain their spot among the WHL elite. In addition to No. 15 in the first round, the G-men will select three times in the second round, beginning with their own pick at No. 37.

They also have No. 40 (from Moose Jaw in the James Henry trade) and No. 42 (from Port-land in the Craig Cunningham deal).

According to Jason Ripplinger, the Giants' draft guru and director of player personnel, rival teams have been calling to see if any of those second-round picks are available.

"I think this draft goes fairly deep into the second round," said Ripplinger.

"But you never know what will happen with trades. Right now, we have nine spots open on our 50-player list. And we can always create another spot if we decide to delete someone."

epap@vancouversun.com Twitter.com/elliottpap

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

 
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Vancouver Sun article (Reinhart named top rookie)

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May 3 2012, 3:21 PM 

Reinhart named top rookie

Vancouver Sun

May 3, 2012

West Vancouver native Sam Reinhart, a 16-year-old forward with the Kootenay Ice, was named Western Hockey League rookie of the year Wednesday as the WHL announced its annual awards. Reinhart, the youngest son of former NHL stalwart defenceman Paul, collected 62 points in 67 games for the Ice. Brendan Shinniman of the Tri-City Americans was selected player of the year, Alex Petrovic of Red Deer was named top defenceman and Tyler Bunz of Medicine Hat received the nod as top goalie. In other awards: Tri-City's Jim Hiller was named top coach; Edmonton Oil Kings GM Bob Green top executive; Brandon's Mark Stone most sportsman-like player; Spokane's Reid Gow scholastic player; and Swift Current's Taylor Vause humanitarian. Vancouver Giants captain Brendan Gallagher was runner-up for the humanitarian award.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

 
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