Monday, 20 August 2012

Neal's Notes: Bengtsson & Lock Out

Andy Neal talked to Royals GM Cam Hope about which import players may attend camp and what an NHL lockout could mean to junior hockey:

Taken from Neal's Notes:

The Royals made two picks in the CHL Import Draft and they know their first choice is coming. Goaltender Patrik Polivka of the Czech Republic has committed to coming to the Royals’ main training camp. The news isn’t quite so good for defenceman Rasmus Bengtsson of Sweden.

Royals’ General Manager Cam Hope says, “Rasmus Bengtsson hasn’t committed yet to come. He played a year with Muskegan in the USHL and he liked his experience there and I think his plan is to return there. Whether or not that’s the best thing for his development is up to him and the Florida Panthers and his agent, and all of us working together. We’d love to have him here, we’ve extended the invitation to him and we’re still hoping he comes. But in the end it’s his decision.”

Bengtsson was selected by the Panthers in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft. Hope says Bengtsson also has a standing offer to play pro back in Sweden. Although Hope says the 6’2”, 200 pound blue-liner is leaning towards returning to the USHL, the Royals still haven’t given up on bringing him in.

“It’s hard on him, because he’s a young guy and he wants to do the right thing and everybody weighs in on the decision. In the end, he should probably listen to what his pro team, the Florida Panthers, tell him to do. I am not exactly sure what they are telling him, but I hope and I expect that they are encouraging him to come here because of the level of play here.”

But Hope is excited about Polivka’s commitment, since he was the 14th overall pick in the CHL Import Draft in June.

“I have a couple of friends who scout in Europe, one who’s based in Slovakia, and has given me some information about Patrik. I know what it was that attracted our guys to draft him and we’re going to have an interesting battle in goal at training camp because we’ve got some returning guys (Keith Hamilton & Jared Rathjen) that could earn the job too. So it’s going to be interesting.”
The NHL and its Players Association appear to be headed down another long road in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. It was real interesting talking to Hope about what effect, if any, it has on the Royals and players that had planned on going to their NHL team camps in September.  Hope was emphatic that the two week rookie camp is a huge moment in a players’ development that will not come if a lock-out happens.

“The biggest thing is that certainty in knowing that they will be coming back (to Victoria), but that certainty not only comes from the fact that there might be a lock-out, but it comes from the fact they won’t have a chance to go to those camps and prove that they are NHL ready. Around the NHL, and therefore around the Western League for kids who were drafted out of the WHL who are on that path where they may or may not be ready this year, having the lockout occur where it does, which is September 15 if there is one, takes away that one chance that they’ve got to show that they’re ready. Because they may be on the depth chart of their NHL club as a junior return, right now, and they’ll lose that chance to change the mind of management, scouts and coaches at the NHL level. So that’s too bad, that’s the part that is the most concerning to the development of the players. From the selfish position of a WHL General Manager, that’s fantastic. Unfortunately, that doesn’t give us any certainty right now, because we don’t know if there will be a lockout on the 15th and we probably won’t know until September 15 whether or not the NHL’s going to go ahead with their camps. So we have to plan like it’s business as usual, that they’re all going to go to camp, the assessment is going to be made on whether or not they’ll be junior returns and is something that is out of our hands.”

Hope mentioned that same two week window helped Dan Girardi, a steady defenceman for the New York Rangers. Hope, who was in the Rangers’ front office at the time, said Girardi was an undrafted player who got an invite to the Rangers’ rookie camp and came out of it with a pro contract. If there is a lockout, that could have a big effect around the WHL for teams who may have anticipated their players to have a shot at making the big club.

“I think you probably would need two hands to count the number of players that are drafted out of the Western League that are planning on going to NHL camps this year and could legitimately earn a spot, as of right now.” Hope added.
As for a couple of Royals’ players, they aren’t too concerned about the potential lockout and are ready to go with whatever comes out of the negotiations.

“Basically you’re losing the experience,” said forward Steven Hodges, drafted by Florida this past summer. “I didn’t expect to play there this year, so at the end of the day it’s not a huge upset for me. But I will be playing in Victoria again this year and that’s what I’m focussed on.”

"It would be nice to go back to Ottawa, it’s always a pleasure to go out there for their camps,” said 19-year-old defenceman Jordan Fransoo. “I know there are no rookie tournaments or rookie camps placed, so if there is no lock-out, then it will be just a few days of main camp. But that’s where it’s really all shown, playing with the big boys.”
Big congrats to the Team Canada, especially the nine WHL players, with a fifth straight gold medal at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament. Canada defeated Finland 4-0 in the final game on Saturday. The nine WHL players are Eric Comrie (TC), Madison Bowey (Kel), Shea Theodore (Sea), Josh Morrissey (PA), Nic Petan (Por), Morgan Klimchuk (Reg), Sam Reinhart (Koo)and Curtis Lazar (Edm).