BULLDOGS DEFENCEMAN MAGNUS NYGREN RETURNING TO SWEDEN TO RECOVER FROM A CONCUSSION
Hamilton Bulldogs Media Release
MONTREAL, QUE. – Montreal Canadiens and Hamilton Bulldogs general manager Marc Bergevin issued the following statement today pertaining to the medical status of defenceman Magnus Nygren:
“Following discussions with Magnus and his agent, we made the decision to give him the opportunity to return to his native Sweden to recover from his injury. Aware that his concussion symptoms have persisted, the organization and our medical personnel believe that the best option for his recovery is to get away from the game and rest at home in Sweden surrounded by his family and friends. We will continue to monitor his condition.”
Nygren has missed the past 23 games due to a concussion suffered on Nov. 29 in a game versus the Lake Erie Monsters.
The Bulldogs will be back in action tonight when they’ll visit the Iowa Wild at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa at 8 p.m. The ‘Dogs return home on Friday, Feb. 6 when they’ll host the Wild at FirstOntario Centre at 7:30 p.m.
For more information on Hamilton Bulldogs flex tickets, group tickets and single-game tickets, call 1-866-DOGS-TIX or visit hamiltonbulldogs.com.
Listen to all Bulldogs regular season and post-season games live on Hamilton’s AM 900 CHML, on www.900chml.com or watch live on www.ahllive.com. Catch every Friday night home game live in high definition on Cable 14.
By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report
HAMILTON, ONT — For two consecutive games, the Hamilton Bulldogs have blown a lead in the third period to the Adirondack Flames, resulting in back-to-back losses. Yesterday, the Flames defeated the ‘Dogs 3-1, scoring three unanswered goals in the third period, and tonight scoring three goals in the third period, to take down the struggling Hamilton team 4-3.
The first period would see both teams scoring a goal. The Hamilton Bulldogs scored the games first goal, after Gabriel Dumont stole the puck while the Adirondack Flames were on the power-play, but was denied by Flames goaltender Joni Orito. But luckily enough, Jacob De La Rose picked up the rebound and scored a shorthanded goal and his first ever as a Bulldog.
Moments after the ‘Dogs got on the board, the Flames came back right away scoring a goal on the power-play as Garnet Hathaway was found all alone in front and was able to bury his third goal of the season to tie the game.
With 42 seconds left in the period, Connor Crisp and Bryce Van Brabant dropped the gloves for a heated scrap in front of the Bulldogs bench. Crisp landed multiple punches to the face of Van Brabant, but Van Brabant took him down and he kept swinging and the officials had to intervene.
Bulldogs goaltender Mike Condon made several key saves for Hamilton in the opening frame, notably in the first five minutes of the period.
The Bulldogs were able to take a 2-1 lead in the second period as Sven Andrighetto scored the tally for the ‘Dogs on the power-play. Yes, that’s right. The power-play. It’s been well documented that Hamilton has struggled on the man advantage this season, but they finally potted one and it’s pretty refreshing.
The physicality would continue to pick up in the second period as Jack Nevins dropped the gloves with Mark Cundari because he wanted to defend his teammate sticks up for Christian Thomas, who was hit hard at centre ice by Cundari.
Despite Hamilton allowing one goal on the penalty-kill tonight, you have to give credit where its due because they have been pretty decent. The Bulldogs had several chances to score when down a man.
In the third period, we would see a very similar outcome form Friday’s game.
Bryce Van Brabant was able to jam a rebound past Condon to tie the game, but moments later Condon had a tough go with a rebound and Turner Elson put the Flames ahead.
After Sylvain Lefebvre called a timeout, Condon made a great first save bet then had a little trouble getting up in his crease after stopping a few shots and Mathieu Tousigant was able to sneak one by to give the Flames a 4-2 lead.
But the Bulldogs tried to make a comeback but they just could not.
They had multiple chances on the power-play but they just could not convert.
Magnus Nygren, who just came back into the lineup after sitting out a few games due to injury, fired a wrist shot from the point past Ortio.
But that wouldn’t be enough for the Bulldogs to tie the game, as the Flames held on to secure a 4-3 victory.
The Flames leave Hamilton with successfully sweeping the weekend series against the Bulldogs. The two teams will meet six more times this season.
The Attendance for tonight’s game at FirstOntario Centre: 2,485.
Head coach Lefebvre told me post game that Eric Tangradi is considered day-to-day and he hopes to see him back in the lineup on the trip in St. Johns this coming week.
By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report
HAMILTON, ONT — The Hamilton Bulldogs entered this afternoon’s matinee having lost their last game to the same opponent, the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday, and tonight was no different. The Rampage sunk the Bulldogs by a score 5-2 in front of 2,299 fans. With the loss, the Bulldogs have yet to win a game on home ice this season.
The Bulldogs would find themselves down a goal after the first period of play, as Rampage forward Connor Brickley would net his second goal of the 2014-15 AHL season after he came flying down the wing, blasting the puck by Joey MacDonald‘s blocker side.
The power-play struggles continued for the Bulldogs in the first period. They had three opportunities on the man advantage but failed to get anything going as they could not get back in the offensive zone after the Rampage cleared the puck.
The first fight of the game came at the 8:09 minute mark, with Jack Nevins and Shane O’Brien dropping the gloves as Nevins laid a huge check on the veteran AHL defenceman O’Brien.
The Bulldogs started the second period with some good speed and they had multiple chances, but it wouldn’t end the way they wanted as the Rampage extended their lead to 4-1.
But the Bulldogs scored their first goal of the game as Christian Thomas chipped a shot that bounces off a defenseman and over goaltender Dan Ellis.
Shortly after the ‘Dogs got on the board, Jonathan Racine hit Charles Hudon from behind, causing the rookie forward to need some assistance getting off the ice. Hudon stayed on the bench and did not leave to the dressing room, while Racine got a 5-minute major and a game misconduct for the hit.
The Rampage took the lead on 4-on-4, as Rocco Grimaldi scored the goal and then seconds later, McFarland ripped a shot past MacDonald after he flew down the wing.
The Rampage fourth goal of the game was also a nice one, as Wilson came down the wing and chipped a shot over MacDonald’s shoulder for a nice top shelf goal.
Towards the end of the period, Finley, Dowell and Nevins dropped the gloves with a few Rampage players causing a min-line brawl.
For the third period, the Bulldogs would score their second and only goal of the game with a nice point shot from Gabriel Dumont and Rampage goaltender Dan Ellis did not see the shot as he was screened.
The remainder of the period would see back and forth action, but the Rampage scored thier final goal of the game in the empty net. Wilson was credited with the goal and the Rampage would take the game by a score of 5-2.
Head coach Sylvain Lefebvre said froward Eric Tangradi is out with an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day, while Magnus Nygren is has a lower-body injury and will be re-evaluated tomorrow.
The Hamilton Bulldogs will travel to Buffalo to take on the Rochester Americans at FirstNiagara Centre. The Bulldogs next home game will be also against Rochester at FirstOntario Centre for the Bulldogs annual school day game.
HAMILTON, ONT — It was the Hamilton Bulldogs (1-0-1) home opener Friday night at FirstOntario Centre against the Toronto Marlies (2-1-0) in what was a very entertaining game involving the QEW rivals. With both Hamilton and Toronto 45 minutes away from each other, the two teams will play 12 times this season. Despite the frequency the Bulldogs and Marlies never disappoint.
The first period saw the Bulldogs take a 1-0 lead with the goal coming from forward Michael Bournival after he stole the puck from a Marlies defender, then made a few nifty dekes to the net scoring his first goal of the season, beating Antoine Bibeau. Bournival was sent down by the Montreal Canadiens to Hamilton for the first two Bulldogs home games this weekend for a conditioning stint. He is expected to make his return to the big leagues Sunday.
The ‘Dogs saw two power-play opportunities, but could not convert as Toronto showed some very strong penalty-killing with both units. One thing was evident, the Bulldogs struggle on defence. At times they were disorganized, but later made up for their mistakes. In a result, goaltender Joey MacDonald had to come up and make important saves to keep the ‘Dogs in the lead. MacDonald has been off to a strong start with Hamilton, and the first period saw exactly that with seven saves.
The second period saw a little more action with two goals being scored, one from Toronto and one Hamilton. The Marlies got their first goal of the gamemid way through the second period after forward Spencer Abbott fed Patrick Watling a sweet pass that gave MacDonald very little chance to make a save. MacDonald made a cross crease desperation attempt to make the save but had no luck.
Before the Marlies got on the board, enforcer Colton Orr left the game after taking an elbow to the face. He did not return to the period. After forty minutes of play, it was pretty clear that the Bulldogs were having some issues defensively. They seemed disorganized at times, and would frequently cough up the puck.
At the 11 minute mark, Marlies defencemen Peter Granberg took a hooking penalty and the Bulldogs went on to their third power-play of the game. Forward Sven Andrighetto’s first scoring attempt on the man advantage was nice. He came speeding up the right wing, flying by Marlies’ defenders right into Bibeau’s crease, but couldn’t bury the puck in the open net. Second after that, he sniped one top corner on his second shot of the power-play. That was his first goal of the young 2014-15 season.
In the third period we would see the Marlies tie the game. Forward Josh Leivo, who played a good game offensively, scored for the Marlies only three minutes into the third after making a few prior attempts and taking advantage of a messy Magnus Nygren – Davis Drewskie combination on that play. The rest of the period would be back and forth for both clubs. MacDonald and Bibeau made nice saves to keep the game tied. Sixty minutes would not be enough time to decide this game, so fans were treated to some 4-on-4 then 3-on-3 overtime hockey.
In the overtime period, the Bulldogs dominated in possession time forcing Bibeau to make multiple saves. At one point, the ‘Dogs crashed the net, which forced Bibeau to cover the puck from behind him, just in time to make the save and keep the game rolling. The 4-on-4 didn’t solve anything, so in came the 3-on-3 play.
Right off the bat, both MacDonald and Bibeau had to make key saves as there was a lot of ice for the players to skate and the chances were coming everywhere. It’s crazy how fast paced 3-on-3 hockey is. It’s very fun to watch and I hope the NHL takes note of how successful it has been in the AHL. Barely any shootouts have been played. Eventually Marlies forward Connor Brown got a breakaway but with too much speed, he ran into the net and lost control of the puck. Moments later, a bad turnover by the Bulldogs, gave Spencer Abbott a breakaway opportunity and he skated in calmly and scored to win it. Despite the Bulldogs loss, it’s safe to safe, 3-on-3 overtime is extremely fun to watch.
Three stars: 1. Spencer Abbott TOR, 2. Sven Andrighetto HAM, 3. Josh Leivo TOR.
Bournival opened the scoring at 6:01 of the first period with a dangle five-hole on Marlies goaltender Antoine Bibeau. Defenceman Davis Drewiske and forward Charles Hudon drew assists on the play.
Marlies forward Patrick Watling answered back at 8:35 of the second period, with assists from forward Spencer Abbott and defenceman Petter Granberg.
The ‘Dogs took a 2-1 lead four minutes later when Andrighetto ripped a shot off the post and in. Forwards Drayson Bowman and Hudon had assists.
Just over three minutes into the third period, Toronto forward Josh Leivo beat a sprawling MacDonald to tie the game a twos, with an assist from forward Trevor Smith.
Five minutes and 31 seconds into the American Hockey League’s new overtime format – which saw three-on-three action after the first whistle following the three-minute mark of the period – Abbott buried a breakaway shot past MacDonald to seal the 3-2 victory for Toronto. Defenceman Tom Nilsson had the only assist.
MacDonald made 26 saves on 29 shots in the Bulldogs net in the loss. Bibeau stopped 29 of 31 shots for the Marlies in the win.
Hamilton went 1-for-3 on the power play, while Toronto was 0-for-2.
Dan Lawrie Insurance Premium Player of the Game: Charles Hudon
The Bulldogs are back in action on Saturday, Oct. 18 when they will host the Rockford IceHogs at FirstOntario Centre at 7 p.m.
HAMILTON, ON – It was media day at FirstOntario Centre marking the official opening to the Hamilton Bulldogs 2014-15 training camp. 27 players are in camp preparing to spend the next few days in Newfoundland practicing in St. John’s and playing a three-game series in Gander against the St. John’s IceCaps.
One player, defenseman Magnus Nygren, attracted the most attention for comments that he made after returning to Sweden following a 16-game stint with the Bulldogs last season. Salivating with tabloid-like enthusiasm, some media prodded Nygren with questions about crime in Hamilton and the unemployment rate.
Credit to Nygren for rising above the fray saying, “I’m here for playing hockey. What happened last year is past now. I’m looking forward to this season.” The young defenseman added, “I’m here to be a better hockey player. I’m here to help the team win.”
Coach Sylvain Lefebvre toldNygren that they would be starting with a “clean slate” telling reporters, “This year is a new year. You know for him, he’s a year older, he’s got more experience now, and he knows what to expect here in Hamilton. He knows the coaching staff and some of his teammates. I’m sure that Magnus is disappointed that he was cut from (the) main camp in Montreal, but his goal is to play in the NHL.”
Lefebvre added, “His goal is our goal. We want [Nygren] to be a very good player for our club here in Hamilton. We want him to move up (to the NHL.)”
Goaltender Joey MacDonald said that the Bulldogs should have a good combination of young players battling for positions as well as veterans like T.J. Hensick and Joe Finley saying “It’s a good situation here and I’m looking forward to it.”
Newly appointed assistant general manager Vincent Riendeau spoke about his move to a more administrative role to assist the Canadiens senior vice president Rick Dudley and assistant general manager Larry Carriere.
BULLDOGS ANNOUNCE TRAINING CAMP ROSTER AND SCHEDULE
Hamilton Bulldogs Media Release
MONTREAL, QUE. – Montreal Canadiens and Hamilton Bulldogs general manager Marc Bergevin announced today the Bulldogs initial roster for the club’s 2014-15 training camp, which includes 15 forwards, nine defencemen and three goaltenders.
Hamilton’s training camp will open tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 30 with media availability at FirstOntario Centre at 10 a.m. before the team travels to Newfoundland and Labrador later in the day to prepare for the Mary’s Cup pre-season series with the St. John’s IceCaps. The first game of that series is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 2 at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium in Grand Falls, N.L. at 7 p.m. Each pre-season game can be heard live on AM 900 CHML.
2014-15 Training Camp RosterSchedule
Tuesday, Sept. 30
Media availability – FirstOntario Centre (Hamilton, Ont.) – 10 a.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 1
Practice – Mile One Centre (St. John’s, N.L.) – 1 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 2
Pre-game skate – Gander Community Centre (Gander, N.L.) – 11:15 a.m.
Game vs. St. John’s IceCaps – Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium (Grand Falls, N.L.) – 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 3
Pre-game skate – Gander Community Centre (Gander, N.L.) – 11:15 a.m.
Game vs. St. John’s IceCaps – Gander Community Centre (Gander, N.L.) – 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 4
Practice – Gander Community Centre (Gander, N.L.) – 11:15 a.m.
Sunday, Oct. 5
Game vs. St. John’s IceCaps – Mile One Centre (St. John’s, N.L.) – 4 p.m.
MONTREAL, QUE. – Montreal Canadiens and Hamilton Bulldogs general manager Marc Bergevin announced today the Canadiens have assigned 17 players to the Bulldogs, including nine forwards, seven defencemen and one goaltender.
The players assigned to Hamilton include (* indicates an injury): forwards Tim Bozon, Daniel Carr, Connor Crisp*, Stefan Fournier*, T.J. Hensick, Charles Hudon, Patrick Holland, Jack Nevins* and Nick Sorkin; defencemen Mac Bennett, Morgan Ellis, Joe Finley, David Makowski, Magnus Nygren, Bobby Shea and Dalton Thrower*; and goaltender Michael Condon.
Hamilton’s training camp will open on Tuesday, Sept. 30 with media availability at FirstOntario Centre at 10 a.m. before the team travels to Newfoundland and Labrador later that day for the Mary’s Cup pre-season series with the St. John’s IceCaps. A complete training camp roster will be announced tomorrow.
Hamilton Bulldogs 2014-15 season tickets, flex tickets and group tickets are on sale now. For more information, call 1-866-DOGS-TIX or visit hamiltonbulldogs.com.
Listen to all Bulldogs regular season and post-season games live on Hamilton’s AM 900 CHML, on www.900chml.com or watch live on www.ahllive.com. Catch every Friday night home game live in high definition on Cable 14.
MILTON, ON. — The Hamilton Bulldogs have added some veteran depth up front in signing T.J. Hensick to a one-year deal on Thursday.
It’s no secret the Bulldogs lack veteran help up the middle with just Jacob De La Rose and Gabriel Dumont currently penciled in on the depth chart. But by adding Hensick, the Bulldogs get a proven forward at the AHL level that will likely center Sven Andrighetto and Christian Thomas on the first line, which could end up being the Bulldogs most offensive line in the 2014-15 campaign.
Hensick, 28, has 371 points in 363 AHL regular season games. He split the 2013-2014 season between the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Swedish Hockey League’s MODO.
In 42 games with Hartford, he scored 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists), and in 31 regular season games with MODO, he scored 15 points (four goals, 11 assists.)
Overall, this is a good depth move for the Bulldogs and I’d expect Hensick to score 30+ points next season, which is something the ‘Dogs desperately need.
There will be several changes in the 2014-15 Bulldogs lineup from last season with 18-goal man Mike Blunden being signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning and goaltender Devan Dubnyk being picked up by the Arizona Coyotes.
Forward Joonas Nattinen is a restricted free agent who received a qualifying offer from the Canadiens but he will be playing for MODO in the Swedish Eite League in the Fall. The Habs chose not to give qualifying offers to the following restricted free agents: forward Robert Czarnik and goaltender Peter Delmas. Goalie Robert Mayer was released from the final year of his contract instead signing a three year deal with Genève-Servette HC of the Swiss hockey league.
With a hole in their goaltending depth resulting from the departures of Dubnyk, Delmas and Mayer, the Canadiens signed free agent Joey MacDonald to a one-year, two-way deal. MacDonald will likely share the crease with Mike Condon who spent most of his season in the ECHL.
Jacob de la Rose has committed to playing in Canada this season and will likely center the second line. It will be interesting to see what happens with defenseman Magnus Nygren who has declared that he will not go back to Hamilton after an unsatisfying experience both on and off the ice. Both parties are likely open to a trade.
Mac Bennett could get a chance to play with his Michigan teammate Greg Pateryn. The puck-moving Bennett paired with the stay-at-home Pateryn formed an effective duo for the Wolverines. Also on defense Dalton Thrower was signed to a three-year entry-level contract days after the conclusion of the Canadiens season.
In other changes the Habs finally parted ways with the underachieving Louis Leblanc trading him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional fifth round pick. Montreal decided to pass on signing Brady Vail and Erik Nystrom to entry-level contracts. Back in April, the Habs signed forwards Connor Crisp and Daniel Carrfrom the NCAA champion Union College Dutchmen to contracts. Rugged forward Jeremy Gregoire signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Canadiens but he has one more year of junior hockey left with Baie-Comeau Drakkar.
Below is an updated depth chart of the Bulldogs:
As you can see, the Bulldogs lack veteran depth up front and on the back end whereas the goaltending situation seems fine.
Nonetheless, this signing is the start of many changes that need to be addressed in Hamilton.
HAMILTON, ON – There’s no hiding that it was a tough year in Hamilton. A team with a lot of fresh faces showed early season promise, before inconsistencies and midseason slumps left them in a similar spot to a year ago, battling to stay out of the AHL’s Western Conference basement. When the Bulldogs finally seemed to start putting things together late in the season, it was simply too late, with too much ground to make up in too little time.
The blame for a third straight year without a playoff spot can be put on many, but there were also some standout performances that deserved recognition. Below is a review of the years of all players to have dressed for at least 5 games for the ‘Dogs this season.
Sven Andrighetto – A
The diminutive speedy Swiss winger made his professional debut just a little more than three months after the Canadiens made him the 86th overall selection of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He produced right from the get-go with 7 points in 8 games in his first month, and quickly become a fixture on the team’s top scoring line, finishing with the best points-per-game average of anyone to spend significant time with the team this year. Andrighetto, 21, seems to be good for at least one shifty highlight-reel rush a night, and likely would have produced more than 17 goals and 44 points in 63 games (which still rank him among the league’s top 20 rookies) if he had better offensive linemates to work with. Certainly he looks to have an NHL future, but the question will be whether Montreal can really stand to add another 5’9″ body any time soon.
Gabriel Dumont – A-
Dumont, 23, was deserving of co-MVP honours in Hamilton a year ago, but struggled to produce early on this season. Still, Dumont isn’t the player you should be counting on to score on a nightly basis, and he and the next player on this list were the two guys you could count on for a consistent effort night-in, night-out. Dumont’s ceiling seems to be as an intense, hard-working, two-way fourth liner, but as NHL teams most often look to fill those roles with big bodies first, his 5’10” frame will always hold him back. The Quebec-native is under contract for next season, where he will look to build off a strong end-of-season with the ‘Dogs (7 points in 7 games in April) in his continued quest towards a full-time role with the Habs.
Mike Blunden – A-
Blunden and Dumont were inseparable for much of the season, a duo that coach Sylvain Lefebvre would send out with any third linemate and in any situation, so it’s no coincidence the two paced each other in scoring. While that represented stagnation for Dumont, it was progress for Blunden, whose strong play was recognized with a token call-up for Montreal’s final game of the regular season. A leader on and off the ice, should the pending UFA be retained, he would be a strong candidate to assume the captaincy from Martin St. Pierre. There is no questioning Blunden’s work ethic, but he simply doesn’t have the legs to carry his 6’4″ frame quickly enough to be a regular everyday NHL’er, and his stone hands mean that for every point he was able to produce, two-to-three golden set-ups (typically from Dumont) went to waste.
Joonas Nattinen – B
If you don’t follow the ‘Dogs closely, you’d be forgiven for not knowing Nattinen much prior to this season. The 6’2″ Finnish centre missed all but 24 games due to injury a year ago, but had a strong bounceback campaign in 2013-14. Centering the third or fourth line for much of the season, through his work ethic alone, Nattinen seemed to inspire whichever wingers he was paired with to be at their best. Defensively responsible and strong in the face-off dot, while Nattinen’s offensive output was limited (15 points in 68 games), if he could play with the physicality he shows in spurts on a more consistent basis, he would have all the tools necessary to make a formidable NHL calibre bottom six guy. That said, Nattinen, 23, is an RFA this summer, and is unsure what his playing future holds. If he opts to return his native Finland, the 1:45 he played against the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 18th will allow him to live forever as an obscure Canadiens trivia question answer.
Christian Thomas – B-
There were lofty expectations of Thomas this season following his acquisition in return for vaunted prospect Danny Kristo, and an impressive rookie camp showing. Thomas showed flashes of his potential, often benefiting from playing opposite Andrighetto, but seemed to struggle to find a groove. His biggest weapon is a dangerous arsenal of shots, but unleashing them was dependent on set-ups from linemates, unable to create space for himself with any regularity. In addition to his shooting and despite his 5’9″ frame, the second year pro has the right instincts, willing to drive to the net every shift, and he did manage to increase his point-per-game production modestly from his rookie campaign. At age 21, it’s unfair to directly compare his output (11 goals and 27 points in 54 games) to 23-year old Kristo’s (24 goals and 42 points in 63 games), but Thomas will need aMichael Bournival-like off-season of hard work if he’s to challenge for an NHL spot as early as next season. He has tools, but is another player that will need to develop outside the norm to compensate for his lack of size.
Connor Crisp – B-
Many questioned the Canadiens selecting Crisp as early as they did in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but the 20-year old improved his production in the OHL this season, and then fit in well during a small stint with the ‘Dogs towards the end of the year. Crisp moves up and down the ice adequately for a 6’2″, 220 lbs physical presence, and produced two goals in his first seven professional games as a result of his driving to the opposition net. It’s too early to speak to Crisp’s longer-term upside, but he has shown enough to earn a contract from the Canadiens, and may ease the “need” for signing a Nathan McIver or Kyle Hagel who brings little to the team (on ice) other than willingness to drop the gloves. He remains a project, but early signs are positive that he could develop into an NHL player.
Justin Courtnall – B-
Courtnall was an unknown coming into the season on an AHL deal, with many penciling him into a role as an ECHL call-up (where he spent most of last year). The nephew of former Hab Russ Courtnall earned every opportunity given to him this year, working his way into the line-up, and then off a fourth line, to spending considerable time with Dumont and Blunden. Despite his limited pro experience, at age 24, there may not be much room for development remaining in Courtnall’s game, but his responsible two-way play and hard work makes him a solid bottom six AHL’er. He only produced 9 points in 62 games, but was a guy you would notice for only the right reasons more often than not. He would be a welcome returnee next season, though it is just as likely he is edged out in the numbers game due to the potential additions of Crisp, Brady Vail, and Jack Nevins.
Martin St. Pierre – B-
I struggled mightily with this grade. Is it possible to give a team’s leading scorer and only proven offensive talent a lower grade than a B-? There was much hoopla surrounding St. Pierre’s signing last summer, as there should have been, given he is an AHL all-star and former point-per-game scorer. At age 30, however, it quickly became obvious that the Ottawa native’s best days were behind him. A majority of St. Pierre’s production (including 6 of his 10 goals) came with the man advantage, and he was frequently invisible at even strength. He was unable to elevate his linemates, and when paired with Patrick Holland – which was often – that line became a virtual black hole. That, in fact, can be identified as a first cause of the team’s disappointing season, as Holland and St. Pierre were expected to be two of the main offensive catalysts. This is not to say that St. Pierre brought nothing to the ‘Dogs, as many spoke to their captain’s leadership and important off-ice presence, and on a team with few truly skilled players, he did contribute important points on some nights. But his inconsistency and lack of intensity were such that coach Lefebvre even made him a healthy scratch for a night late in the season. Given this, I don’t expect him back, but he’ll need to be replaced with another veteran AHL scorer.
Brady Vail – B-
Small sample size for Vail, who saw a strange season end with a quick termination of his Bulldog tryout after just five games due to an ankle injury. Unlike last year, when he managed a goal and four points in a 12-game stint with the ‘Dogs, the versatile 6’1″ forward (and sometimes defenseman) was unable to find the scoresheet in the AHL this time, but to understand his season and future, one must look back to last summer. Vail had a strong 2012-13 campaign on a disappointing Windsor team, and despite looking AHL ready, was forced to return to the OHL because of his young age. Then something went wrong. A disappointing performance at Team USA’s summer WJC camp saw him sent home early in August. He came into Montreal’s rookie camp in September, and was the only drafted player cut prior to the start of the team’s main training camp. Then back with the Spitfires, he wasn’t given any of the leadership letters despite thought months earlier that he may have been next in line for captaincy. But his play and production picked up quickly, and he was one of the primary catalysts that got Windsor into the post-season. One would think the grit, scoring ability, and two-way play the 20-year old has shown would be enough to earn him a professional deal, but it wouldn’t be the first time a player was “blacklisted” by the organization for some unknown reason should he be allowed to re-enter the draft instead.
Nick Tarnasky – C+
If Tarnasky could skate, he would undoubtedly be an NHL player. A vast majority of the 29-year old’s 13 AHL goals this year came from the lip of the crease, as he uses his 6’2″, 224 lbs frame effectively to park himself right there. Unfortunately, he is seldom noticed otuside of that area, as he isn’t the guy you want carrying the puck up ice, and would often be caught down low, resulting in odd-man rushes against and reflected in his team-worst -17 rating. Tarnasky’s other asset is his fighting ability, but even still, while he represented an upgrade on Zack Stortini a year ago, he would just as easily be replaced as return.
Nick Sorkin – C+
Sorkin was given a professional tryout following the end of his college career with the University of New Hampshire, and early on seemed like he’d be no bigger blip on the radar than Matt Grassi the year prior. But Sorkin improved every game throughout his short stint in Hamilton, climbing the depth chart not unlike Courtnall, and working his way on to a scoring line. He moves well for a 6’3″ forward, and seems to understand how to position himself well on the ice to get open in dangerous spots. Still, with just one goal in eight games, he is on the fence for whether he can turn this tryout into a season-long AHL contract for next year. Turning 23 in June, he may be edged out in favour of younger talents.
Louis Leblanc – C
Early on, it looked like Leblanc might have learned his lesson from last season and gotten back on track. The effort was there, he was playing a smarter, more disciplined game, and the results were coming with 8 points in his first 8 games, interrupted by a brief call-up to Montreal in the middle of his hot streak. From there, however, it was all downhill, managing only 20 points in the next 61 contests, and rarely having an impact on the game, typically chasing the play rather than controlling it. Despite decent footspeed, he frequently seems to be a step behind the play, and rarely engages physically. Admittedly Leblanc didn’t have much to work with, shifted down to a third line once his struggles began, and frequently saddled with Tarnasky at even strength, while receiving little powerplay time. But it was on him to prove that he deserved a better opportunity, and he was unable to separate himself from the pack, unlike some others on this list. Leblanc did manage to simplify his game and reduce the poor offensive-zone penalties of which he was often guilty a year ago, but the hope of him becoming an impact player seems to have vanished, and at this point his ceiling is an adequate two-way third liner. That has its value, of course, and at age 23, it’s too soon to declare he’ll never be a full-time NHL’er, but Leblanc himself has to consider his options thus summer as his 3-year entry level contract comes to an end. The most likely scenario is probably a one year deal from the Canadiens to prove himself, unless another team is interested in taking a flyer on a former first round selection, and he is included in an off-season transaction.
Patrick Holland – C
Holland was among Hamilton’s top forwards down the stretch a year ago, playing wing on a top line with Joey Tenute. As such, it was expected that he would play an important role on St. Pierre’s wing this year, but he never quite got going, resulting in a significant and disappointing dip in his development curve. His decline in production (from .4 PPG to .3 PPG) between his rookie and sophomore years came despite continued opportunity to man the point on a powerplay unit, though to his credit, he did manage to round out his game as a serviceable penalty killer as well. As seen during training camp and his short call-up, Holland can be a multi-dimensional player, willing to block shots and battle in his own end, but ultimately his natural ability is in playmaking, and that is the skill that he’ll need to continue to develop if he’s to get another crack at the big leagues. The 6’0″ forward has a year left on his ELC before any decisions need to be made, and he’ll again be expected to play a significant role as a young veteran in Hamilton in 2014-15.
Maxime Macenauer – C
Macenauer, 25, is a veteran of 29 NHL games, though how he ever convinced the Anaheim Ducks that he was good enough to make the roster in 2011-12 remains a mystery. A confident, defensively responsible pivot, Macenauer is clearly a coach’s player, earning the trust of Lefebvre and being handed a regular role as a first line centre between Andrighetto and Thomas, despite a lack of production. His 24 points in 73 games came through playing big (and largely ineffective) minutes on the powerplay and between his skilled wingers, while his most positive impact seemed to come on the penalty kill, where his strong face-off and positioning work helped the P.K. be one of the bright spots on this year’s Dogs team. The team seems to like him, so he could be retained, but on-ice he could easily be replaced (and ideally upgraded) by any AHL veteran free agent.
Stefan Fournier – C-
In his rookie campaign, Fournier would impress one game out of four, notably when playing with Nattinen, but for all the positive flashes, he would find himself back in the press box due to frequent, poor, momentum-killing penalties. Turning 22 later this month, Fournier still has time to work on his discipline and hockey smarts, and the organization can do nothing but be patient given the two years remaining on his entry level deal. Still, he doesn’t have the skills to be more than a third or fourth line AHL forward, and will have to battle for ice time with any new additions to the club for next season.
Jordan Owens / Erik Nystrom / Akim Aliu / Ben Duffy / Stephen MacAulay – D
All five of the above players left the Bulldogs during the course of the season, with only Nystrom technically remaining part of the organization as a player drafted by the Canadiens, but having signed a new deal to remain in Europe. Aliu was a darling of Bulldogs training camp, but his play puttered out early on in the season. MacAulay impressed in his first game in Hamilton after a call-up from the ECHL, but it was a flash in the pan before he and Duffy both opted to further their studies rather than continue playing pro hockey.
Robert Czarnik / Steve Quailer – D
Another less successful experiment was the trade of Qualier for Czarnik. Quailer produced in limited playing time with the Bulldogs, notably when slotted on Nattinen’s wing (a common theme), whereas Czarnik was never given much of a chance, and didn’t make much of the opportunities he did receive.
Greg Pateryn – A
Hamilton’s most consistent defenseman, the 23-year old Pateryn has little left to learn at the AHL level. His 15 goals rank second in the American Hockey League among blueliners and more than double his totals over a four year college career. He backed up his 34 points in 67 games with sound play in his own end, combining physical play with adequate footspeed on his 6’2″ frame. One would think the Canadiens would fine a place for a young, two-way right-handed blueliner with size, but Pateryn hasn’t been given a true opportunity to adapt and learn in the NHL. If the perhaps likely scenario of Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi starting the year in Montreal comes to pass, Pateryn is another favourite to take over as Hamilton captain, able to ease the transition of former D partner Mac Bennett to the pro game.
Nathan Beaulieu – B+
Beaulieu isn’t the player he was down the stretch in the AHL a year ago, where he dominated games in Scott Niedermayer-like fashion. The yo-yo trips to and from Montreal didn’t seem to rest well with him, and – given he’s blessed with all-world skill – it really is the mental aspects of the game that he needs to sharpen. An effortless skater with slick hands and a booming shot, the 21-year old tends to get frustrated or give up on plays when beaten or after making a mistake. Paired with a player like Pateryn or Josh Gorges, there’s no reason to doubt that Beaulieu could play in the NHL as early as the Fall, but he’ll need a responsible partner to help him make the jump. Once he has that learning under his belt, though, there is no reason to think he can’t be a regular top four rearguard.
Jarred Tinordi – B
Clearly the Canadiens have identified Tinordi as the guy they want NHL-ready fastest, a position in the depth chart which can’t be attributed to his AHL play. It’s not that Tinordi had a bad season in Hamilton. There was even a stretch prior to one of his call-ups where he was clearly the ‘Dogs’ best rearguard. But he isn’t particularly physical, gets himself out of position in his own end, and despite strong skating ability and willingness to jump into the rush, has limited offensive production to show for it. Tinordi’s frame and potential can’t be denied, but he’s still very raw in his development, and will need a lot of coaching and patience if he is to live up to expectations and be more than a bottom pair filler.
Davis Drewiske – B
Drewiske was very obviously disappointed to be sent to Hamilton once recovered from injury, and early on in his stint with the ‘Dogs, it looked like he might not stay in the AHL very long. Over his first few games, Drewiske played with the intensity you’d expect from a guy who has been forced to sit out so many months. But after that initial surge of adrenaline wore off, the poor decisions and mistakes seemed to crop up a little more regularly in his game, and you were reminded why the 29-year old has yet to lock down a full-time NHL gig. Drewiske has a year remaining on his NHL deal, but given he is likely under the three above names on the organization’s depth chart, he seems likely destined for waivers and a possible return to Hamilton next year.
Morgan Ellis – B-
A hot-and-cold season for Ellis saw him start the season as a prolonged healthy scratch. When given an opportunity to play, he took full advantage, using the departure of Magnus Nygren and injuries to Darren Dietz to help secure a job in the top four, where he was frequently paired with Beaulieu. Ellis managed a modest improvement in his point production, while gradually improving his all-around game, but remains far more of a project than most believed when he graduated from junior hockey two years ago. He was unable to maintain a high level of play, and the late season saw him return to scratch status in favour of some names lower down this list who have no NHL futures to speak of. Especially given the expected arrivals of Bennett and Darren Dietz, Ellis will need to prove he can remain relevant in the upcoming final year of his entry level deal.
Magnus Nygren – B-
Nygren was impressive upon his arrival in Hamilton, particularly in the offensive zone where his blistering point shot helped him put up 8 points in 16 contests. After a minor injury, however, Nygren decided he wasn’t happy with life on or off the ice in Hamilton, opting to return to his native Sweden to complete the season with Farjestad, where the 23-year old scored at a torrid pace with 12 goals and 20 points in just 25 games. The 6’0″ rugged blueliner was guilty of numerous offensive zone turnovers in Hamilton and needs to improve play in his own end, but his skills can’t be overlooked, and recent comments indicate his willingness to attend Montreal’s camp in the Fall, though his options would be limited to NHL or SHL with no interest in returning to the American League.
Darren Dietz – C+
Dietz’s pro rookie season was interrupted by multiple injuries, limiting him to just 34 games. The 20-year old is still seeking his first professional goal, after coming off a season where he led all Canadian Hockey League d-men in markers with 24. He should play a bigger role in Hamilton next season if he can stay in the line-up, and is likely to be joined by his former Saskatoon Blades teammate Dalton Thrower. Dietz is one of those middle-ground d-men at the pro level, not unlike Ellis, who does everything well enough without any one particular ability standing out. For this reason, it may take him longer to fully adjust to this stage and even longer still to get noticed, but he does have two full years remaining on his ELC to pile on some experience and learnings.
Joel Chouinard – C+
After Courtnall, Chouinard was the best of the players on AHL deals this season (though this isn’t saying particularly much). When it wasn’t Ellis sliding into the team’s top four on D, it was Chouinard, thanks to his defensive effectiveness and quick playing of the puck (and the absence of other viable options). At 24, Chouinard’s potential is likely nothing more than a bottom pair AHL d-man, but this season he helped compensate for the losses of Nygren and Dietz this year that could have left the ‘Dogs in quite a pinch. Unlikely to be back unless for extra depth in the ECHL, Chouinard was a stop-gap that must be upgraded for the team to improve.
Nathan McIver – C
McIver would look like he fit in well one shift out of five, but you’d be reminded of his limited skill set the other four. He basically gets into the line-up because of his pugilistic skills as the truest pure enforcer on the squad, and well, every team carries facepunchers in the American Hockey League. No reason to expect him back next year.
Drew Schiestel – C-
Schiestel was a surprise to go as early as he did in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft – taken in the 2nd round by the Buffalo Sabres – and he has never lived up to the organization’s expectations. The 25-year old Hamilton native showed no signs of getting back on track this year either, frequently misplaying pucks and losing coverage in his own end. The roll he can play is limited to full-time ECHL’er, providing depth as a call-up in case of injury.
Dustin Tokarski – A
Really the only reason the Hamilton Bulldogs were competitive at times this year, Tokarski confirmed his status as one of the top goaltenders in the American Hockey League this season. Sporting a sensational .920 save percentage and a 2.36 GAA, it was thought by some that Tokarski may seek a new challenge overseas or request a trade to another organization for a shot at a full time NHL gig next season, but his agreement to a two-year extension with Montreal provides the Canadiens with strong depth between the pipes. Though the indisputable trend is to favour netminders with size, Tokarski’s quickness and determination compensate for his 5’11” frame. The structure of Tokarski’s new deal speaks to the team’s plans for him, with a two-way contract for next season and an NHL only deal the year after, coincidentally the timing of the end of Peter Budaj’s current stint with the Habs, but this is dependent on his clearing waivers in the Fall.
Robert Mayer – B
Mayer represents quite the mystery in Hamilton. There is no doubt he was regularly outplayed by Tokarski, and yet coach Lefebvre continually sent Mayer out to start more than his fair share of games. And it wasn’t that Mayer didn’t have the talent to play at this level; he turned in some big performances to bank points for the ‘Dogs when it looked like they might still have a chance to reach the post-season. But consistency has always plagued the Czech-born, Swiss-citizen netminder, and you can typically tell from his first shot faced of the night whether he’s going to have a strong or poor outing. The situation is a curious one, complicated by the fact that the Canadiens gave Mayer a two-year deal last summer, meaning he has a year remaining when the Habs would likely prefer to promote 23-year old Mike Condon to the role of backing up Tokarski after he dominated the East Coast Hockey League. Mayer is as good as he will be, while Condon’s development is on a rising curve, so it’s possible the team agrees to allow Mayer to head to Switzerland this summer, or deals him to another club in need of AHL depth.
Devan Dubnyk – B-
Dubnyk was acquired simply because the Bulldogs were playing for their playoff lives in a pivotal 3-games-in-3-nights weekend and starter Tokarski was up in Montreal. Unfortunately, his season of struggles continued in Hamilton with a 3.33 GAA and a .893 save percentage, meaning his visit to Hamilton is certain to have been a mere layover. Dubnyk was a reasonable, proven NHL goaltender prior to this year, so there is no doubt he’ll get a contract from someone for next season in another effort to re-assert himself, but the Canadiens’ organization has no motivation to offer him a prolonged stay.
So it was a tough year. But all is not lost, given the Canadiens will benefit from the experience gained by players like Beaulieu and Tinordi this season as they are promoted to the next level. And turnover from one year to the next in the American League can be so great that this year’s results don’t necessarily spell doom for years to come, even though it was the third straight season without playoff action in the Hammer. How does general manager Marc Bergevin – holding his own part of the blame for not finding the right veterans to fill out his AHL affiliate’s roster – go about turning the team around? A winning roster based on the pieces under contract might look something like this:
Sven Andrighetto – AHL VET UFA – Christian Thomas
Charles Hudon – Jacob De La Rose – AHL VET UFA
Mike Blunden – Gabriel Dumont – Louis Leblanc
Patrick Holland – Brady Vail – Connor Crisp
Greg Pateryn – Mac Bennett
AHL VET UFA – Morgan Ellis
Dalton Thrower – Darren Dietz
Of course, being competitive depends on those AHL VET UFA spots being filled by quality players, and not Drew Schiestels and Ben Duffys, but you can add a real wildcard to the mix in Tim Bozon. Already signed by the Canadiens, Bozon continues his courageous recovery from a bout with meningitis that saw him hospitalized in a medically-induced coma last month. An established WHL sniper, it is unclear at this point where he’ll be in terms of health and physical conditioning by next Fall, and in turn what role he might be able to play in the organization. Also already signed is Jack Nevins, an undrafted prospect who has fit in well enough in a late-season stint with the ‘Dogs after his QMJHL career came to a close. Nevins is interchangeable with Vail and Crisp should the organization choose not to sign either, or reinforces the club’s important depth at this level.
Thanks for following Hamilton Bulldogs coverage at All Habs all season long, and we will continue to follow every development over the off-season.
MONTREAL, QC. — In the second ‘departure’ of the week, defenseman Magnus Nygren has left the Hamilton Bulldogs to play for Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. On Monday, forward Erik Nyström ended his professional tryout contract and headed to the KHL. The Nygren announcement was made on the Farjestad official website.
Nygren had been out of the Bulldogs lineup with a concussion but had been recently cleared to play by the medical staff.
Nygren is a 6-1″, 193 lb. defencemen and has been an asset to the Bulldogs’ power-play with a heavy shot from the point.Farjestad CEO Håkan Loob said that Nygren (nicknamed “Nygga”) will be on loan to his club for the remainder of the season. Loob added, “For us it’s obviously great to get the “Nygga” the line up again. We know what he can accomplish and right now we lack a lot of “Nyggas” qualities.”
“I am extremely pleased and inspired to come home and play again.” said Nygren.
Nygren will be returning to North America in February with the Farjestad club as they participate in the AHL All-Star festivities with a game against AHL all-stars. Farjestad will also play an exhibition game against the Toronto Marlies on Febraury 15, 2014.
Nygren signed a two year deal with the Canadiens in May and played 16 games with the Bulldogs this season tallying eight points. Nygren was selected in the fourth round, 113th overall by the Canadiens at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
On Twitter, Nygren tweeted that he was on the way to the airport. He thanked everyone for their comments and added “Soon, we’ll see all the wonderful FBK fans.”
På väg till flyget. Tack så jättemycket för alla kommentarer, det värmer! Snart ses vi alla underbara FBK-fans! 3 pinnar först ikväll! #hem