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2006-07 Ratings


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M.H.L. 2006-2007 Season Preview

Ducks, Thrashers, Red Wings Among Early Favourites

A big year is expected from Atlanta winger Alexander Ovechkin.

September 29th, 2006. With the 2006-2007 M.H.L. regular season now only a few days away, everyone is talking about predictions. Here at M.H.L. News, we are no different, so we are providing you with a preview of what to expect this season, along with a team-by-team breakdown and predictions.

Projected Final Standings:
East End Conference
1. x - Atlanta Thrashers
2. x - Detroit Red Wings
3. New York Rangers
4. Colorado Avalanche
5. Philadelphia Flyers
6. Quebec Nordiques
7. Nashville Predators
8. Phoenix Coyotes
9. Calgary Flames
10. Wild Minnesota
West Island Conference
1. x - Anaheim Mighty Ducks
2. x - Ottawa Senators
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Vancouver Canucks
5. Buffalo Sabres
6. Toronto Maple Leafs
7. Boston Bruins
8. New Jersey Devils
9. St. Louis Blues
10. Columbus Blue Jackets

But what good is a standings prediction without looking at individual teams? Here is a rundown of this year's M.H.L. clubs.


1. Atlanta Thrashers
Last year: 27-43-11-1, 10th place in the East End Conference.
New Additions: John Madden (C), Ryan Craig (W).
Departures: Michael Rupp (RW).
Team Overview: Atlanta's young core looks to improve on what was a disapointing first season, but with the team now starting together from day 1, they should have an easy time doing so. With Joe Thornton, Oli Jokinen, Teemu Selanne, and Alexander Ovechkin up front, there is plenty of firepower to go around. The question mark may be the team's blueline, which while a solid cast, lacks a bonified anchor, and this may put a lot of pressure on starter Manny Legace.
Key Contributor: Alexander Ovechkin (LW). Will have to show what he's made of. Could light the league on fire if he develops chemistry with Thornton.
Don't Overrate: Martin Straka (C). Weak defensively, and will struggle for ice time on a team with such tremendous forward depth.

2. Detroit Red Wings
Last year: 38-35-7-2, 6th place in the East End Conference.
New Additions: None.
Departures: Bobby Holik (C).
Team Overview: A second team that made few changes is also expected to perform well this season. Detroit has a potent 1-2 punch of Eric Staal and Joe Sakic down the middle, and has an outstanding top 3 on defense with Tomas Kaberle, Sergei Zubov, and Joni Pitkanen. The potential pitfall is between the pipes, where Evgeni Nabokov and Martin Biron will battle it out for the #1 job.
Key Contributor: Martin St. Louis (RW). The talent at center is unquestionnable, but Detroit lacks depth on the wings. St. Louis will be an important compliment to Staal or Sakic.
Don't Overrate: John Leclair (LW). This power forward / sniper is getting up there in age, and his legs aren't what they used to be. His defensive game is lacking, but he will remain an important voice in the locker room.

3. New York Rangers
Last year: 33-37-8-4, 8th place in the East End Conference.
New Additions: Cristobal Huet (G), Teppo Numminen (D), Andrew Alberts (D).
Departures: Eric Weinrich (D), Dallas Drake (RW), Scott Mellanby (RW), Jason York (D), Dave Andreychuk (RW).
Team Overview: New York decided the most important thing this off-season was to address their goaltending situation, and they did so by bringing in UFA Cristobal Huet to split time with Alex Auld. Jaromir Jagr remains one of the most talented players in the world, and he'll have his pick of 2 fantastic centers in Brad Richards and Mats Sundin.
Key Contributor: Ruslan Salei (D). The Rangers need some help on the blueline, but Salei is the strongest of the bunch in his own end. Look for him to get big minutes 5-on-5, as well as to be the go-to-guy on the penalty kill.
Don't Overrate: Martin Gelinas (LW). Gelinas is reliable at both ends of the rink, but don't expect much offensive production from him this year. His scoring will continue to drop with age, but he is strong defensively, and is a true leader to his younger teammates.

4. Colorado Avalanche
Last year: 43-31-6-2, 3rd place in the East End Conference.
New Additions: Andrew Brunette (LW), Jaroslav Modry (D), Brad Richardson (C), Steve Rucchin (C), Chris Gratton (C)
Departures: Brent Seabrook (D), Chris Chelios (D), Radoslav Suchy (D).
Team Overview: The defending Stanley Cup champions will have their work cut out for them if they want to repeat. Reinforcements were brought in up front so that Tomas Vokoun doesn't have to singlehandedly lead this team to victory again, and the team opened up its pocketbooks to ensure that Alexei Yashin wouldn't bolt as a UFA, but many of its star players are moving up past their prime. The club has a nice trade asset in back-up goaltender Martin Gerber who would be a #1 on many other teams.
Key Contributor: Mathieu Schneider (D). Schneider and Marek Zidlicky provide the Avs with two veritable threats from the blueline, and should ensure success on the powerplay. Schneider will soak up huge minutes, as he is just as good in his own end, despite getting up there in years.
Don't Overrate: Jaroslav Modry (D). There is a big drop off on the blueline for Colorado after the top pair, as Modry - who clocks in at #3 - is adequate at everything, but not particularly good at any one thing.

5. Philadelphia Flyers
Last year: 40-34-5-3, 4th place in the East End Conference.
New Additions: Vladimir Orszagh (RW), Martin Lapointe (RW), Scott Mellanby (RW).
Departures: Andrew Brunette (LW), Filip Kuba (D), Patrick Lalime (G), Tie Domi (RW).
Team Overview: The Flyers used this offseason to stock up on defensively responsible wingers in order to plug some holes in their forward lines. Mike Modano, Dany Heatley, and Pavol Demitra form one of the top lines in the league, while the team should be counting on a big year from netminder Manny Fernandez.
Key Contributor: Dany Heatley (LW). The club's new forwards are all very adept in the defensive zone, but Heatley is one of the few pure scorers on the roster. This makes him the trigger man in any and all situations.
Don't Overrate: Mike Morrison (G). Not that you would be overrating him anyway, but he enters the season as the team's back-up. Look for them to make a move to shore up this weak spot.

6. Quebec Nordiques
Last year: 39-34-7-2, 5th place in the East End Conference.
New Additions: Todd Bertuzzi (RW), Peter Sykora (W), Ronald Petrovicky (RW), Branko Radivojevic (RW), Pavel Brendl (RW), Kurt Sauer (D), Jamie Allison (D), Brad Norton (D), Jason Chimera (W), Brad Larsen (W), Peter Sejna (C), Sean Bergenheim (LW).
Departures: Brendan Morrow (LW), Trevor Linden (RW), Cale Hulse (D), Radek Dvorak (RW).
Team Overview: Quebec was extremely active on the free agent market, bringing in a boatload of depth players. While most are likely to spend the year with the team's farm league affiliate, they need not worry about injury replacements. Todd Bertuzzi and Peter Sykora bring much-needed reinforcements to Rick Nash and Daniel Briere offensively, and Roberto Luongo - when he's on his game - is one of the best goaltenders there is.
Key Contributor: Rick Nash (LW). Like Heatley in Philadelphia, Nash is the team's top shooter and will be counted on to finish plays. In Briere, he has a top notch set-up man, so he should be good for a large quantity of goals.
Don't Overrate: Jeff O'Neill (RW). Personal problems have left Jeff a shade of his former self, and he is little more than a roster stop-gap. If he could somehow regain his prior form, he would provide this team with invaluable secondary scoring.

7. Nashville Predators
Last year: 45-29-6-2, 1st place in the East End Conference.
New Additions: Patrick Lalime (G), Todd Marchant (C), Jozef Stumpel (RW), Brian McGrattan (W), Gerald Coleman (G), Jamie McClennan (G), Trevor Linden (C).
Departures: Peter Sykora (W), Mario Lemieux (C), Jim Dowd (C), Garth Snow (G).
Team Overview: Losing a player like Mario Lemieux is always a step back for an organization, but Nashville was quick to bring in some new forwards via free agency. Patrick Marleau becomes the team's #1 center, while goaltender Rick DiPietro might finally be ready for a breakout year.
Key Contributor: Ladislav Nagy (LW). Nagy is one of the game's least heralded superstars, mostly because of nagging injury problems. If he can put those in the past, and work on his consistency, finishing atop the team in scoring is not out of the question.
Don't Overrate: Jozef Stumpel (RW). Stumpy has had a fine career, but it is coming closer to an end, and he has adapted his style of play, becoming more defensive-minded. A decent depth winger, but not going to relive the 20 goal, 70 point days of his youth.

8. Phoenix Coyotes
Last year: 40-33-7-2, 2nd place in the East End Conference.
New Additions: Filip Kuba (D), Todd White (C), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (G), Martin Skoula (D), Brian Finley (G), Derek Boogaard (W), Vernon Fiddler (C), Daniel Cleary (RW).
Departures: Derek Morris (D), Brett Clark (D), Antti Laaksonen (W), Martin Prusek (G).
Team Overview: A stellar backend led by Scott Niedermayer and Zdeno Chara will have to pick up the slack for a lackluster offense whose only true bright spot is Sidney Crosby. But Sid the Kid has the kind of talent that can carry a team on its own, so the Coyotes should be a playoff club. An interesting pipeline battle is brewing between incumbent David Aebischer and newcomer Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Key Contributor: Sidney Crosby (C). The only forward on this team with above-average scoring ability will look to form a dangerous duo with the only other playmaking forward in Craig Conroy. You need to score goals to win, and if this team is scoring, it starts and end with Sid.
Don't Overrate: David Aebischer (G). Though he was rather successful as the team's starter last year, Aebischer is no longer a quality #1 guy in the league. At this point, it is likely he will play second fiddle to Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

9. Calgary Flames
Last year: 38-36-7-1, 7th place in the East End Conference.
New Additions: None.
Departures: Brian Leetch (D), Brad Isbister (LW), Luke Richardson (D), Pierre Dagenais (LW), Eric Desjardins (D), Mike Grier (RW).
Team Overview: Calgary has been extremely quiet this offseason and has done nothing to replace its blueline retirees Brian Leetch and Eric Desjardins. The team may need to fill holes in its offense with youngsters Alexander Perezhogin and Corey Perry, and the depleted blueline will not be saved by the questionnable goaltending pair of Dwayne Roloson and Tim Thomas. Still, Peter Forsberg, Alex Kovalev, and Ryan Smyth are three perennial all-stars, and as such, the team could find themselves in the playoff race.
Key Contributor: Brian Rafalski (D). With Leetch and Desjardins gone, Rafalski becomes the clear anchor of this defense, and should play big minutes nightly. His smooth skating and strong outlet pass should compliment snipers Smyth and Kovalev well.
Don't Overrate: Dwayne Roloson (G). Before he can be dubbed a quality starter, he'll need to put up strong numbers over a full season. He should get the nod ahead of Thomas, but don't be surprised if Calgary looks elsewhere for goaltending support.

10. Wild Minnesota
Last year: 27-42-12-1, 9th place in the East End Conference.
New Additions: Sean Hill (D), Sami Kapanen (RW), Michael Rupp (RW).
Departures: None.
Team Overview: Minnesota is on the right track, as bringing in a guy like Sami Kapanen would be a boon to any team at any time, but they haven't done enough to improve from last year's poor showing. That said, they are a very young team, and they should be able to maintain their core of Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Alexander Frolov, and others, while waiting for Kari Lehtonen, Kyle Wellwood, Mike Richards, Steve Bernier, Phil Kessel, Antoine Vermette, and Marc Staal to reach their potential. If/When they all do, this will be a club to be reckoned with. In the meanwhile, the team's main achillies heel is its defense.
Key Contributor: Simon Gagne (LW). Gagne is a pure sniper, and Montreal Hockey League fans drool over the French Connection that he forms with Lecavalier. With limited secondary scoring, the pair will be counted on to front the bulk of the workload offensively.
Don't Overrate: Kari Lehtonen (G). Notice the bottom three teams share the commonality of having a goaltender in the don't overrate category. Lehtonen certainly has a bright future ahead of him, but due to a near constant stream of injuries, he hasn't been able to put it all together yet. As such, expect Robert Esche to get the lion's share of action for this year, but Kari's time in the sun will come.


1. Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Last year: 37-33-11-1, 5th place in the West Island Conference.
New Additions: Nicklas Lidstrom (D), Andrei Markov (D), Chris Kunitz (W), Brian Willsie (RW), Chris Mason (G), Joel Bouchard (D), Alex Henry (D), Andy Delmore (D).
Departures: Ryan Getzlaf (W), Mike Van Ryn (D), Jaroslav Modry (D), Andrew Cassels (C), Shawn McEachern (W), Ruslan Fedotenko (W), Brad Richardson (C), Aaron Ward (D), Jarkko Ruutu (W), Steve Yzerman (RW), Jassen Cullimore (D), Vladimir Orszagh (RW)
Team Overview: There was a high turnover rate in Anaheim where excess depth from last season resulted in a couple of big trades, and allowing several free agents to walk. The Ducks targetted their defensive unit as what was bringing them down, and certainly addressed the need by bringing in Nicklas Lidstrom and Andrei Markov. With the older bodies out of the line-up, younger players will step in to the Anaheim offense, including Patrice Bergeron, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Chris Higgins, as well as the defense with Fedor Tyutin and Shaone Morrisonn. Rod Brind'Amour is likely the best third line centerman in the league. If there is a weakness on the squad, it is in goal, where Anaheim may look to upgrade Chris Osgood until Henrik Lundqvist is truly ready to take over.
Key Contributor: Daniel Alfredsson (RW). Easily the team's top forward, Alfredsson will be counted on to produce up front. While there are plenty of talented centers and wingers in Anaheim, he is the only natural goal scorer.
Don't Overrate: Pierre-Marc Bouchard (RW). Bouchard is only 22 and still has a ton of potential, but has yet to find his scoring touch. He will start the season on the team's second line, but don't be surprised to see him drop down if he struggles to score.

2. Ottawa Senators
Last year: 39-34-8-1, 4th place in the West Island Conference.
New Additions: Brendan Morrow (LW), Bobby Holik (C), Mike Grier (RW), Craig Rivet (D), Radek Dvorak (W), Viktor Kozlov (W), Duvie Westcott (D), Aaron Ward (D), Jarkko Ruutu (W), Randy Robitaille (W), Andre Roy (W), Frederic Cassivi (G).
Departures: Todd Bertuzzi (RW), Oleg Tverdovsky (D), Branko Radivojevic (RW), Sean Burke (G), Jiri Slegr (D), Vaclav Varada (LW).
Team Overview: Ottawa kept pace with Anaheim with a high turnover rate of their own. A potential first line of Brendan Morrow, Jason Arnott, and Marian Hossa should give defenders nightmares, as they are all big bodies with noses for the net. The team could stand to add another defensive defenseman or two, but playing in the weaker of the two West Island divisions will help their chances of beginning the playoffs with home ice advantage. Those chances also rely greatly on the health of starter Dominik Hasek, as Mathieu Garon may not be ready to handle the job full-time.
Key Contributor: Sergei Samsonov (LW). If the first line is as predicted, Ottawa will be struggling for secondary scoring. In that department, Samsonov is the most offensive of the bunch, but if he and Scott Hartnell don't put up some numbers, the team may slip in the standings.
Don't Overrate: Kimmo Timmonen (D). Timmonen has great offensive instincts, and is a tremendous skater, but his defensive game could use some work. In Ottawa, he is being asked to anchor the D, and that may be too big of a role for him to fill.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last year: 43-31-7-1, 2nd place in the West Island Conference.
New Additions: Joe Nieuwendyk (C), Richard Matvichuk (D), Dan Jancevski (D), Jordan Sigalet (G).
Departures: Bill Guerin (RW), Luc Robitaille (LW), Sean Hill (D), Karlis Skrastins (D).
Team Overview: The Lightning have great depth on the wings, but lacked offensive centers, and they hope that bringing in an old Joe Nieuwendyk for one last run will be the missing piece to their puzzle. He'll be flanked by some combination of Paul Kariya, Martin Havlat, Cory Stillman, and Brian Gionta, ensuring that Tampa has plenty of firepower up front. The blueline features several emerging talents like Robyn Regehr and Sami Salo, but it may be a point of concern for this year.
Key Contributor: Marty Turco (G). Fortunately for Tampa's questionnable defenders, the last line of defense is Turco, a proven star netminder. With Ty Conklin penciled in as his back-up, look for Turco to play almost every night, or for the Lightning to bring in some aide.
Don't Overrate: Sergei Fedorov (C). Age and injury has caught up to Sergei, and he is no longer the offensive dynamo of his youth. He remains a decent set-up man sure to have talented wingers on the second line, so Tampa Bay will need him to reconnect with his offensive side if they are to succeed.

4. Vancouver Canucks
Last year: 34-34-11-3, 6th place in the West Island Conference.
New Additions: Dan McGillis (D), Shawn McEachern (RW), Bill Guerin (W), Sean Burke (G).
Departures: Sami Kamapnen (RW), Alexei Zhamnov (C), Cristobal Huet (G), Andreas Lilja (D), Geoff Sanderson (LW).
Team Overview: The Canucks (recently having moved from Pittsburgh) look to build on a lengthy playoff run from last year, where the duo of Ilya Kovalchuk and Scott Walker were on fire. The rest of the offense - Brendan Shanahan, Scott Gomez, and others - looks promising, and the blueline seems solid enough, but goaltending could be an issue, where Vancouver hopes one of Jose Theodore and Ryan Miller will get hot. In case neither do, the Canucks took preventive measures by signing Sean Burke, giving them a third pro-level netminder.
Key Contributor: Scott Gomez (C). Who better to feed one of the league's top scorers in Kovalchuk than one of the league's best set up men? While it was Walker who had the best chemistry with Kovalchuk in the postseason, it is reasonable to believe that Gomez will be racking up the points with him this year.
Don't Overrate: Tim Connolly (C). Connolly has the tools to become a superstar in this league, but injuries are a legitimate concern. Even at the young age of 25, he has trouble remaining healthy, and this decreases his overall effectiveness.

5. Buffalo Sabres
Last year: 31-43-5-3, 10th place in the West Island Conference.
New Additions: Mike VanRyn (D), Ruslan Fedotenko (RW), Karlis Skrastins (D), Dany Sabourin (G), Carl Corazzini (W), Boyd Kane (W), Michael Garnett (G).
Departures: Andrei Markov (D), Chris Knuitz (W), Niko Kapanen (C), Alexander Korolyuk (RW).
Team Overview: The Sabres have a well rounded team with strength at every position, particularly in goal where Martin Brodeur and Olaf Kolzig have to be the league's best duo. The team is a little thin in to-end offensive talent, so a lot of weight will be placed on Henrik Zetterberg and Brian Rolston. The team should get some offensive help from the blueline, where both Wade Redden and Joe Corvo can chip in the occassional marker.
Key Contributor: Henrik Zetterberg (LW). Zetterberg is far and away the best offensive talent on this team, while, like many other forwards on the club, also being no slouch in his own end. Because of this, he may see time on both the powerplay and penalty kill.
Don't Overrate: Maxim Afinovenov (RW). With the likes of Zetterberg, Rolston, and Chris Drury, this club clearly favours forwards who can play in all 3 zones. Afinogenov has a lot to learn defensively, and has not shown he can be a top-level offensive threat either, which is likely to leave him fighting for his ice time.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last year: 46-28-5-3, 1st place in the West Island Conference.
New Additions: Miroslav Satan (W), Pierre Turgeon (C), Antti Laaksonen (W), Dallas Drake (RW), Andreas Lilja (D), Chris Chelios (D), Jean-Phillippe Cote (D), Patrick Traverse (D), Wade Belak (D), Mark Mowers (W).
Departures: Zigmund Palffy (W), Alexandre Daigle (RW), Jason Woolley (D), Richard Matvichuk (D), Mariusz Czerkawski (W), Martin Lapointe (RW), Randy Robitaille (C).
Team Overview: Toronto came within 1 game of winning the Stanley Cup last year, but with the retirement of Zigmund Palffy, and the aging of Alexander Mogilny and Jeremy Roenick, they were in need of some fresh blood. The additions of Antti Laaksonen and Dallas Drake should help the team remain #1 in penalty killing, and Miroslav Satan provides offensive support for Patrik Elias and Erik Cole. Chris Chelios was another key new addition, as the team lacked a defensive defenseman, and even at age 44, Chelios remains a tough customer on the back end.
Key Contributor: Miikka Kiprusoff (G). Kipper will be going it alone in Toronto's crease this season, as it is unlikely either Jocelyn Thibault or Mikael Tellqvist will see much action. He is one of the best in the business, but should he get hold, or heaven forbid hurt, Toronto will be in a tough situation.
Don't Overrate: Sergei Gonchar (D). While a talented offensive defenseman, Gonchar is somewhat of a liability in his own end. Toronto's top 3 of him, Bryan Berard, and Patrice Brisebois all share this trait, and it will be something other teams look to expose.

7. Boston Bruins
Last year: 36-39-5-2, 9th place in the West Island Conference.
New Additions: Steve Ott (C).
Departures: Keith Primeau (C).
Team Overview: Boston is a young team that is only getting better with time. Marian Gaborik, Jason Spezza, and Ales Hemsky are all showing that they are amongst the game's elite. Chris Pronger is a top-level defender, but the team will have to count on an aging Curtis Joseph in goal, as the unproven Ilya Bryzgalov may not be ready for starting duties.
Key Contributor: Marian Gaborik (RW). Gaborik - a flashy scorer - should fit well with playmaker Spezza. The fact that the two are just entering their primes means we could see this explosive pair together for many years to come.
Don't Overrate: Martin Erat (LW). The diminutive winger has had his numbers inflated by strong linemates in the past. He is an average player, and may not live up to expectations if placed on Boston's second trio as is expected.

8. New Jersey Devils
Last year: 36-37-7-2, 8th place in the West Island Conference.
New Additions: Brad Isbister (LW), Ben Ondrus (LW), Geoff Sanderson (W), Marty Reasoner (C), Derek Morris (D), Nikko Kapanen (C), Brett Clark (D).
Departures: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (G), Todd White (C), Martin Skoula (D), Jozef Stumpel (RW), Teppo Numminen (D), Todd Marchant (C), Craig Rivet (D), Pierre Turgeon (C).
Team Overview: Last year's roster just snuck them into the playoffs, and with mainly latteral moves, this year's should do the same. The Devils' offense includes a couple of budding stars in Justin Williams and Andy McDonald. Philippe Boucher is finally starting to live up to potential, and will lead the defense, but their job may not be easy as an unproven Marc Denis is the starting netminder in front of even more unproven Hannu Toivonen and Brent Johnson.
Key Contributor: Steve Sullivan (RW). The small forward is the team's biggest offensive weapon, and they are not overloaded with firepower, so he will have a large role. His defensive abilities likely mean he will see icetime in every situation.
Don't Overrate: Marc Denis (G). Denis has long been touted as a goaltender of the future, but he has yet to live up to the hype. With Giguere now out of the picture, he will be given a chance to shine, but it remains to be seen if he will be successful.

9. St. Louis Blues
Last year: 36-37-4-5, 7th place in the West Island Conference.
New Additions: None.
Departures: Dick Tarnstrom (D), Eric Daze (RW), John Madden (C), Jason Doig (D).
Team Overview: Another team that just snuck into the playoffs last year (thanks to an end-of-season 6-game winning streak), St. Louis might not be so lucky this time around. Saku Koivu - when healthy - is a premiere passer, and Jarome Iginla is a world-class forward, and Henrik Sedin and Jason Blake ensure that offense won't be the biggest worry. The defense on the other hand needs a lot of help, and isn't likely to get it from goaltenders Nikolai Khabibulin and Anterro Niittymaki.
Key Contributor: Jarome Iginla (RW). When he's on his game, there might be no one better. If Iginla can work on a bit more consistency, he might be able to lead this team to a second post-season birth.
Don't Overrate: Brent Sopel (D). A fine bottom - or even 2nd - pairing guy, but Sopel has too big of a role on this team as it stands. Ok offensively and defensively, not especially good at either.

10. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last year: 40-34-5-3, 3rd place in the West Island Conference.
New Additions: Ryan Getzlaf (W), Brent Seabrook (D), John Pohl (W), Anthony Stewart (W), Oleg Tverdovsky (D), Marc-Antoine Pouliot (W), Robbie Earl (W).
Departures: Nicklas Lidstrom (D), Miroslav Satan (W), Steve Rucchin (C), Chris Gratton (C), Viktor Kozlov (W), Duvie Westcott (D), Dan McGillis (D), Marty Reasoner (C), Ronald Petrovicky (RW).
Team Overview: Following a post-season meltdown last year, Columbus entered full-blown rebuild mode. Almost all of their veterans were moved for picks and/or prospects, so this team can't consider themselves contenders of any sorts this season. They are piecing together a bright club for the future, with the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Getzlaf, and Brent Seabrook, and will add to it a top pick in the 2007 draft.
Key Contributor: Marc Savard (C). If this team has *any* chance of surprising, it will be because Marc Savard is having a monster season. The only current star at any position, Savard is unlikely to be able to get the job done alone.
Don't Overrate: Tuomo Ruutu (LW). It is sad to see what is happening to Tuomo. A kid so full of star potential always being sidelined by injury. If he could ever stay healthy, he'd be a big part of the offense, but unfortunately, that is unlikely.


Johnson Goes First Overall

Thrashers Make American Defenseman Top Pick in Entry Draft

Erik Johnson will be attending the University of Minnesota this Fall.

September 10th, 2006. There wasn't much suspense surrounding the first overall selection in today's Montreal Hockey League entry draft. American defenseman Erik Johnson was the consensus top pick in the crop, and the Atlanta Thrashers made all predictions reality just after 5:00 PM Eastern time. Johnson joins perhaps the strongest young team in the M.H.L., a club already featuring stars such as Joe Thornton, Alexander Ovechkin, and Olli Jokinen. While many youngsters might be tempted to forego a formal education being given this kind of opportunity, Johnson has already decided he wants to spend at least a year at the University of Minnesota working on his game while also furthering his academics. With the second overall selection, the Buffalo Sabres selected Canadian forward Jonathan Toews. Toews was the first of ten consecutive forwards to be picked, being followed directly by Phil Kessel (Minnesota Wild), Jordan Staal (Boston Bruins), and Nicklas Backstrom (New York Rangers). The top goaltender in the draft was Jonathan Bernier, selected 12th overall by the Quebec Nordiques. Draft day also featured a flurry of trades, with players including Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Brent Seabrook, Jarkko Ruutu, Aaron Ward, Jaroslav Modry, and Todd White switching teams. The next step for the M.H.L. will be the opening of the free agent market on Sunday, September 17th, and then the regular season will begin on October 4th.


Sabres, Ducks Complete Swap

Fedotenko and Van Ryn Head to Buffalo, Markov and Kunitz to Anaheim

Defenseman Andrei Markov is expected to take over Mike Van Ryn's spot on Anaheim's top pairing.

September 10th, 2006. Typically on draft day, numerous trades go down as it is an opportunity for all of the league's GMs to get together in one place. With the M.H.L. draft being done entirely online, it was uncertain if that trend would carry over, but at least one significant move went down this morning. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks annouced that they have sent offensive defenseman Mike Van Ryn, scoring winger Ruslan Fedotenko, and their third round entry draft pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for defenseman Andrei Markov, rugged forward Chris Kunitz, and prospect Guillaume Latendresse. The trade gives Anaheim a bit more toughness to their somewhat soft team, as neither Kunitz nor Latendresse are afraid of dishing out the rough stuff. Van Ryn and Markov are two similar defensemen entering their primes, and are even signed to similar deals, so perhaps it can be said it was a matter of preference for both general managers. Markov will likely slide into Van Ryn's former spot on the Ducks' top pairing, while it is still unclear where Van Ryn will fit into Buffalo's depth chart.



Colorado captain Robert Lang after receiving the Stanley Cup from M.H.L. Commissioner Dan Kramer


Dramatic Goal Crowns Avs Champions

Donald Brashear Snaps 4-4 Tie With 2 Seconds Remaining

Donald Brashear's second of the playoffs instantly made the Air Canada Centre crowd fall deadly silent, when the game seemed destined for overtime

September 2nd, 2006. Two seconds. That's all that remained on the clock when defenseman Marek Zidlicky took one last point shot on goal in a last-ditch effort to end things before the game would go to overtime as a 4-4 draw. The shot hit Leaf goaltender Miika Kiprusoff square on, bouncing off his chest. In one fell swoop, before Kiprusoff could control the puck, and before a defenseman could clear it away, enforcer Donald Brahsear - out there for the sole purpose of screening the goaltender - took a swing and connected, beating Kiprusoff, and becoming the hero as the Colorado Avalanche became the first ever M.H.L. Stanley Cup Champions. As a 7th game, this one did not disapoint in the least. Colorado held a 3-1 lead through 2 periods, in a very even game. The Maple Leafs came storming back in the third, unwilling to give up. They battled back and tied the game at 4 about half-way through the frame. They would outshoot the Avalanche 17-7 in the final period, but none of it was enough to stop Brashear from ending things. Aside from Brashear, it was Robert Lang who led the charges for the Avs, earning first star honours with 1 goal and 3 helpers. Defenseman Stephane Robidas was a main author of Toronto's comeback push, with his 1 goal and 1 assist gaining him recognition as the game's third star. The second star was given to Marek Zidlicky, who had a goal earlier for Colorado, and then set up the play that would lead to the winner. Following the game, amidst the Colorado celebrations, the Conn Smythe Trophy was presented to goaltender Tomas Vokoun, as MVP. While his number ballooned a little in the finals, he was phenomenal throughout the playoffs and was the main reason for the Avalanche's success. And so, we close the 2005-2006 M.H.L. season, offering our sincerest congratulations to the Colorado Avalanche.


Roenick, Leafs Force Game 7

Veteran is Named First Star in Huge 6-2 Win

Jeremy Roenick had 1 goal, 1 assist, and a game-high 6 shots for the Leafs in game 6

September 1st, 2006. And so the inaugural MHL Stanley Cup Finals will go to the maximum 7 games. Three first period goals were all it took for the Toronto Maple Leafs to put last night's game 6 on ice, with Mike Peca's goal with only 5 seconds to go in the first period ending up the winner. Toronto added 3 more goals to make the affair far from a tight one, 2 off the stick of Matt Stajan, which give him a playoff-leading 13. With the Cup in the building, tensions were high throughout, and the game was penalty-filled and scrappy. Colorado's Richard Park and Toronto's Patrice Brisebois each left the game with injuries in the second period and did not return. Their status for game 7 is uncertain at this time. The decisive 7th contest will go tomorrow evening at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. At that time, one team will be crowned champions, and another will see their hopes and aspirations evaporate into thin air. In a one-game winner-take-all format, anyone can step up and be a hero. And on that note, I'll leave you with this motivating quote courtesy of the NHL's marketing campaign, setting the tense mood for tomorrow night: "No one remembers who came in second. The goal is to win. That's why they keep score. There are no moral victories. There is no immortality for second best. No champagne bath ... No engraving. Just a lonely walk down a quiet hall and the silence can break your heart. No one remembers who came in second."


Schneider Pots Winner in Second OT

Colorado Now One Game Away From Stanley Cup

Mathieu Schneider's third of the playoffs ended a marathon game, giving the Avs a 3-2 win

September 1st, 2006. With two blowouts in the first 4 games of the MHL Stanley Cup Finals series between the Colorado Avalanche and the Toronto Maple Leafs, it might have seemed almost unusual that game 5 was a real nail-biter. But when you consider that the two blowouts were one for each side, and that the series was tied at 2 games apiece, making game 5 very crucial, the fact that the game went into double overtime comes as no surprise. With everything to lose, the two sides threw everything they could at one another, with Sergei Gonchar twice giving Toronto leads, only to have them erased by Colorado's Marcus Nilson on both occasions. Avs goaltender Tomas Vokoun was once again on top of his game, as Colorado would be outshot 39 to 32 on the night. He kept Leaf shooters at bay until Mathieu Schneider could accept a drop pass from Robert Lang and wire a slapshot top shelf past Miikka Kiprusoff, giving the Avalanche the win, at 3:31 of the second overtime period. With the win, Colorado takes a 3-2 series lead and is just one game away from winning the first ever MHL Stanley Cup. Additionally, they'll have a chance to do it in front of their hometown fans, as game 6 will take place in Denver this evening. The Leafs will be playing some desperate hockey, as they look to send a 7th game back to Toronto, or all of their accomplishments up to now will be for nought.


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