Archive for October, 2012

5FW Cardboard Corner: Reviewing 2012-13 Score Hockey — With Autograph Giveaway

October 25, 2012

Big thanks to Tracy Hackler of Panini America for sending over a couple boxes of hockey cards for us to review here at 5FW.  The first giveaway of 2011-12 Panini Titanium was very successful — I was pretty surprised at how many e-mails I got from people — so hopefully there’s the same level of interest in 2012-13 Score as well.

Score is Panini’s basic, pretty bare-bones product…but while it’s easily overlooked, it’s rather evident that it shouldn’t be.  It’s a very inexpensive product with a big base set to collect; and the inclusion of various subsets, rookies and the integration of legends make it worth taking a look at.  And it’s not like Score is entirely hit-free, signed rookies come approximately one per case…and you’ll see we got very lucky in our box.

To me, Score is the perfect product if your son or daughter is getting interested in collecting.  While it’s certainly not a product that’s themed towards kids by any means — as, say, Collectors Choice was back in the day — it is, as I said, an inexpensive way to get nice cards of their favorite players, as well as the potential for a hit as well.

A look at various inserts, a gold parallel and the base card design of 2012-13 Score Hockey

The design of the base cards is exactly what I would want were I doing it myself.  A bordered card with a full action photo…no photoshop work to put a background behind a player, etc.  Just a focus on good and/or interesting action photography just like it should be. 

There are a handful of inserts in the product, but nothing particularly mindblowing or noteworthy that’s actually attainable other than the rookie autographs.  There is a gold parallel card in every pack, and the value in those is primarily in the rookies, which are also featured in the set.  The “Net Cam” and “First Goal” inserts were particularly of interest to me…the Net Cam cards feature great photography from inside the net of the top goalies around the league, while the First Goal cards commemmorate a player’s first time lighting the lamp in the NHL.  The “Team Score” inserts are also interesting, with the photography mimicking that used in the famous Bo Jackson shot.

We did hit a Hot Rookies autograph of Carter Ashton, which will be the giveaway at the end of this post…stay tuned for details on that.  I think my only complaint on that card and any of the other inserts is that they aren’t numbered…which, given what must be a massive print run for this product, is somewhat understandable, but I’d still like to see that on a tougher hit like a rookie autograph, even if it is well into the triple digits.

As long as you’re going into opening a box of Score realizing it isn’t a hit-heavy product, then it’s worth your while.  At a very inexpensive price point, and with a good amount of rookies in every box, 2012-13 Score Hockey is a solid buy for the money.

What else would be good for the money would be a free Carter Ashton rookie autograph, and here’s how to win that, courtesy of 5FW and Panini…just send an e-mail through October 31,2012 to my e-mail address (mashmore98 AT with the subject 5FW Cardboard Corner Contest and I’ll randomly pick a winner through an online randomizer and either send the card to you or give it to you at the arena in Trenton if you’re local and at a game.

If anyone wants to watch the video of me opening the box and reviewing the contents, that video is available on my YouTube account…but it’s pretty clear I didn’t hide the big hit from anybody.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT


5FW Originals: Bathgate Legacy Lives On In Guelph

October 22, 2012

Andy Bathgate, grandson of the NHL legend with the same name, is continuing his career with the University of Guelph (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

For a while, Andy Bathgate thought it was a curse.

Thanks to some constant chirping from opponents in his younger days, the grandson of the NHL icon with the same name didn’t necessarily have the appreciation for the eight letters that sat on top of the number on his jersey as he should have.

“I really didn’t know much about my grandfather when I was growing up and was six, seven, eight years old; I was just a young kid playing hockey,” Bathgate told The Trentonian.

“But looking back now, I don’t know why I felt like that, it’s definitely a blessing. Not only has it got me to places where I want to be, but I just take such pride in having the name. It’s a blessing for sure.”

Unfortunately, the blessing hasn’t translated onto the ice as often as the younger Bathgate would like. Selected in the fifth round of the 2009 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bathgate’s rights were relinquished following the 2010-11 season due to a shoulder injury that limited him.

“Andy Bathgate hasn’t played much hockey for a while,” Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“You look at his numbers and say, ‘Well, geez, he should be doing this or that. He’s a first-line center.’ But he hasn’t played much hockey. He’s a tough kid to protect because of the lack of games he’s played over the last 2 1/2 years because of his shoulder injury.”

The past few years have been somewhat of a roller coaster ride for Bathgate, who played for both Plymouth and Belleville in the OHL with a two-game stint with Wilkes-Barre Scranton of the AHL mixed in. This year, he’s playing university hockey with the Guelph Gryphons while putting thoughts of a pro career on hold.

“It’s been hectic to say the least,” Bathgate said. “It’s been a whirlwind. You don’t really know where you’re going the next year. I just kind of keep doing my thing, train in the summer and wherever I end up, I just try to play my game.”

Still just 21 years old, Bathgate still very much so has aspirations of pro career, which he got a taste of during those two games in 2010-11. It was, he says, “the best experience of my life.”

“It was one of the best months and a half of my entire life, for sure,” Bathgate said.

“Just down from the coaching staff to the guys to the training facility to the playoff run, it was something I’ll never forget and something I’m striving towards again.”

Once the Penguins let him go, Bathgate was sent back into the draft pool, but says that given it was his fourth year, that he wasn’t necessarily looking to get picked again, hoping to keep his options open for all 30 teams instead of being limited to just one. As such, Bathgate was given the opportunity to put himself on the radar of the same team where his famous grandfather spent the majority of his career: The New York Rangers.

Andy Bathgate’s #9 — alongside Harry Howell’s #3 — is raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters in February, 2009 (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Bathgate was invited to their prospect camp this summer, playing in the shadow of his grandfather’s retired number 9, which the Rangers sent to the rafters in a 2009 ceremony.

“If you think I got asked questions before, I certainly got some questions about grandpa there,” Bathgate said through a laugh.

“It was fun, though. It was a great experience, it helped me as a hockey player for sure. I went in and I wasn’t in the best hockey shape I wanted to be, they called me the day after the draft and it was just kind of a whirlwind. I headed home from my girlfriend’s house and jumped on a plane, so I didn’t really perform the way I wanted to, but I think I left an impression there that they’ll take a look at me.”

Although there were likely pro options for Bathgate to pursue, he instead chose to further his education with Guelph, putting off officially starting his career for now. Just not forever.

“This isn’t the end. I’m here, I’m playing hockey and I’m ready to take my career further from here,” he said.

“The decision happened really late. With the NHL lockout and everything that happened, it was really tough. It was a summer full of phone calls and e-mails and stuff. But I’m really happy about the decision. I got a lot of money from the OHL, and nowadays you can’t go anywhere without an education. Again, there’s always life after hockey. With the opportunity to go to a great school in Guelph and play hockey at the same time, I’d might as well.”

Bathgate said that he’s not going to give up the goal of playing professional hockey on a full-time basis, saying that he’ll keep playing until he can’t play anymore; whether that’s when he’s 25 years old or when he’s 40.

And it was also evident that he’s embraced the legacy that comes with his name as well. About an hour after the Gryphons beat the Princeton Tigers in an exhibition game, Bathgate boarded a train with the rest of his teammates. Clad in street clothes and an Oakland A’s hat, he was able to anonymously enjoy the ride, free of any chirps or curiosity that came with his name.

That train’s destination, by the way?

New York.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

5FW Game Coverage: Evaluating The 2012-13 Princeton Tigers Men’s Hockey Team

October 21, 2012

The Trentonian was the only media outlet present at the NCAA Princeton Tigers men’s hockey team’s exhibition game against the Guelph University Gryphons on Saturday afternoon at Hobey Baker Rink. The Tigers were without upperclassmen Jack Berger, Andrew Calof, Kevin Ross and Rob Kleebaum (Kevin Liss and Kevin Mills were also scratched) but it still gave a pretty good indication of what kind of team Princeton would have this season.

Back-to-back losses to a Canadian university team do not paint a pretty picture as to how the regular season will play out in a talent-laden ECAC this year.

An estimated 250 fans showed up to see Princeton lose to the Gryphons, 6-5. Guelph features a lot of players with OHL experience as well as Andy Bathgate, who had played two games in the AHL before returning to school to continue his education…you’ll see a feature on Bathgate very soon on here.

As for the Tigers side, I watched the game without having to do a game story for the paper, meaning I was able to focus solely on player evaluation. I took a lot of notes, but without even delving into those, I can tell you that freshman forward Jonathan Liau really stood out to me.

Jonathan Liau was one of several standout Princeton players, despite a 6-5 exhibition loss to the Guelph Gryphons (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Liau, a Burbank, California native, joined the Tigers after playing for Penticton of the BCHL, which also produced Princeton’s starting goalie, Sean Bonar. Listed at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, Liau is an undersized spark plug who always seems to be moving. He showed relentless puck pursuit, and was also in the right place at the right time for his goal, which pulled the Tigers back to being down just two goals.

Liau does over pursue the puck on occasion, which can leave him out of position, but he does have the speed to fill a lane quickly if that should happen. He is still a work in progress, as was shown by a very careless turnover into the slot in his defensive zone and some issues in finding an open man in the offensive zone while trying to create, but his skill set was very much so on display on Saturday. He was also very strong on the draw, winning 12 of the 13 faceoffs he took.

In NHL circles, Princeton defenseman Michael Sdao might be the player that people are most interested in reading about given that he’s the only player on the team who’d been previously drafted. Sdao, who was selected in the 7th round of the 2009 draft by the Ottawa Senators, was frustrating to watch at times, as has been the case for the majority of his four years with the Tigers. The biggest player on the Tigers at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Sdao often doesnt play to his size and can be too easily moved off the puck. He does have a hard shot that he can get off effortlessly from the point, and he did show good patience in trying to find a lane for a hard wrist shot in the second period. But his physicality can often be misguided — he took another penalty on Saturday, which has been a staple of his tenure with the Tigers — and his attempt to step up and make a hit in the neutral zone was easily avoided, leaving him well out of position for an odd man rush. He also had a miscommunication with Eric Meland in the defensive zone, when Sdao stopped skating and the two collided, eventually leading to a penalty against the Tigers.

Defenseman Alec Rush had a strong game, and the junior defenseman ended up scoring two of the five goals that Princeton tallied. He was not at all hesitant to put the puck on net and was relatively unnoticeable in his own end, which is a compliment.

Junior forward Andrew Ammon also showed noticeable improvement from the last time I’d seen him. Although a few of the notes on him were negative — he had a careless tripping penalty late in the game and made an ill-advised pass in his own end with a man clearly in his lane — I was impressed with his play at both ends. Like Liau, his puck pursuit was very evident…but his hockey sense was on display as well, as he tied up an obvious passing target in the defensive zone to thwart a one-time attempt. He was also strong on the puck while trying to wait for help in the corner offensively, and was particularly adept at trying to take advantage of line changes, rushing up the ice up the left side to try to create offense without leaving himself vulnerable to an opportunity going the other way.

Bonar played relatively well, likely better than the four goals in 40 minutes in the box score would indicate. His defense was burned by the Gryphons speed on numerous occasions, especially up the outside, and Bonar was peppered with 35 shots in those 40 minutes as a result. He was in perfect position to make a reaction save in the early going, and also did well to stay with a shooter through his last move on a breakaway, making the pad save. He also showed good rebound control on shots where he could control them, putting long shots into the corners when possible.

Ryan Benitez, who replaced Bonar after 40 minutes as appeared to be the plan from the get go, was never really tested enough to evaluate. The sophomore was beaten short side while shorthanded on a fantastic move by James Merrett, with the puck sailing over Benitez’s shoulder…a goal like that can’t happen, but there wasn’t much he could have done. And the game-winning goal was a 2-on-1 circle to circle passing play where he had no chance. It was hard to evaluate him based on seven shots in 20 minutes, and it’ll likely be hard to get another look at him all season with Bonar and senior Mike Condon serving as the two go-to goalies this season.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

5FW Originals: Stewart Flies Back To Condors

October 19, 2012

Brian Stewart put together an excellent season for the Elmira Jackals in 2011-12, but decided to return to Bakersfield this year. (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

At first glance, it might have seemed like there was no reason for Brian Stewart to leave the Elmira Jackals.

He won a career-high 26 games, led Elmira into the second round of the playoffs and received numerous AHL call-ups to the Binghamton Senators.  But he never got into a game in the AHL after having played in 13 games at that level over the previous two seasons and wasn’t able to match the lofty 2.20 GAA and .929 save pct. he posted in 26 games with the Bakersfield Condors the year before.

Combine that with contracted goalies having taken over the Jackals — Nick Niedert was recently released, and the team now has three players on AHL or NHL deals on the roster — and the 27-year-old netminder clearly might the right decision.

Stewart returned to the site of what was the truly the best season of his career this year, where he’s splitting time with former Alaska-Fairbanks standout Scott Greenham.  The Trentonian recently caught up Stewart and asked him about his decision to leave the Jackals to head back to the Condors.

Mike Ashmore, 5 For Writing: So what went into the decision to sign back with Bakersfield for this season?

Brian Stewart: “I played here when I was on contract with Philadelphia, they’d sent me down here.  I had a good year when Adirondack sent me down from January on.  We won the division here two years ago, and I played really well.  I just thought I played here before, so I know what it’s like and I knew we had a whole new coaching staff and everything, but they seem great.  I was going to come back last year, but then I got a deal in the American League, so that’s how I ended up playing for Elmira last year.”

5FW: I’d have to think that given the year you put together last year that you’d be in pretty high demand coming into this season…were there a lot of other teams after you?

Stewart: “Yeah, there were a bunch of ECHL teams that were definitely interested.  But, I knew Bakersfield.  Part of me really wanted to go back to Elmira because of Pat Bingham.  He was such a great coach and a great guy, and we did really well there last year too.  They have a bunch of good core guys coming back there too, but I just felt like I had to change it up and get back out west.  It sucked last year because even though I was playing really well in the ECHL, I would get called up to Binghamton being on contract with them, and I ended up backing up 20-something games with them and it just wasn’t for me.  I could have went back on that deal again, and I was just like no.”

5FW: Did Bingham leaving Elmira almost make it easier to justify the decision to go back to Bakersfield for you?

Stewart: “Actually, no.  I talked to him last year and told him I had an awesome time last year, it was a hard decision.  I wanted to go back out west and I want to go back to the American League, I don’t want it to be a weekend thing if I go up.  That happens a lot in the Eastern Conference, where guys go up for a weekend.  Being in Bakersfield, if you get called up, you’re usually up for at least a couple weeks because they’re flying you.  I just want to have a strong year out here, and if nothing pans out, maybe head out to Europe next year.”

5FW: Was there any interest in for this season?

Stewart: “No one really approached me.  There was a team in England and a team in Italy, but not enough…the English team wanted me, but not enough to persuade me to get over there.  I’ve got to find somebody with better connections to promote me better.  I feel like I can play in Europe.  I’ve got to find someone that way.”

5FW: I would think the lockout would affect you a lot more than most guys…I got to see you come into town a lot last year, and I certainly know what you’re capable of…so did that affect you at all in terms of teams wanting to throw you an AHL deal, because it certainly seemed like you’d earned one…

Stewart: “I don’t know, because I was hoping for at least an American League deal again, but all I got was that two-way deal.  Last year, I was on a one-way deal, which was good, but it only restricts you to one team.  I only got the one deal again from Binghamton this year, and I was just like no.  I was kind of frustrated that no one else was really that interested.  There were talks that maybe I could go to a couple camps, but I know I’m on some teams radars right now.  I’m just going to keep playing my hardest, and whatever happens, happens.  That’s all I can really control.”

5FW: Anyone can look at the stats, but I also got to see you live in the shootout as well of course, and your success there got you a lot of attention as well…was that something you focused on last year?

Stewart: “It sort of just played out that way.  But always after practice, I’m always taking breakaways from guys.  They line up, and I like doing shootouts and stuff.  It kind of sucked the streak ended in the last game of the year last season against Wheeling, but it’s all right.  I love it.  It’s not something I necessarily work on, I just like doing them.”

5FW: Is there a key to being successful in the shootout?

Stewart: “You’ve just got to try to read what he’s going to do.  If you know the players, it helps a lot, just from playing them.  You get an idea of what you think they’re going to do.  But, like they say, make him make the first move really.”

5FW: What kind of group do you think you’re going to have this year in Bakersfield?

Stewart: “There’s a lot of returning guys, which is good.  That’s huge for a core group, just getting everybody together.  As far as I know right now, everybody looks good.  It looks like we should have a good team, especially given that they finished strong last year after a really tough start.” 

5FW: Being on the Eastern Conference side of things, you don’t really get to see too many of the teams from out west and vice versa…having come from Bakersfield to Elmira and then essentially going right back out west, are there any adjustments you have to make in terms of the style of play?

Stewart: “It feels like, from my point of view, that the guys out in the west are kind of bigger and the East has more smaller skill guys.  That’s just what I’m thinking.  But I think it’s pretty much the same brand of hockey.  There’s good players in both conferences, good teams.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

POLL: Which Story Do You Want Next?

October 17, 2012

Hey, It Worked For Seinfeld…A Post About Nothing

October 11, 2012

Honestly haven’t had a whole lot of time to put much on this blog the past two days…between Titans media day and the ALDS, I’ve been running around a ton lately.  But that isn’t to say I haven’t been collecting content for down the road, either.

I was at an MSG event this morning and spoke one-on-one with both Mark Messier and Brian Leetch.  Can’t believe that sentence myself either.  So stay tuned for that and all the other good stuff I owe you, and don’t miss my still updated coverage of the ECHL’s Trenton Titans on Inside The Trenton Titans.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

10/9/2012: Hockey Today

October 9, 2012

R.J. Umberger is making the most of the lockout, heading back to the Buckeyes to become a volunteer coach. (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

— Many NHL players are heading overseas during the lockout in an effort to try to recoup some of their lost wages.  Not R.J. Umberger.  The seven-year NHL veteran has joined the Ohio State men’s hockey team as a volunteer coach.

“With the NHL lockout in full force, I am looking forward to being more connected to the Ohio State hockey program once again,” Umberger said in a release. “I’m excited to spend time on the ice with the players keeping myself in shape and hopefully offering any advice and help I can to them.” 

Umberger played for the Buckeyes for three seasons, and returned to the school after leaving to pursue his professional hockey career, eventually earning his bachelor’s degree in marketing one year ago.

Kieran Millan makes up one half of a very formidable goaltending duo for the CHL’s Denver Cutthroats (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

— The Denver Cutthroats, expansion team in the CHL, will have quite a goalie tandem for their first season of play.  The team was assigned both Kieran Millan and Kent Patterson by their NHL affiliate, the Colorado Avalanche.

Millan, a fifth round pick by the Avalanche in 2009, was Boston University’s starter for all four years of his collegiate career and a won a National Championship three years ago. 

Patterson, Colorado’s fourth rounder in 2008, was a standout at the University of Minnesota.  The 23-year-old had a stellar senior season, posting 28 wins and a 2.32 goals against average en route to being named to the All-WCHA First Team.

— The Petr Mrazek tables have turned once again, as the Grand Raipds Griffins have sent the Red Wings goaltending prospect back to ECHL Toledo.  The 20-year-old, who played for the Ottawa 67’s last year, played well at the World Junior Championships for the Czech Republic.

The Griffins will start the year with Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum as their goaltenders.

Grand Rapids has also signed veteran forward Jeff Hoggan to a tryout contract.  The 34-year-old, who spent the last two seasons in Germany, has played in 107 NHL contests for the Blues, Bruins and Coyotes.

— The AHL’s Connecticut Whale have sent defenseman Steven Delisle and forwards Ryan Flanigan, Danny Hobbs and Jordie Johnston to ECHL Greenville.  Nine players were also released from their tryout deals, most notably Brent Henley and Scott Tanski.

— The Charlotte Checkers, AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes, will host a regular season game in Raleigh this year.  Tickets for the game against Norfolk, scheduled for January 6, will go on sale to the general public on November 1.

— Plenty of ECHL moves made today…a few names that stood out:

Alex Bourret was let go by the Cincinnati Cyclones.  The Cyclones also added goaltender Brian Foster, who played in the NHL last season with Florida.

The Greenville Road Warriors added goaltender Nathan Lieuwen from the Buffalo Sabres organization, and signed from Bruins prospect goaltender Adam Courchaine to a contract.  The Road Warriors will not yet receive a Rangers-affiliate goalie since Cameron Talbot is injured and both Scott Stajcer and Jason Missiaen are needed in Connecticut.

— The OHL’s Peterborough Petes sent out a press release announcing that general manager David Reid has been relieved of his duties…

Straight from the release: “The decision was not an easy one but was based on a business decision taking all factors into consideration.  The Board of Directors has a responsibility to our season ticket subscribers, fans and sponsors and as a result, the action taken was necessary.” 

“In the interim, hockey operation responsibilities will be split between Head Coach Mike Pelino and Director of Player Personnel Mike Oke.  Business operations will be overseen by Petes President Jim Devlin.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

5FW Cardboard Corner: 2011-12 Panini Titanium

October 9, 2012

This is clearly a very tough part of the job, but somebody’s got to do it.

Panini America was kind enough to send me a few boxes of hockey cards to review here at 5 For Writing, but there was a catch. You guys get the cards.

So, after I get done taking you through a box of 2011-12 Panini Titanium Hockey, check out the bottom of the post to see how you can win all the inserts I got. And, for proof I’m not stiffing you, I have videos on YouTube of me very, very dorkily opening the boxes.

2011-12 Panini Titanium Hockey — What We Got

Game Gear Game-Worn Jersey Cards: Tuukka Rask, Kyle Okposo
Game Gear Game-Worn Dual Jersey Card: Ryan Malone/Brett Connolly
New Wave Autograph: Justin Falk
Dual Jersey and Autograph: Ryan Ellis
Rookie Card (Draft Position Parallel): Jonathan Blum

We did pretty well here. No real big names in the jersey or autograph inserts (best known in the industry as “hits”) but we got one of the really awesome-looking die-cut dual jersey and autographs and a very short-printed rookie draft position parallel.

The truth is, I’m a huge card dork, even though I can’t really afford to open any of the premium stuff myself. So, big thanks to Panini’s Tracy Hackler for not only setting this up for us, but also finally letting me break one of these myself. I watch box breaks online…all…the…time (just ask my poor girlfriend) and I can’t even begin to tell you how many Titanium boxes and cases I’ve seen cracked. For the money, this is probably my favorite product Panini has put out. Although they certainly have higher-end products that deliver far more bigger hits, stuff like Prime and Dominion are also quite pricey.

The base cards have a solid design, and the player photo really pops. I typically prefer an action photo that takes up the full card and not a player laid out over a background — as the Titanium base cards are — but I will say that these are well done. My favorite part of the base cards, however, is that there are two separate photos…one on the front and one on the back. All too often, companies will get lazy and just use a smaller version on the back of the same shot they used for the front. So kudos to Panini for getting a small detail right.

The standard Game Gear jersey cards have a clean design, and the memorabilia piece stands out. I wish they would have numbered the single jerseys — game-worn jersey cards, especially at a one-per-pack ratio, are a dime a dozen these days, so numbering would help a little…still cool, but the point stands — but numbering the dual jerseys was a nice touch.

By far, my favorite cards in this set — and if you can dig up the video and watch my reaction when we get it, you’ll see I’m not kidding — are the die-cut jersey dual jersey and auto cards. I absolutely love, love, love the design of those and how they’re different than anything else that’s been produced to date. Really neat cards, and how can you complain about two pieces of jersey and an autograph on the same card?

The actual rookies are numbered to the players jersey number (i.e. a Gabriel Landeskog would have 92 copies produced), but we got a draft position parallel, which are numbered to the spot in the draft which the player was taken. So, to get that Blum card out of 26 was quite a nice hit. The regular rookies typically come one per case, but this is more short-printed than a lot of those cards would be.

I’d give a big thumbs up to 2011-12 Panini Titanium, even though by collecting standards this wasn’t a particularly good box. You certainly aren’t going to make your money back on this one (I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t pay for it then) but there were some quality cards in here, and if you’re looking at card collecting as being fun — what a novel concept, imagine that — then you’re going to have fun here. One hit per pack, with the chance at some pretty big cards and a great rookie class? Not much to complain about with this product.

OK, so hopefully you want to win these cards. I’ll give all the hits from 11-12 Titanium to one lucky reader…so that’s the Rask, Okposo, Malone/Connolly, Falk, Ellis and Blum cards; three jerseys, an autograph, a dual jersey and auto and a rookie. And having a chance is pretty basic. All you have to do is send me an e-mail at mashmore98 AT with the subject “5FW card contest” and your name in the body of the e-mail, and I’ll put all the entrants in an online randomizer ( and will pick a winner that way.

I’ll contact the winner, and will either mail the cards, or you can pick them up from me personally at a Trenton Titans game.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

10/8/2012: Hockey Today

October 8, 2012

— The transactions, the transactions.  Oh my goodness, the transactions.  There’s a whole lot to get to today, so I’ll do my best to get to as much as I can.

— According to an official team release, Joey Crabb, Brandon Dubinsky and Nate Thompson have all commited to play for the ECHL’s Alaska Aces during the lockout.  Scott Gomez had signed a PTO to practice with the team, but will apparently not play with them as he had in 2004-05.

— 2012 AHL All-Star Philippe Cornet was among three players sent to the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder today.  Cornet was the Oklahoma City Barons leading goal scorer last year, and made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers.  In two games, Cornet tallied an assist, but now finds himself in the ECHL for the first time. 

John Muse will have to head back to the ECHL this season (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

— The AHL’s Charlotte Checkers assigned forwards Justin Shugg and Brody Sutter, defensemen Tommi Kivisto and Beau Schmitz, and goaltender John Muse to their ECHL affiliate in Charlotte.  They also returned D Austin Levi to his junior team (OHL Plymouth) and released F Leigh Salters from his tryout deal.  He’ll also go to Florida. 

That news must be particularly tough for Muse, who went from having a shot at competing for the NHL backup job in the off-season to get shifted back to the ECHL thanks to Charlotte bringing in veteran NHL’er Dan Ellis.

— The AHL’s Hershey Bears sent forwards Eric Berry, Joel Champagne, T.J. Syner and defenseman Brett Flemming to the ECHL’s Reading Royals.

Berry is a particularly interesting story, given that he’s coming off a season-ending compound arm fracture, and had primarily been in the AHL for the last two seasons.

— The Adirondack Phantoms sent the following seven players to ECHL Trenton: Jason Akeson, Tyler Hostetter, Niko Hovinen, Blake Kessel, Marcel Noebels, Luke Pither and Ian Slater.  Visit Inside The Trenton Titans for more info.

Tomas Tatar, who has nine games of NHL experience with the Detroit Red Wings, has returned to play in the AHL after a brief stint in his native Slovakia (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

— As expected, Tomas Tatar has returned from Europe and has been re-assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins by the Detroit Red Wings.  Tatar played in the Slovanian ExtraLiga and posted ten points in eight games. 

— (Worcester PR) Worcester Sharks general manager Wayne Thomas announced today that the club has signed defenseman Mikael Tam to a standard player AHL contract for the 2012-13 season.  Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In addition, Mikael Tam and goaltender Thomas Heemskerk have been assigned to the Sharks’ ECHL affiliate, the San Francisco Bulls. 

Tam, a 21-year-old native of Quebec City, PQ, recorded 140 points (53-87-140) over five seasons in 318 games with the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL.  Last season, he led all Remparts defensemen with 15 goals and led the club with 106 penalty minutes.

— The AHL’s Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins sent goaltender Patrick Killeen, defenseman Reid McNeill and forwards Cody Chupp, Tom Kuhnhackl, Adam Payerl, Dominik Uher and Scott Zurevinski to their ECHL affiliate in Wheeling.

— Tyler Beskorowany was among those assigned to ECHL Idaho by the AHL’s Texas Stars.  Dallas’ second round pick in 2008, the 22-year-old goaltender had been in the AHL for the past year and a half, including all of last season.

Former Maple Leafs prospect Andrew Engelage has been dealt to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

— The ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears have traded for goaltender Andrew Engelage.  They pulled off the deal with the Utah Grizzlies, where the former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect had played all of last season.  A four-time ECHL goalie of the week, Engelage led his Windsor Spitfires to OHL and Memorial Cup titles, and played in 12 games for the Toronto Marlies between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.

— (Utah PR) Utah Grizzlies Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Kevin Colley announced today that the team has been assigned forwards Mitch Wahl, Gaelan Patterson, Ryan Howse, Bryan Cameron and defensemen Nick Tuzzolino and James Martin from the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat and the Calgary Flames organization.

Tuzzolino, 26, was the Grizzlies captain in 2011-2012 and enters his third year with Utah after earning an AHL contract with Abbotsford this past summer. He had seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points in 60 games last year with Utah, while also logging 11 games with Abbotsford and three with Lake Erie of the AHL.

Wahl, 22, returns to Utah after totaling 20 goals and 20 assists last year for 40 points in 38 games. He was a second round selection of Calgary in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He also played 27 games in the AHL last year.

Howse, 21, and a third round selection of Calgary in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft had six goals and three assists for nine points in 39 games last year with the Heat in his rookie season. He totaled 51 goals and 32 assists for 83 points in 70 games with the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL in 2010-2011 during his final year of major junior hockey.

Martin, 21, also spent last year, his rookie season, in Abbotsford playing in 28 games and logging two goals and one assist. 

Cameron, 23, a third round selection of Los Angeles in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft had seven goals and four assists for 11 points in 20 games last year with Utah. He enters his third professional season.

Patterson, 22, played 56 games last year in Abbotsford totaling one goal and five assists. He was with Utah for the final five games of the regular season and the playoffs and had two goals and two assists in eight total games.

— Artem Demkov has returned to the ECHL’s Elmira Jackals.  In his first professional season, Demkov tallied 20 goals and 37 assists last year with the Jackals.

— The ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings have been assigned goaltending prospect Joe Cannata by the Vancouver Canucks.  Cannata, who is actually from Massachusetts, starred at Merrimack and was the Canucks’ sixth round pick in 2009.

— Goaltender Chris Venti, recently profiled on 5FW, was among those cut by the ECHL-expansion San Francisco Bulls today.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

5FW Originals: Phantoms’ Schenn Maintaining Positive Attitude In AHL Return

October 7, 2012

Brayden Schenn could put up big numbers in his return to the AHL (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Brayden Schenn’s time in the American Hockey League was always supposed to be pretty brief.

While still with the Los Angeles Kings organization, the-then-19-year-old played in just seven November games for the Manchester Monarchs before getting sent back to juniors.

Then, after being dealt to the Flyers prior to the start of the 2011-12 campaign, he started the year in Adirondack and played a total of seven games over two separate, brief stints. He scored at least one point in every contest — highlighted by a hat trick in his second game of the year against Bridgeport — and put the league behind him for good in late November.

Or so he thought.

After spending the majority of last season with Philadelphia — he posted a 12-6-18 line in 54 games, and also scored nine points in 11 playoff contests — Schenn finds himself back with the Phantoms thanks to the lockout. With no NHL to play in for anyone, the Saskatoon native will spend the foreseeable future in the AHL.

“I’ve got a positive attitude to have to come down here,” Schenn told The Trentonian after Adiriondack’s Friday afternoon preseason game against Albany.

“I’m trying to develop and get better. There’s really nothing you can do about the lockout situation, so it’s an opportunity to play in a good, highly-skilled league. It’s a younger league too, and I’m looking forward to getting the season going.”

After a 12 points in seven games stretch last year, Schenn is confident — a common theme for him, as you’ll see — heading into this season, but knows it won’t be as easy as he made it look just a season ago.

“It’s going to be real challenging,” Schenn said.

“It’s a good league, and every team is going to have four lines that can play and shut-down D-men. I’m just looking forward to getting the season going and started off right in Adirondack. We’ve got a good group of high-skill guys, it’s a pretty young team. I think guys getting sent down is only going to help, and we’ve had some key additions over the summer like Danny Syvret. He’s a big veteran and he’s highly skilled and smart on the blue line, and that’s going to help. I think the team can be just as good as any.”

And so too was the Flyers team he was on last year, advancing to the second round of the playoffs before bowing out to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils. Schenn got off to a slow start in Philadelphia last season, going without a point in his first eight games.

But he scored his first career NHL goal in the Winter Classic against the New York Rangers, and finished the season strong, collecting two multi-goal games despite limited ice time on a talented team. The difference? Confidence.

“Confidence is a big thing,” he said.

“It was my first year in the NHL, and you don’t really know what to expect. The Flyers are a good team, and you’ve got to fight for your ice and fight for your opportunity. The more confident I got, I think the better I played. It was a tough start with injuries and everything, but I’ve put that behind me. I’m just thinking positive now, and I thought I had a strong second half last year. I worked my way in, got a good opportunity and if or when the lockout ends, I’m looking to go over there and prove myself again and play big minutes this year.”

Now, Schenn — along with fellow big Flyers prospect Sean Couturier — finds himself in a situation where he can get big minutes and continue his development as a player, perhaps even better than he would have been able to were he at the game’s highest level.

“When you’re with the Flyers, there are some big names up there like Hartnell and Giroux, and last year, Jagr. You had to fight for your minutes,” he said.

“And I’m not saying that you come down here and you don’t have to, but I think I’m going to get a good opportunity to prove myself and play a lot if I play well. For me and other guys, that’s what we’re looking forward to doing.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT