Sunday, July 30, 2017

Highmore surprised by Flynn announcement

In an interview with Halifax Mooseheads broadcaster John Moore this weekend, Matthew Highmore said he was surprised to see Danny Flynn leave the Saint John Sea Dogs.

Highmore, who has graduated from the Sea Dogs after five years with the club, added he didn't see any signs of Flynn possibly departing as the season came to a close.

Here is the full video:

Highmore and several other QMJHL players were in Halifax taking part in the Jordan Boyd Celebrity Hockey Challenge.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Search begins for new Sea Dogs coach

With Danny Flynn departing, the search has begun for a new Saint John Sea Dogs head coach.

Under usual circumstances, the Sea Dogs would have plenty of candidates. But the team finds itself in an interesting and perhaps difficult situation. Most teams at all levels have their coaching staffs in place by now, and many of the people in place may not be willing to depart so close to the season starting. There's no doubt some qualified candidates are still looking for work at the moment, but that list is probably a lot shorter than it was a couple months ago.

Saint John plays its first game of the QMJHL Rookie Challenge in less than a month (Aug. 18).

In the press release sent out yesterday, the team said it "has begun the search for a new coach to lead and develop a young and exciting roster."

Flynn signed a three-year contract with the Sea Dogs in May 2015 but leaves after two seasons. He was hired under the Wayne Long/Darrell Young regime.

“We were looking forward to Danny returning for a third season but support him in this decision,” said Sea Dogs president and general manager Trevor Georgie. “We thank him and wish him the very best in the next stage of his career.”
It'll be interesting to see where Flynn, 59, lands. The release said he departed to "pursue other opportunities" but was unclear if he has something lined up.

The Sea Dogs' coaching staff has at least two spots open with Flynn and Paul Boutilier leaving. Jeff Cowan, who has been an assistant with the team since 2013, remains.

Of note, all four head coaches who took part in the 2017 Memorial Cup have now left their teams.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Flynn departs Sea Dogs

In a surprise move, Danny Flynn will not be returning as head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs for the 2017-18 season.

The team made the announcement on Friday evening, saying Flynn has left to "pursue other opportunities."

Flynn has coached the Sea Dogs for the past two seasons, leading the team to back-to-back trips to the QMJHL's final four and a President Cup championship this past season.

Prior to joining the Sea Dogs, Flynn spent a number of years with the Moncton Wildcats, which included two President Cup titles. He was named the QMJHL's coach of the year in 2009.

A replacement has not been named. The team has begun its search.

Saint John assistant coach Paul Boutilier would have been the likeliest replacement for Flynn had he not joined the AHL's Belleville Senators earlier this off-season.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mayer injured in ATV accident

Former Saint John Sea Dogs goaltender Robert Mayer was injured in an all-terrain vehicle crash last weekend.

Mayer's current team, Switzerland's Genève-Servette HC, made the announcement yesterday on their website, saying that the netminder will miss at least several weeks of action.
Mayer, now 27, has been playing in Switzerland since the 2014-15 season. Prior to that, the Swiss native spent four seasons in the Montreal Canadiens system.

The third overall pick in the 2007 CHL Import Draft, Mayer spent two seasons with the Sea Dogs from 2007 to 2009, recording a 42-39 record to go along with a 3.41 goals against average and a .893 save percentage.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

More 2018 NHL Draft rankings released

More 2018 NHL Draft rankings have been released. released its early top 31 (yeah, 31!) for 2018 on Wednesday, ranking Saint John Sea Dogs forward Joe Veleno 17th overall.

Veleno was the second highest ranked player from the QMJHL behind Halifax Mooseheads defenceman Jared McIsaac who was ranked 11th.

The ranking is one of the lowest Veleno has received so far (although not many have been released). In The Hockey News' annual Draft Preview edition, the exceptional forward was ranked third overall. Last month, The Hockey Writers listed Veleno as one of the top prospects available for next year's draft.

Veleno has recorded 83 points in 107 regular season QMJHL games. He's added 18 points - 14 of them goals - in 35 playoff matches.

A lot will change with these rankings over the next year. As we've said before, it'll be interesting to follow Veleno's ranking throughout the 2017-18 season.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Saint Johners seem to like idea of Harbour Station naming rights sponsor

In a very unscientific poll/survey, the people of Saint John are very much in favour of slapping a corporate name on Harbour Station.

While it's often unpopular for a well-known entertainment venue name to be replaced/adjusted by a corporate name, the fine folks of the Port City - at least those who commented on this 97.3 The Wave Facebook post - are very much in favour of the initiative.

These people are, of course, correct, and the added revenue from a sponsorship agreement would be a huge boost for the building. Just look at the Halifax Metro Centre, which has undergone several much needed renovations since Scotiabank purchased its naming rights.

According to the Telegraph-Journal on Monday (paywall), Harbour Station runs an annual operating deficit of $700,000.

Harbour Station has been publicly seeking a naming rights sponsor since 2015.

One thing that is perhaps complicating Harbour Station's future is Moncton's new facility, which is set to open next year. Moncton will no doubt attract a lot more shows - perhaps more than Saint John - with its new building, which could certainly have a negative impact on Harbour Station. Along with that, you have to think Moncton is also interested in finding a naming rights purchaser.

A few weeks ago, The Telegram had an interesting article on the rental costs of Atlantic arenas.

Richer takes over Aces

Former Saint John Sea Dogs forward Philip Richer has been named head coach and general manager of the St. Stephen Aces.

Richer, who was named associate coach and assistant general manager of the Aces earlier this summer, replaces Josh Hepditch who has joined the Moncton Wildcats has an assistant coach.

“For a young coach, Phil brings a ton of experience and lots of enthusiasm to our organization,” said Aces president John Hyslop in a release.

“Josh did a great job continuing to build our foundation and now Phil and his staff will help push us to the next level. He’s going to be a great fit,” added Hyslop.

Richer had previously been an assistant coach with the MHL's Miramichi Timberwolves and head coach of the NB/PEIMMHL's Miramichi Rivermen.

Richer was a fourth-round pick of the Sea Dogs in the 2007 QMJHL Entry Draft and played in 45 games with the club over two seasons. The 26-year-old also played a season with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar during his QMJHL career.

Replacing Richer as assistant coach and assistant general manager is Justin Bowers.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Galiev signs two-year deal in KHL

2011 Memorial Cup champion Stanislav Galiev has returned home to Russia.

The former Saint John Sea Dogs forward signed a two-year deal with the KHL's Ak Bars Kazan on Friday. The signing ends a weird situation for Galiev after he was stuck in contract limbo by Dynamo Moscow.

The 25-year-old has played in North America since 2008-09. He spent a lot of his professional career bouncing between the East Coast Hockey League and American Hockey League - which included some stints in the NHL with the Washington Capitals.
From Russian Machine Never Breaks:

During the 2014-15 season, Stan Galiev blossomed into one of the most talented scorers in the American Hockey League, scoring 25 goals in 67 games with the Hershey Bears. After years of struggles and injuries in the minors, Galiev finally earned a dream promotion to the NHL. But Galiev’s momentum would be halted, tallying only one goal and being a frequent scratch during parts of two seasons in Washington.

It's too bad Galiev was never able to stick in the NHL, but it seemed as though his biggest flaw in Saint John - consistency - troubled him in professional hockey as well. There were games during his Sea Dogs career when he looked like the best player in junior hockey. Then there were games where he was barely noticeable.

Despite consistency issues, Galiev put up some good numbers in Saint John. The first overall pick in the 2009 CHL Import Draft, the forward played all three seasons of the Sea Dogs' glory days from 2009 - 2012. He recorded 65 goals and 79 assists in 151 regular season games and added 34 goals and 46 assists in 57 playoff games. He averaged nearly a goal-per-game (16 goals in 17 games) during the 2012 playoffs.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sea Dogs creating a Hall of Fame in 2018

The Saint John Sea Dogs will be honouring some of their past this season.

In a press release issued today, the team announced it will be creating a "Sea Dogs Hall of Fame" in 2018. The first inductee will be announced next month at a charity golf event.

From the release:

Following the Challenge, a dinner will be held at Britt's Rockwood Park where the Sea Dogs Foundation will announce the first inductee in the new "Sea Dogs Hall of Fame" in 2018. A formal induction ceremony and the opening of the Sea Dogs Hall of Fame are scheduled for next year.

No further details on the Hall of Fame have been announced.

The Sea Dogs, despite having played just 12 seasons, have such an impressive history that it makes sense for the team to create something to show it off. The team has a trophy case and columns of fame on the concourse, but that's about it.

You also have to wonder when the Sea Dogs will start retiring jersey numbers to accompany all of the championship banners hanging inside Harbour Station. It's worth noting that no player has worn Alex Grant's No. 20, Mike Thomas' No. 17 or Jonathan Huberdeau's No. 11 since their departures (Grant is the only player in team history to wear No. 20).

Today's Hall of Fame news was part of an announcement about the team hosting its first annual "Sea Dogs Par 3 Celebrity Challenge," which will be held Aug. 18 at Rockwood Park Golf Course. A number of Sea Dogs alumni will be taking part in the event, including NHLers Huberdeau and Nathan Beaulieu.

More information on how to take part in the event, prizes and alumni can be found here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Notebook: Some notable AHL games

The American Hockey League released its full 2017-18 schedule on Tuesday.

Some potentially key dates for Saint John Sea Dogs alumni are:

  • The Belleville Senators (Thomas Chabot, Chris DiDomenico and Paul Boutilier) begin their inaugural season on Oct. 6 in Laval against the Rocket (Simon Bourque). The Sens won't have their home opener until Nov. 1 due to building renovations.
  • The Syracuse Crunch (Mathieu Joseph) open their season on Oct. 6 in Rochester.
  • The Charlotte Checkers (Spencer Smallman, Julien Gauthier and Callum Booth) open the year in Hartford on Oct. 6. The Checkers will play in the Eastern Conference this season, so there will (hopefully) be lots of opportunities to see Sea Dogs alumni going head-to-head.
  • The Rockford IceHogs (Matthew Highmore and Nathan Noel) begin play on Oct. 7 in Cleveland.
  • The Ontario Reign (Bokondji Imama) visit San Antonio on Oct. 7 to begin their season.
  • The Providence Bruins (Jakub Zboril) host Springfield in their season opener on Oct. 7.

The Sea Dogs had very few alumni playing full time in the AHL this past season, with Alex Grant (Providence), Stanislav Galiev (Hershey) and Brett Gallant (Cleveland) the only real mainstays. Stephen MacAulay (Springfield) and Eric Gelinas (San Antonio) also appeared in quite a few games during the 2016-17 season.

Predicting the IceHogs

Speaking of the AHL, the Chicago Blackhawks blog Second City Hockey recently predicted the roster of the team's top farm team, the Rockford IceHogs.

The blogs projects Matthew Highmore to centre the team's second line while Nathan Noel will centre the third. The team's forward unit is highlighted by Alex DeBrincat, who probably has a chance to crack the Blackhawks' lineup this year.

More campers

Speaking of the Blackhawks, the team released details on its prospect camp, which will take place July 17-21.

As expected, the roster includes Sea Dogs forwards Matthew Highmore and Nathan Noel. Highmore signed with the club this past season while Noel was picked by the 'Hawks in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The camp roster also includes Montreal native Jake Massie, a 2014 fifth-round pick of the Sea Dogs who never reported to the team. Massie, who was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2015 NHL Draft and later traded to Chicago, spent this past season at the University of Vermont.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Premier Gallant suffered concussion at Sea Dogs practice

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant suffered a concussion at a Saint John Sea Dogs practice in May. The Telegraph-Journal first reported the news this morning (paywall).

Gallant has been scaling back public appearances while recovering from the concussion.

The practice took place at the qplex ahead of Saint John's President Cup final series against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Gallant tweeted a photo of him with the team on May 11.
Here is the full statement from the Premier's office:

While playing hockey with the Saint John Seadogs I fell and suffered a concussion. My only symptom following the incident was a headache. For the first few weeks after I fell, I avoided looking at screens and trimmed down my schedule to a few events each week to be able to take time to recover. Although the headache initially abated, after I attended public events my headache would reoccur. We then scaled back my public events significantly to avoid any reoccurrence, reduced the number of meetings I had been scheduled to attend, and limited the time I had to spend focussed on screens. 
For the past several days, I have been symptom free. With the concurrence of my doctor, I am gradually adding more things to my schedule. I appreciate the messages of support and good wishes I received from those who were aware of my injury. I have learned valuable insight from this incident – take care of your health and don’t try to keep up with highly skilled 20 year old hockey players.

Gallant has been a frequent visitor at Sea Dogs games and events since taking office in 2014.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Chabot "ready to play in the NHL right now"

The Ottawa Senators remain confident that Saint John Sea Dogs defenceman Thomas Chabot is NHL ready.

In an interview with TSN Radio in Ottawa last week, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said "Thomas Chabot is ready to play in the NHL right now."
Dorion made similar remarks in the Ottawa Citizen last week.
The 20-year-old attended the Senators development camp last weekend.

Chabot was labelled one of the best players not playing in the NHL for much of the second half of the 2016-17 season. He started last year in Ottawa, appearing in just one game before being assigned back to Saint John.

His time in the QMJHL is definitely over, so it'll be the NHL or the AHL's Belleville Senators for Chabot in 2017-18.

His 2016-17 resume includes a QMJHL championship, world junior silver medal, QMJHL defenceman of the year, QMJHL playoff MVP, top defenceman at the world juniors and world junior MVP.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Notebook: Phillips, Gagne staying overseas

Zack Phillips is staying overseas.

“I like his attitude and I very much like the detailed reports I’ve had in about his skill set," said Panthers head coach and Oromocto native Corey Neilson in a press release. "He can play centre or right wing and we see him on the first line leading the offence."
After spending four seasons professionally in the AHL and ECHL, the Fredericton native spent last season in Sweden.

Phillips played with the Sea Dogs from 2009 - 2012 and was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Wild in the 2011 NHL Draft.

Gagne signs in Sweden

Former Sea Dogs defenceman Kevin Gagne is also staying overseas as well.

After spending the past two seasons with the Swedish club Mora IK, Gagne has signed with Rogle BK - also in Sweden - for the upcoming year. Rogle plays in the SHL, the highest tier of hockey in Sweden.

John Moore recently caught up with Gagne in Halifax.

The 25-year-old recorded seven goals and 25 points in 51 games with Mora last season and was named the Allsvenskan league defenceman of the year. He helped the club get promoted to the SHL for the 2017-18 season.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Plenty of Sea Dogs at NHL summer camps

Carolina Hurricanes development camp was a popular destination for Saint John Sea Dogs players this year.

Goaltender Callum Booth and forwards Spencer Smallman and Julien Gauthier all attended the camp, which took place June 28 - July 1 in Raleigh. All three were draft picks of the Hurricanes and spent the final half of the 2016-17 season playing together in Saint John.

“I first met them here at camp [last year], and we became good friends at camp, we hung out,” Smallman told the North State Journal last week. “I kind of mentioned that to our GM in Saint John and see if we could maybe work out a deal to get them in Saint John, and fortunately it worked out. We had a great team and ultimately we got the championship.”
The only non-Sea Dog from the QMJHL to take part in the camp was Chicoutimi's Nicolas Roy.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Stanislav Galiev in a weird situation

Former Saint John Sea Dogs forward Stanislav Galiev finds himself in a strange situation.

Galiev announced a few days ago that he planned on returning to Russia to play the 2017-18 season in the KHL, citing the challenges of finding ice time in the Washington system and his desire to play in the Olympics as reasons why.

Unfortunatly for Galiev, returning to Russia won't be that simple.

According to reports, Galiev's KHL rights are owned by the troubled Dynamo Moscow franchise. As you may have heard, the KHL and Russian Hockey Federation ruled on July 4 that 42 players who were under contract with the Dynamo are now unrestricted free agents.

But there are a handful of players in unique situations. From Russian Machine Never Breaks:

Then there’s Galiev. According to Shevchenko, Galiev’s KHL rights still belong to the old Dynamo. It appears Galiev was a part of Dynamo Moscow’s organization as a youth player. Galiev’s status was not reviewed by the KHL Disciplinary Committee either. As a result, Galiev and the other two players may neither practice with the new Dynamo Moscow, nor move on to another team.

Check out RMNB and Nova Caps Fans for more on this strange story.

It's not the first time the Dynamo contract has been an issue for Galiev. In 2009, the Dynamo challenged whether or not the Russian forward could join the Sea Dogs. The IIHF ultimately allowed Galiev to transfer to the CHL.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Rookie Challenge begins Aug. 18

Some details about this year's Rookie Challenge in Moncton have been revealed.

The event will take place Aug. 18-20 at Moncton's Superior Propane Centre and feature all six Maritimes Division teams. Similar tournaments will be held in Shawinigan, Sherbrooke and Chicoutimi and feature the Quebec clubs.

According to the Times & Transcript (paywall), a tournament pass, which will include all nine games, will cost $30. A day pass, featuring three games, will be $15.

The Wildcats announced on Wednesday that tickets go on sale to the general public next Thursday.
The Saint John Sea Dogs will take on the Halifax Mooseheads at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18 and will then face the Moncton Wildcats on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. The Sea Dogs will also play on Sunday, Aug. 20 against a to-be-determined opponent.

Game times for Aug. 20 will be 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. The schedule will be determined based on tournament standings from the first two days of action.

Moncton hosted the same event last season but was called the Hub City Showcase.

The Sea Dogs will play four "real" pre-season games following the rookie tournament, the first being an Aug. 23 game at Harbour Station against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

An early look at the 2018 NHL Draft

According to The Hockey News, meetings between the Saint John Sea Dogs and Halifax Mooseheads will be well attended by scouts this season.

In the magazine's annual Draft Preview edition, Sea Dogs forward Joe Veleno was ranked third overall for the 2018 NHL Draft, just behind Andrei Svechnikov of the Barrie Colts and Rasmus Dahlin of Sweden. Meanwhile, the magazine's top 10 also included Halifax Mooseheads defenceman Jared McIssac at No. 9 and forward Benoit-Olivier Groulx at No. 10.

The Sea Dogs and Mooseheads meet on opening night this year, which takes place Sept. 21 at Harbour Station.

Veleno, the first exceptional status player in QMJHL history, is projected to be a top 10 pick in the 2018 draft by most publications that have released rankings. This will, obviously, be a big season for the 17-year-old.

"I don't know if his game has come where a lot of people expected offensively since he's battled injuries, but he's a guy that I'm excited to watch next year," Central Scouting's Troy Dumville - who once worked with the Sea Dogs - told last month.

"Veleno is a highly intelligent kid with a good compete level and a lot of confidence."

Last month, The Hockey Writers listed Veleno as one of the top prospects available for next year's draft. They have the Sea Dogs forward ranked fourth in their July rankings behind Dahlin, Svechnikov and Quinton Hughes of the USNTDP.

SB Nation's college hockey blog also released some 2018 rankings last month (although they seemingly forgot to include Veleno in their 'A' listing section). "Veleno isn’t likely to be the top overall pick, but has played well enough that he’ll likely be in the conversation for the top ten," wrote Chris Dilks.

Veleno has recorded 83 points in 107 regular season QMJHL games. He's added 18 points - 14 of them goals - in 35 playoff matches. It'll be interesting to see how Veleno rises or falls in the 2018 rankings throughout the the year.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Another ex-Dog joining Varsity Reds

Former Saint John Sea Dogs captain Olivier LeBlanc has signed a letter of intent with the UNB Varsity Reds.

LeBlanc spent two-and-a-half seasons with Saint John before being traded to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles during the 2014-15 trade period. He spent the remainder of his QMJHL career with the Eagles, a career that came to an end this past season.

“He’s a player who has been a leader wherever he’s played and he exudes character,” said Varsity Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall in a press release. “He brings a tremendous work ethic and will be looked upon to provide offence and stability from the back end.”

The 21-year-old defenceman will study psychology at UNB.

“The way UNB approached me during the year really showed me how much class the people that work for the Varsity Reds have,” said LeBlanc. “The desire and ability to win every single year was also something that brought me to choose UNB.”

LeBlanc was a first round pick of the Sea Dogs in the 2012 QMJHL Entry Draft. He was also seventh-round selection of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2014 NHL Draft but was never signed.

The Varsity Reds also added Victoriaville Tigres defenceman Tristan Pomerleau.
UNB has increased the amount of Quebec-born QMJHL players on its roster in recent years and are seemingly able to compete with UQTR when it comes to recruiting top talent from the province.

Last season, the national champion Varsity Reds featured former Sea Dogs Mike Thomas, Stephen Anderson, Oliver Cooper and Matt Murphy.

Photo: Marc Henwood/Station Nation

Monday, July 3, 2017

Notebook: Memorial Cup coaches on the move

Danny Flynn is the last man standing.

With Seattle Thunderbirds head coach Steve Konowalchuk joining the Anaheim Ducks as an assistant, Flynn is the only remaining head coach from the 2017 Memorial Cup still in the CHL.

Over the past few weeks, Erie Otters head coach Kris Knoblauch has joined the Philadelphia Flyers as an assistant and Windsor Spitfires head coach Rocky Thompson has taken over head coaching duties of the AHLs' Chicago Wolves.

The Sea Dogs coaching staff has had a departure though with assistant Paul Boutilier joining the AHL's Belleville Senators as an assistant.

Renewal rate

The Sea Dogs announced this past week that 97% of season tickets have been renewed for the 2017-18 season. It's the highest renewal rate prior to July 1 in team history.

“We are so pleased with our season ticket renewal rate,” said Ben Zayandehroudi, vice-president of ticket sales and marketing, in a press release.”The response to this year’s early renewal deadline has been tremendous. Season Ticket Members have provided positive feedback on our new, innovative programs as well.

“This puts us on track to increase our season ticket base from last season. We have the best fans in the Q!”

The Victoriaville newspaper La Nouvelle recently compared season ticket prices around the QMJHL. Rouyn-Noranda ain't cheap.

Mayer re-signs

Former Sea Dogs goaltender Robert Mayer has signed an extension with Swiss league team Genève-Servette HC through the 2020-21 season.

Mayer has spent the past three seasons with the National League A club. Last season he posted a 2.53 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in 49 games.

The 26-year-old spent two seasons with the Sea Dogs from 2007 to 2009, posting a 42-39 record to go along with a 3.41 GAA and .893 SV%.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Grant signs one-year deal with Wild

The original Sea Dog is on the move again.

The Minnesota Wild announced on Saturday that Alex Grant has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the team worth $700,000/$300,000.

Grant will likely spend most of his time with the Wild's American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild.

The 28-year-old defenceman spent last season with the AHL's Providence Bruins, recording 17 goals and 32 assists in 70 regular season games. He added two goals and six assists in 17 playoff matches.

The Bruins could afford to lose a defenceman with two QMJHL players - including a Sea Dog - expected to turn pro this season.
Grant has been playing professional hockey since 2009-10, bouncing between the AHL and East Coast Hockey League. He's put up good offensive numbers in the AHL in recent years and has appeared in a few NHL games with Arizona and Anaheim.

Grant was selected first overall by the Sea Dogs in the 2005 QMJHL Entry Draft and spent three-and-a-half seasons with the club.

In other alumni news, Tomas Jurco inked a one-year extension with the Chicago Blackhawks. Jurco recorded a goal in 13 games with Chicago following a trade from the Detroit Red Wings.