Kyle Singleton Profile Follow Up: Accepts Scholarship to Merrimack

 

Kyle Singleton of the Westside Warriors (BCHL) celebrates after scoring.

Last week I wrote a profile on Kyle Singleton of the Westside Warriors.  I listed a few schools that he was in contact with.  Turns out earlier this week Singleton committed to play for Merrimack College starting next fall for the 2011-2012 season and has accepted a scholarship.

 

Singleton will join current teammates, Matt Cronin and Izaak Berglund, who are already committed to play at Merrimack.  However, Cronin, who is a 92 birth year is not going till the 2012-2013 season.

Yesterday, Singleton posted two goals in a game against the Surrey Eagles and was named the first star of the game.  This was his first game back since after making his commitment.  He is probably playing with a whole different level of confidence now that he knows that he is for sure going to be a division 1 level hockey player.

This is great for Oregon hockey and shows the hockey world that good players can come from the state.  Singleton’s achievements gives kids in the Portland area hope, and should give them confidence that it is possible to make it to the next level.

I am very happy that Singleton finally committed.  I was there since teams started showing interest in him.  I have been waiting for this moment for almost four years.  Merrimack has received a great hockey player on and off the ice.  I could not be more happy for him.  Congratulations bro!

Rypien Suspended for Six Games

Rick Rypien of the Vancouver Canucks gets physical with Minnesota Wild fan James Engquist

National Hockey League players are now going to think twice before getting physical with fans.  Rick Rypien, of the Vancouver Canucks, learned the hard way, after receiving a six game suspension on Friday.  The Canucks were fined $25,000 by the NHL for Rypiens actions.

 

Rypien had fought Brad Staubitz, of the Minnesota Wild, in the first period.  The two were about to drop the gloves again but were separated by the referees.  Rypien was able to get a punch in.  He was then handed a four minute double minor for roughing and a ten minute game misconduct.

On his way to the locker room, Rypien encountered an applauding Wild fan, James Engquist.  That is when things got physical before teammate Manny Malhotra pulled him away from Engquist.  Malhotra believed the fan “got a little bit too involved.”

“There’s boundaries that should never be crossed. We’re in our area of work,” he said. “We’re all for the hooting and hollering and supporting your team and saying whatever is tasteful. But as soon as you cross that line and want to become physical with a player then we have to make sure we take care of ourselves. … We have no idea of what their intentions are.”

I am going to have to agree with Malhotra.  When a fan gets in your face you have no idea what is going to happen.  No matter what Engquists intentions were, Rypien needs to be ready to defend himself.  It may have seemed like a overreaction from the replay, but we do not know what words were exchanged or what sparked everything.

There have been many different situations similar to this one. Examples would be Ron Artest getting into it with some fans while in Detroit or Lagarette Blount at Boise State. However, I heard rumors that there were some racial slurs that took place in the Blount incident. If that is the case, than I am all for what Blount did. For me at least, I have no problem with someone doing what they need to do when being attacked with a racial slur(s).

However, in certain situations there is such thing as overreacting. I do not know what sparked Rypien, but some things you just need to let go in one ear and out the other. It is a part of being professional. I cannot say exactly what Rypien did was right or wrong due to lack of information of what happened.

Basically I believe that there are certain situations where you do what you need to do and others where you need to be professional. I do not think I will ever know the truth of what happened between Rypien and Engquist. With all the information that I know about the incident, I think that the right actions were taken. Rypien is suspended for the next six games and Engquist was tossed from the facility.

Illegal Hits

There has been the ongoing issue of blind side hits and what the penalty should be for it.  The National Hockey League has done its best to eliminate these dangerous hits, by dishing out suspensions and fines.

One of the most recent incidents was last week when the Buffalo Sabers played the Chicago Blackhawks.  Blackhawks defenseman, Niklas Hjalmarsson, hit Sabers forward, Jason Pominville, from behind.  Leaving him with a concussion and 7-8 stitches.  If you ask me the play was not clean and the NHL got it right on this one.  Every hockey player knows you do not hit someone when you see their numbers facing you.

Hjalmarsson was given a five minute major and a game misconduct.  After review, he was then handed a two game suspension for the hit.

“My intention wasn’t to hurt him,” Hjalmarsson said after the game. “You never want to see someone laying on the ice like that.”

I do believe that Hjalmarsson had no intentions of injuring Pominville.  He was trying to make a good defensive play when he read that the puck was coming up the boards to Pominville.  Any defenseman that knows the game would have done the same and pinched down.  Hjalmarsson unfortunately hit him too early and from behind.  His instincts were correct, but he needs to be careful in the future when he is put in the same situation.

There have been many issues similar to this one.  Last  year there was the Mike Richards hit on David Booth, and the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard.  The NHL is trying to eliminate hits like this from the game.  I think they are on the right track, but it is a hard thing to do with a high speed physical game.

However, I believe that the NHL needs to take into account all aspects of the situation.  A lot of stuff out there is incidental and in the end that is hockey.  People are going to get hurt out there.  It is understandable what they are trying to do and I totally agree with it.  The only thing that I hope does not happen is the league getting softer and to the point where people are too worried about getting a suspension or fine and stop playing physical.

I know that the NFL has had similar issues with helmet to helmet hits.  I agree that players need to be more careful, but the right discipline needs to take place for certain situations.  Both games are moving at high speeds and everything happens so fast out there, so things like this are going to happen.  Players do need to be more careful but it is something that is always going to happen.  I have had players that turned on me last second when I went to hit them.  Things happen, that’s hockey.  So NHL please take the right precautions regarding this issue, so the physical aspect does not disappear.  However, I believe they are going down the right road right now.

Top 5 Things of the the 2010-2011 Season thus far

1. Toronto Maple Leafs surprising fast start

Last season, the Leafs were one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League, ending with a 30-38-0-14 record.  This season they are off to a hot start (4-0-0-1).  No loses in regulation is pretty good if you ask me.  Phil Kessel, as expected, is leading the way with five goals and seven points.  Also playing strongly is Clarke MacArthur, which comes in as a bit of a surprise.  Jean-Sebastian Giguere has been solid in net letting in less than 2 goals against per game.  The rest of the Leaf squad has been pretty solid also.  All the Leafs have to do is keep the momentum going and gain a decent point lead in the standings.

2. Jonathan Quick showing why he is the starter

Quick, of the Los Angeles Kings, has been playing phenomenal.  He has a .963 save percentage and a 0.97 goals-against average.  I mentioned in one of my older posts about the controversy the Los Angeles Kings have in goal between Quick and backup Jonathan Bernier.  Right now Quick is showing that this is still his team and job, despite Bernier having the potential to take the job away at any moment.

3. Rookie Jordan Eberle’s First Goal

Just watch the replay of the goal.  It is pretty self explanatory and a potential pick for goal of the year.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZYaIjvEqIA

4. Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco:  NHL is tougher than the NFL

The two Cincinnati Bengal wide receivers were asked about the toughest sports leagues on their television show: T.OCHO.  Both of them agreed that the NHL is tougher than the NFL.  I would have to agree with them.  It is not because of the fighting, but the high speed of the game.  Collisions have a lot more impact and you can get crushed into the boards.  The NFL also is pretty tough, some of the hits that players take are huge.  Coming from these two, it is pretty sweet to have them complement the NHL.  That could be because they are my two favorite players in the NFL, but overall I am just stoked about it.

5. Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks

After slipping the the Ducks in the first round to the 12th pick after being projected as a top 5 pick all season, Fowler has proven every team he passed on wrong so far.  He is the one bright spot this season on a Anaheim team that has struggled this season.  In six games the defenseman has one goal and three points, while also averaging 20 minutes of ice time.  The 19 year old is showing that he is capable of playing in the league now.  If Anaheim does not keep him after the nine game rule, where rookies can play nine games in the NHL before the club can decide to send them back to juniors, they would be making a mistake.  I believe that Fowler is definitely ready, and Anaheim need a defenseman that can quarterback a power play.

 

Profile: Kyle Singleton

Oregon is a state not known for producing many hockey players that go onto division 1 schools, or the National Hockey League.  There have been a few, such as Paul Guastad (Portland Winterhawks and Buffalo Sabers), Ben Stadey (Providence), and Matt Bader (Air Force).  The next player that can help provide hope for local youth players is Kyle Singleton.

Singleton originally started his youth hockey career in Medford, playing for the Rouge Valley Stars.  He played there until he was a PeeWee, eventually moving to Portland because the competition and teams up there were a lot better (he joined my team a quarter into the season).  Portland is really the only area that has a youth organization that produces decent players.  Bend, OR could compete, but they only have roller out there.

Singleton continued to play in Portland for the Jr. Hawks.  I had the opportunity to play five years with him up until our second years of midgets.  Both of our last years were on the local u18 team.  I hung up the skates, but Singleton was well on the rise.  Before the season started he attended the Portland Winterhawks Main Camp as a protected list player.  The Hawks eventually dropped him but he was quickly listed the the Chilliwack Bruins, also the Western Hockey League.

Little did he know that he was about to have more options than playing in the WHL.  He participated in the Pacific District Select Camp, which sends kids from Alaska, California, Nevada, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington to the National Camp, where the players skate in a showcase with the best players from other districts.  Usually Oregon players make it as an alternate, but Singleton was one of two Oregonians to advanced to the National Camp.

Singleton took full advantage of his opportunity and finished second in points at the end of the camp.  He was noticed by many scouts, college level and junior level.  I was at his house a couple days he got back and there were dozens of letters from numerous teams that were interested in him.  Also there was a phone call from Chilliwack during my visit.  I could only imagine how great he was feeling, because I was really excited, despite the letters not being for me.

Knowing that he would not be playing in Portland the next season, Singleton had many different routes he could have gone.  He decided to play one more year of midgets for the highly touted Pittsburgh Hornets organization.  This team was no joke.  He was playing AAA hockey, with highly skilled players.  Two notable teammates are Brandon Saad (NTDP and Saginaw Spirit) and Stephen Johns (NTDP, Notre Dame, and 2nd round draft pick by the Chicago Blackhawks).

During his time in Pittsburgh, Singleton enjoyed a successful season and was drafted in the United States Hockey League draft by the Cedar Rapids Stampede.  Due to changes to the staff, he was dropped from their protected list, but found a home in the British Columbia Hockey League with the Westside Warriors, which is also know to produce many division 1 hockey players.

This was a big jump for Singleton, going from only one year of high level midget hockey to junior A.

“The jump was hard and eye opening,” says Singleton.  “Jr’s is where you start to learn that hockey becomes your job. It’s alot of hard work and dedication to play in this league, nothing comes easy! The biggest thing was probably learning how to play consistent night in and night out. There’s alot of high end players in this league and if your not ready you won’t be here very long.”

Beginning his third year for Westside, Singleton has become one of those high end players.  During his rookie season, he was named rookie of year by his team.  Pretty good when you have a couple of rookies that are already committed to play division 1 college hockey.  In his second season, he was named an alternate captain halfway through the season and was awarded best all around player by his team at the end of the year.  He has accomplished a lot since arriving in the BCHL.  He begins his third season looking to improve on what he has already done in the league.

“My expectations are to have a good season individually for sure but more importantly for the team to do really well,” says Singleton.  “The Westside Warriors franchise has never made it past the 3rd round in the playoffs and were hoping this year that will change. Obviously our goal is to win the RBC (Royal Bank Cup) as top Jr team in the country.”

Westside has a good shot at reaching their goals for the season.  They return a lot of good players from last year.  Experience is always good and can win you championship.  Singleton is hoping he can help with his rocket of a shot and strong skating ability, two of his strong points.  Instead of focusing on one thing, he likes to work on all areas of his game, including the strong ones.

“I would have to say my skating and my shot are probably my two strong points,” says Singleton.  “I’m always trying to improve on every aspect of my game even the ones I mentioned as my strong points.”

This summer I had a chance to get on the ice with him.  I always knew he had a hard shot, since PeeWees he had been knocking gloves off goaltenders.  But now it is unbelievably hard, I would not be surprised if he rips it through the net sometimes.  Not only is it hard, but it is accurate.  The best way to describe his shot is that he has a natural release.  Also this summer I worked with the Winterhawks and saw their main camp.  There were 13 kids out there that were going to NHL camps and I do not think I saw someone that could shoot as hard as Singleton.

As a 20-year old, Singleton is looking to move on to the next level since this is his last year of eligibility for juniors.  Over the last few years he has been in some serious talks with a few teams and some not so much.  But the offers have been there and he has been noticed.  He may be looking to commit soon, as he is in talks with a few schools right now.

“As of right now though I’m talking to Merrimack, Northeastern, UNH, Bentley, University of Alaska Fairbanks,and Michigan Tech,” says Singleton.

Singleton hopes to join the select few players that have made it to division 1 out of Portland.  Already being offered scholarships by some schools, there is no doubt that we will be seeing him playing at the next level.  He has had success at every level he has played at, so I see know reason that he will do the same at the collegiate level of play.

This is huge for hockey in Oregon.  Not only does it help put the state on the map, but it gives kids in the area hope and someone to look up to.  Singleton’s journey through hockey shows what someone can do despite not playing youth in a hockey hotbed.

“It’s kinda cool when I come back home for the summer and I walk into the rink and I get alot of people coming up to me asking me questions and stuff. Just motivates me more to make it to the next level and show people that there is good players in Portland.”

Quick or Bernier?

Los Angeles King's netminder Jonathan Quick, makes a glove save.

One of the biggest story lines that will be taking place in the Los Angeles Kings locker room is who is the number one goalie.  As of now it is 24-year old Jonathan Quick.  As long as Quick keeps playing well his job is safe.

“There’s no gray area there. Jonathan Quick is our No. 1 goaltender,” says Los Angeles King’s Head Coach Terry Murray.  “He’s going to play a lot of hockey this year.”

According to Murray, Quick is going to be their number one guy to start the season.  However, he is going to have to be competing every time he steps in between the pipes.

Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings makes a blocker save.

Highly touted goaltender, Jonathan Bernier just won the back up job after the Kings recently placed Erik Ersberg on waivers today.  Ersberg backed up Quick last season.  Also not to mention that the club just signed Bernier for another two years.

Last season Bernier jumped between the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League.  During his time with the Kings he posted 3-0-0 record with a 1.30 goals-against average, a .957 save percentage, which also included a shutout.  Pretty impressive statistics if you ask me.

Personally I believe the Kings are doing the right thing with Bernier.  They are easing him into the starting position, rather than making him jump into the league too fast.  A mistake I believe Montreal made with Carey Price, who still can live up to his potential, but has not quite lived up to expectations.

Whether it is this season or next season, Bernier will be the starter for the Kings.  He is younger (22) than Quick, and has a lot more potential. For the time being, this is good for both goaltenders as they will be competing with each other every time they take the ice. This is the best situation any team can be in when it comes to goaltenders. No matter what, there is not going to be room for both goalies in the future. This means the club should be able to trade one of them and get something good in return.

Right now the Kings are doing the right thing, hopefully they can choose the right goaltender when the time comes.

Top Five Players to Breakout this Season

John Taveres of the New York Islanders, highfives teammates after getting his first NHL assist.

In some scenarios we see top draft picks not live up to expectations in their rookie seasons or even after a couple seasons.  There are many reasons as to why this happens.  Some players are called up too soon and may need more development with the junior team or in the minors.  Injuries can be another reason for slow starts or the team/coaching style is just not the right fit for a player.

Last year we saw former first overall pick, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, breakout in his sophomore season.  He went from 46 to 95 points, and also finishing with 51 goals in his second season with the Lightning.  It was good enough to be a co-winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, awarded to the leading scorer at the end of the National Hockey League season.

Now the question is who is going to be this years Steven Stamkos.  Here are my top five picks for players to breakout during the 2010-11 NHL season:

1.  John Tavares

Tavares was the 2009 first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.  He absolutely dominated the junior level in the Ontario Hockey League, the same league that Stamkos played in.  His best season he finished with 135 points in 67 games, which is impressive at any level.  During his rookie season Tavares looked like he was going to live up to the expectations that many had for him.  However, he finished the second half of the season not as strongly as the first.  He ended up with 54 points in 82 games, which was second among rookies.  After a year in the league, expect Tavares to make the same kind of improvements as Stamkos.  I am not saying he had a terrible rookie season but the way he finished can be considered disappointing to some.  Especially after a great start.  Tavares is the most likely candidate to do what Stamkos did last season, something that me and ESPN’s Robert Vollman can agree on.

2. Evander Kane

Evander Kane of the Atlanta Thrashers skate up ice with the puck

Atlantas 2009 4th overall pick should improve his totals this season.  Kane has too much potential to have any doubts about him being a 20+ goal scorer this year.  With Ilya Kovalchuk gone in New Jersey, expect more ice time for Kane and for his name to be called in key situations.  Also do not forget he just turned 19.  I will not be surprised to see Kane finish with 50-60 points this season on a weak Atlanta squad.

3. Joe Pavelski

Talk about clutch.  When Pavelski’s name was called to be out there in key situations during the 2010 playoffs, he came through.  Each of his four seasons in the NHL, he has put up solid numbers despite playing behind the likes of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau.  After a strong post season, many expect Pavelski to continue his strong play this coming season.  Look for him to play more minutes and be out on the ice in key situations.  Definitely a guy you want to keep an eye on this year.

4. Peter Mueller

After two in a half so-so seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes, Mueller was given a fresh start on a young Colorado Avalanche team.  Before suffering from a concussion he finished the season with the Avalanche, appearing in 15 games and finishing with 20 points.  Last season, Mueller showed that he was a great fit on a young up and coming Avalanche squad.  Look for him to play his best season yet.

5. Gilbert Brule

After five seasons in the league, most would consider Brule a bust.  His development has been slowed down by injuries, but showed some flashes last year in Edmonton that made him a former 6th overall pick.  I still have faith in him and believe that this year he is ready to take his game to the next level.  After watching this guy in juniors, it is hard to count this guy out.  He is capable to be a consistent point producer in this league.  Look for this year in Edmonton for him to find his stride.  After all, there is such things as late bloomers.