Monday, 26 June 2017

Leschyshyn and Patrick smart NHL Draft picks despite injuries

Jake Leschyshyn (#19) wins a battle in the corner for the Pats
    The player personal staffs of the Vegas Golden Knights and the Philadelphia Flyers might one day look back in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and give themselves a pat on the back for their bravery.
    Both clubs each picked a player from the WHL who had their respective 2016-17 campaigns cut considerably short due to injury.
    The Golden Knights selected 18-year-old centre Jake Leschyshyn of the Regina Pats in the second round and 62nd overall. Leschyshyn was limited to 47 regular season games and missed the Pats entire post-season run to the WHL Championship series after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
    The Flyers picked centre Nolan Patrick, who will turn 19 in September, in the first round and second overall. The Brandon Wheat Kings star was often projected to be the first overall selection, but two sports hernia injuries limited him to 33 regular season games and kept him out of the playoffs.
Nolan Patrick in action for the Wheat Kings in May of 2016.
    Any teams that passed on either player might regret that decision one day. If you are an elite athlete that plays any sport at a high level over a lengthy period of time, chances are high you will eventually have to deal with a major injury in your career.
    Due to the fact Leschyshyn and Patrick are really young looking at the grand scheme of the hockey picture, they have lots of time to make respective full recoveries and return better than ever.
    Leschyshyn, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 182 pounds, first really turned heads in the WHL after putting on a gritty performance in the 2016 playoffs. He had a goal and three assists in 12 games as the Pats advanced to the second round before falling 2-1 in a series deciding Game 7 to the Red Deer Rebels. During that post-season, Leschyshyn was noticeable on the ice due to a fierce work ethic that was displayed when he had to battle in the hard areas.
    This season, Leschyshyn piled up 17 goals and 23 assists in 47 regular season games. When he did hit the ice, he gave the Pats a dynamic one, two, three punch at centre playing behind Sam Steel and Adam Brooks. Leschyshyn played a big part in helping the Pats post the best record in the league at 52-12-7-1.
Jake Leschyshyn (#19) creates a screens a goalie for the Pats.
    He comes from a real good family that is tied into the game too. Father, Curtis, had a lengthy NHL career as a defenceman and younger sister, Anna, is a star centre with the Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA team. Thanks to his family, Jake will have great guidance when it comes to a career in the NHL.
    As for Patrick, he watched the New Jersey Devils pick 18-year-old centre and Switzerland product Nico Hischier first overall. Flyers proceeded to select Patrick with the second overall pick.
    It almost seemed like Patrick’s spectacular sophomore season with the Wheat Kings in 2015-16 was forgotten. The Winnipeg product appeared in all 72 of the Wheat Kings regular season games piling up 41 goals and 61 assists.
    He played a huge role in helping the Wheat Kings capture the WHL Championship in 2016 recording 13 goals and 17 assists in 21 post-season games. Patrick, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 198 pounds, was named the MVP of the playoffs that season.
Nolan Patrick (#19) sets up in the offensive zone in May of 2016.
    Due to his later in the year birth date, Patrick wasn’t eligible for the NHL Entry Draft until the end of his 18-year-old season. After he played so spectacular as a 17-year-old, it seemed almost inevitable Patrick would be a first over selection.
    Having played such a big role in Brandon in 2015-16, one wondered what more amazing things he could do for an encore. Injuries hampered those hopes.
    Patrick also comes from a good family that has a strong hockey background. His father, Steve, played six seasons in the NHL at right wing in the 1980s. His uncle, James, had a lengthy career as a defenceman.
    The influence of both Steve and James, who is the new head coach of the WHL’s Kootenay Ice, will ensure Nolan has a pretty good heads up regarding waters he will have to navigate as a professional.
    The injuries both Jake Leschyshyn and Nolan Patrick had to battle through would definitely create doubts for some. At the moment, their ability to help a club in the immediate short term is still questionable.
    Over the long term, both the Golden Knights and Flyers will likely be rewarded with their sound selections of the two respective centres.

Rush thank you commercial sweet touch

The Rush players salute the SaskTel Centre fans.
    The Saskatchewan Rush gave a salute to their fans since their National Lacrosse League campaign came to an end.
    In both years the NLL franchise has been based out of Saskatoon, the Rush have advanced to the best-of-three league championship series. A year ago, the Rush swept the Buffalo Bandits 2-0 to claim the Champion’s Cup.
    Game 2 of that series was one for the ages as Rush defenceman Jeff Cornwall went coast-to-coast to score the series-winning goal with 12 seconds to play that broke a 10-10 tie and gave the Rush an 11-10 victory before 15,182 spectators at the SaskTel Centre.
    Having won the Champion’s Cup in 2015 when the team was still located in Edmonton, the Rush franchise was trying for the three-peat this season. The Rush returned to the NLL championship series only to be swept 2-0 by the Duluth-based Georgia Swarm. Game 2 of the series was a heartbreaker for the Rush, who fell 15-14 in overtime at the SaskTel Centre on June 10.
    During the regular season, the Rush topped the Western Division standings with a 12-6 mark. Between the regular season and playoffs, the Rush always drew over 14,000 spectators to each of their home games. The energy created by the fans at Rush games is second to none.
    Since falling in the NLL finals, the Rush have run commercials on local television to thank the fans. The commercial is also posted on the team’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
    It was a classy move by the team and one that will always payoff in some positive way down the road.

Back in the Express with Roughriders analysis

Kevin Glenn (#5) throws a pass downfield at Roughriders training camp.
    I was back in the pages of the Saskatoon Express this past week with a column that provide analysis about the Saskatchewan Roughriders prospects for the 2017 CFL season.
    Due to the nature of writing for a weekly publication, the piece went to print before the team announced final cuts on June 17. The issue of the Express that contained the piece hit the streets on June 19.
    Since that time, the Roughriders opened the regular season dropping a 17-16 heartbreaker on the road to the Alouettes in Montreal last Thursday. I wrote in my piece that playoffs are possible for the Roughriders, and I still hold on to that despite the opening day result.
    When you check social media lines, the loss to the Alouettes has some Roughriders fans jumping ship. Had Roughriders kicker Tyler Crapigna nailed a 45-yard field goal attempt on the game’s final play to win it, you would see fans jumping on the bandwagon. Those reactions come with the territory of following Saskatchewan’s CFL franchise.
    The season opening game likely worked out a lot of emotion regarding Roughriders head coach and general manager Chris Jones and Alouettes and former Roughriders franchise quarterback Darian Durant. Jones traded Durant to the Alouettes in January as part of a huge effort to retool the Roughriders.
    After Crapigna missed his kick, Durant gave a big celebration directed at the Roughriders bench. Jones walked off the field looking more upset than normal after the setback. It was obvious from their respective reactions and both Durant and Jones have personal upset feelings regarding the end of Durant’s time in Saskatchewan.
    With all that said, the CFL regular season is a marathon and not a sprint due to the fact every club plays 18 regular season games. The Roughriders return to action this coming Saturday, when they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at 7 p.m. at new Mosaic Stadium.
    The piece I wrote on the Roughriders for the Express can be found here.

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