Friday, 7 June 2019

Nolan being Nolan - That should be enough to get Blades goalie drafted to NHL

Nolan Maier makes a stop in goal for the Blades.
    Nolan Maier burst on to the WHL scene with shock and awe.
    As a 16-year-old rookie in the 2017-18 campaign, the Yorkton, Sask., product joined the Saskatoon Blades and racked up a string of impressive performances including a run of winning 10 straight games.
    He became a WHL starting netminder as a 16-year-old rookie, which is not very common in the current era of major junior hockey.
    Maier finished out his rookie campaign posting a 23-17-2 record, a 3.31 goals against average, a .895 save percentage and two shutouts.
    There were times that season you could argue he was one of the top five netminders in the WHL.
    Last August, Maier joined Blades teammate and star centre Kirby Dach on Canada’s under-18 team that won gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup held jointly in Edmonton and Red Deer.
Nolan Maier has put together two stellar seasons with the Blades.
    Going into last season, it seemed like Maier was going to be a sure bet to be a prospect that was picked in the NHL Entry Draft coming up on June 21 and 22 in Vancouver, B.C.
    Still, it seems like the attention given to Maier from professional scouts is lukewarm at best.
    Maier cracked NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings for North America goaltenders at the 22nd spot.
    That was after he had a stellar sophomore WHL campaign where he posted a 36-10-6 record, a 2.64 goals against average, a .910 save percentage and four shutouts.
    Thanks to Maier’s efforts, the Blades finished fourth overall in the WHL’s regular season standings with a 45-17-8 record and made the post-season for the first time since 2013.
    Maier kept up his impressive play in the playoffs helping the Blades advance to the second round.
Nolan Maier tracks the play coming up ice for the Blades.
    In Saskatoon’s 10 post-season contests, Maier posted a 6-4 record, a 2.86 goals against average, a .903 save percentage and one shutout.
    The Blades fell in a six game series in the second round to the eventual WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders.
    Maier proceeded to join Canada’s team for the world under-18 hockey championship tournament that was held in April in Ornskoldsvik and Umea, Sweden.
    Currently, Maier is taking part in Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence Goaltending Camp in Calgary, Alta. The camp started Wednesday and wraps up on Saturday.
    Maier’s biggest challenge when it comes to cracking into the NHL might be the fact he stands 6-feet and weighs 173 pounds. It seems like those that make the decisions regarding player personnel in the NHL are weighted towards finding puck stoppers who stand preferably 6-foot-3 or taller.
Nolan Maier moves the puck to the side of the Blades goal.
    Those goalies can still play the butterfly style and have their shoulders cover the top of the net when they go down.
    Maier can’t control how tall he is. The one thing he can control is stopping the puck, and he is very good at that.
    Last season, Maier shutout the powerful Raiders twice. On Dec. 9, 2018, Maier made 32 stops to back the Blades to a 1-0 victory over the Raiders at the SaskTel Centre.
    On April 9, Maier turned away 26 shots in a 1-0 playoff victory over the Raiders at the SaskTel Centre.
    Maier follows in a line of great goaltenders the Blades have had in their history including Dave Parro, Tim Cheveldae, Norm Maracle, Anton Khudobin and Braden Holtby.
    Maier is a great athlete who can make the impossible save or hold up against the barrage of pucks, when his team is pinned in the defensive zone.
    On top of his hockey skills, Maier is a stellar person. Anyone that knows him from his time growing up in Yorkton will tell you how great of kid he has been.
Blades G Nolan Maier, left, celebrates a win with Dawson Davidson.
    He is the perfect person you want representing your team in the community. Due to the fact the Blades strive to make as many community appearances as possible, it has been big to have Maier on the team from that aspect.
    With all that said, it feels like Maier might play out his final three years of eligibility in the major junior ranks without being an NHL Entry Draft selection. He wouldn’t be the first star netminder to get less than a realistic shot from the NHL ranks and move on to play U Sports and get a degree.
    For NHL club that does select Maier in the NHL Entry Draft, that team is likely in for a pleasant surprise. That club will likely discover the selection of Maier is a wise one from all sorts of levels like the Blades have already discovered.

Dyck takes over as under-18 summer coach

Michael Dyck surveys a situation from the Giants bench.
    Vancouver Giants head coach Michael Dyck is in store for a busy summer.
    On Friday, Dyck was named the head coach of Canada’s summer under-18 that will play in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which is slated to run Aug. 5 to 10 in Breclav, Czech Republic and Piestany, Slovakia.
    He replaces Dan Lambert as head coach. Lambert, who was the head coach of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, accepted an assistant coach position with the NHL’s Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
    Due to working for a professional club, Lambert wasn’t available to fulfill his commitments with Hockey Canada.
    Last season, Dyck guided the Giants to the second best regular season record in the WHL at 48-15-3-2. The Giants advanced to the WHL final and fell in a series deciding Game 7 to the Prince Albert Raiders 3-2 in overtime.
    Dyck was named the coach of the year for the WHL’s Western Conference.
    With Dyck taking over Hockey Canada’s summer under-18 team, he vacates his position as head coach for Team Canada White for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, which runs Nov. 2 to 9 in Medicine Hat, Alta., and Swift Current, Sask.
    Hockey Canada is searching for someone to fill that head coaching vacancy. Saskatoon Blades associate coach Ryan Marsh is an assistant coach for Team Canada White.

Dinos’ Roberts in for Hockey Canada women’s goalie camp

Kelsey Roberts earned a big Hockey Canada goalie camp invitation.
    University of Calgary Dinos women’s hockey team netminder Kelsey Roberts showed you can be discovered even if your team struggles.
    Roberts earned an invite to Hockey Canada’s National Women’s Development Camp, which started Thursday and runs through to Sunday.
    The Kitimat, B.C., product posted a 2.06 goals against average and a .935 save percentage in 23 regular season games last season for the Dinos. The Dinos finished last in the Canada West Conference with a 5-20-3 record, and Roberts was 5-15-3 in her appearances.
    With the Dinos being outshot in most of their games, Roberts stood out with the large amount of work sent her way.
    It was great to see she was one of 11 goaltenders targeted for potential spots on Canada’s national women’s team and the national women’s development team.
    The U Sports ranks sent a total of four netminders to that camp. Joining Roberts were Kristen Chamberlin from the University of Albert Pandas, Tricia Deguire of the McGill University Martlets and Kendra Woodland of the University of New Brunswick Reds.
    The National Women’s Development Camp included nine goaltenders that were targeted for potential sport on Canada’s under-18 women’s team.
    I admit I can’t argue against the selections. Still it would have been cool to see invites given to Jessica Vance of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and Lauren Taraschuk of the University of Manitoba Bisons for the camp targeting players for Canada’s national women’s team and the national women’s development team.
    Vance has been outstanding in her two full seasons with the Huskies posting a 26-10-3 record, a 1.05 goals against average, a .954 save percentage and 15 shutouts in 40 career regular season games. She was the Canada West player-of-the-year in the 2017-18 campaign and was Canada’s starting netminder in a silver medal winning performance at the FISU Winter Universiade that wrapped up in March in Krasnayarsk, Russia.
    Vance has a surreal calm to her game you wish you could see in all goaltenders.
    Taraschuk has been outstanding in her two full seasons with the Bisons posting a 27-6-3 record, a 1.28 goals against average, a .941 save percentage and six shutouts in 36 career regular season games. She was the rookie of the year in the Canada West Conference in 2017-18 and backstopped the Bisons to a U Sports national title.
    Standing 6-feet tall, Taraschuk has an edge in size that most netminders in the female game don’t have. She moves very fluidly in goal and displays very little wasted motion in stopping the puck.
    A Hockey Canada invite would have been a way to keep Taraschuk in the game. In April, she gave an interview to the Winnipeg Free Press stating she was quitting the Bisons due to personality issues on the team and a coaching staff change that will occur before the start of next season.
    Taraschuk said she wasn’t finished with hockey, but she has to sit out a year before joining another U Sports club or a team in the NCAA ranks. Actually, a team looking to contend for a national title in the NCAA ranks would be wise to pick up Taraschuk.
    The majority of Canada’s high end players at the university age skate in the NCAA ranks, and it would help Taraschuk to play against those players to continue to improve her game. She is more than ready for that step.
    One hold back would be educational goals. Taraschuk was enrolled in the criminology program at the U of Manitoba. If she pursues that course of study at a United States university, there are no certainties how her education would transfer back up in Canada.
    While, the addition of Vance and Taraschuk at the Hockey Canada women’s goalie camp would have been great, there are only four spots up for grabs between the national team and national development team. It is extremely hard to obtain one of those positions.

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