Tuesday, September 30, 2014

UNH Freshman Michael McNicholas: A Skilled Playmaker

Michael McNicholas: UNH Freshman
Forward (Photo: unhwildcats.com)

Commitment to UNH

Michael McNicholas
DOB: 3-23-1994 Hometown: Manhattan Beach, CA
Forward, 5'10", 175 lbs. Shoots Left
Commit to UNH: 2-13-2011
"The UNH coaches, fans and the university were drawing forces. UNH plays an open and creative game which emphasizes playmaking, and, combined with the widest ice surface in the country, it makes for a perfect fit for me." from "Manhattan Beach's McNicholas commits to UNH", California Rubber Magazine

2013-14 Achievements

~ 3-Time BCHL "Player of the Week" (Dec 8, Mar 23, and May 18)
~ Regular Season: 5th Leading Scorer (69 pts), Tied 3rd in Assists (46).
~ BCHL Playoffs: Tied 5th in Scoring (18 pts), 4th in Assists (13).
~ RBC Cup: Tied 2nd in Scoring (6 pts).

2013-14 Highlight Reel

Coach's Report

Throughout the 2013-14 regular season, BCHL Playoffs, and RBC Cup, Michael McNicholas was coached by former Vernon Vipers' Head Coach Jason Williamson and his staff. I had an opportunity to interview Vernon Vipers' Associate Coach Kris Mallette and Assistant Coach David Robinson regarding McNicholas' strengths and readiness for NCAA hockey:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): What are Michael's strengths and how did he develop during last season with the Vipers?
Coach Kris Mallette: Michael sees the game very well and has good hockey sense. He was a key contributer on special teams and played consistent for us all year long.
Coach David Robinson: Nicks was one of, if not the most consistent forward we had throughout the year. He is a very smart playmaking forward who made the guys around him better. One of his undervalued attributes was his defensive play. He had to be one of the leaders in takeaways in the league and was strong for us on the penalty kill. Mike is just a talented, crafty forward who always seemed to end up on the scoresheet."

Mike Lowry: What kind of adjustments will Michael need to make as he begins his NCAA career?
Coach Mallette: He will need to get stronger and work on his foot speed to ensure success at the college level but his hockey IQ will enable him to still contribute while he works on these improvements.
Coach Robinson: Moving forward to the next level, Michael will need to adjust to the speed. Getting stronger and faster comes with age and I think Nicks is driven enough to get where he needs to be in those aspects.

Career Statistics

Player Season Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Michael McNicholas  (F) 2013-14 Vernon Vipers BCHL 56 23 46 69 20
Playoffs BCHL 19 5 13 18 6
2012-13 Nanaimo Clippers BCHL 35 10 22 32 6
Playoffs BCHL 4 0 1 1 0
2011-12 Muskegon Lumberjacks USHL 48 5 4 9 16
2010-11 Muskegon Lumberjacks USHL 1 0 0 0 0
Victory Honda Midget Major 40 12 34 46 -

Monday, September 22, 2014

UNH Freshman Dylan Chanter Brings Physicality to the Blue Line

UNH Freshman Defenseman
Dylan Chanter (Photo: unhwildcats.com)

This time last year, 6'3", 230 lbs defenseman Dylan Chanter was a player on a mission. In his first year of eligibility for the NHL Draft, Chanter (DOB: 9/17/1995) left the familiar environs of British Columbia to play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League.

Chanter, a native of Armstrong, British Columbia, had played two seasons with the Merritt Centennials of the British Columbia Hockey League. In his rookie season (2011-12), Chanter was one of only three 16-year-old defensemen to play the entire year in the BCHL. He had already grown to 6'3" and his potential as a NHL draft pick was obvious. Cents' Head Coach Luke Pierce described Chanter as:
"A physical specimen who plays with overpowering aggressiveness. Will be a draft pick."
In his second season with Merritt, he lead all Cents' defensemen in goal scoring with 9 goals, including 3 power play goals. Among all BCHL defensemen, Chanter was tied for 3rd in goal scoring.

When I interviewed Dylan last year about his decision to play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States, he said:
"The primary reasons behind my decision were development, change, and continuing to push the envelope. I felt that Dubuque was going to be a good place to further develop myself as a hockey player with NHL calibre coaching with Matt Shaw as well as a winning attitude. I also thought it was time for a change. As much as I enjoyed my last 2 seasons in Merritt, I didn't think a third season there was a smart decision. Lastly, pushing the envelope played the primary role in my decision to play in Dubuque. I felt that this was my best option to prepare myself for UNH and eventually professional hockey. All in all it was a family decision and we felt that this was the best step in continuing my hockey career."
Historically, more players are drafted into the NHL from the USHL than the Canadian Junior A Leagues. For example, in the 2013 NHL Draft, 32 USHLers were drafted while 7 players were drafted out of the BCHL. Chanter's move to the USHL provided more exposure to NHL scouts and had the potential to improve his chances of being drafted in the 2014 NHL Draft. Ironically, a tragic incident involving Chanter early in the USHL season brought him unprecedented recognition throughout the hockey community and beyond.

The Incident

On Saturday October 12, 2013, in only his second game in a Dubuque Fighting Saints uniform (#4), Dylan Chanter dropped the gloves and squared off against Corey Petrash of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. As they exchanged punches, Chanter's helmet flew off an instant before he fell backwards, hitting his unprotected head on the ice. I've ended the video clip without showing the horrifying sight of Dylan Chanter lying on the ice having a full body seizure.

After regaining consciousness, Chanter was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for evaluation, then airlifted to Iowa City Hospital for a neurological exam. He was released later that night and returned to the home of his billet family in Dubuque. By the following morning, news of Chanter's injury and calls to ban fighting in the USHL appeared in newspapers all over North America. In an article in The New York Times, Dr. Michael J. Stuart, chief medical officer for USA Hockey, said "The time to stop fighting in junior hockey is now.” ***

Thankfully, Chanter recuperated and prepared for his return within a few weeks. In a feature article in USA Today the day before his first game back, Chanter said:
"Fighting needs to be part of the game. I'm not going to approach the game any differently. I'm not going to be scared out there. That's just the way it was that night. I don't know how soon. If it happens, it happens. I'm not going to go out there looking for a fight. … (But) if the opportunity presents itself and tempers flare, it will happen. I'm not a guy that typically relied on fighting. But I have size, so I'm not going to shy away from it. But it is not a huge part of my game. I'm rugged and physical, and I expect it to happen."
The following night, November 8, 2013, Dubuque faced the Lumberjacks in Muskegon. Early in the third period, Dylan Chanter got in a fight with Myles McGurty (see first clip in highlight reel below). Neither were injured.

Return Home to British Columbia

Dylan Chanter #24 Vernon Vipers
(Photo: Lisa VanderVelde/Black Press)
Chanter continued playing for Dubuque until mid-December but his move to the USHL was not working out. Over the Christmas holidays, he decided to return to the BCHL to play for the Vernon Vipers:
“I want to go to college next year and be ready, and I didn’t feel I was going to be ready if I stayed for the rest of the season there (in the USHL). It’s my hometown team (Vernon Vipers), essentially. It’s been a lifelong thing to play here, and growing up watching them I never thought I would get the chance to. Now I’ve got that chance and I’m going to make the most of it.”
It took a while for Chanter to regain the form that he had displayed in his prior two BCHL seasons with the Merritt Centennials. He did not score during the remaining 19 games of the Vipers' regular season. However, come playoff time, Chanter cranked up his production scoring 4 goals and 3 assists. He was a key factor in Vernon's advance to the finals of the Fred Page Cup.

Chanter began the 2013-24 season hoping to advance his prospects for selection in the 2014 NHL Draft. Following the scary incident early in the season, Chanter wanted to be recognized as more than that guy who had a seizure on the ice during a hockey fight. As it turned out, his return to Vernon and outstanding play in the BCHL playoffs earned him what he had sought all along. When the NHL Central Scouting Service released it's 2014 Final Rankings in early April, Dylan Chanter was on the list for the first time. He was rated as the 164th North American skater (on a list of 210 skaters).

In early May, a month before the NHL Draft in Philadelphia, the International Scouting Service published this assessment of Dylan Chanter:
"Shutdown defenceman … smart … quick to react in his own end … strong skater … moves the puck well … keeps things simple in defensive zone … can separate puck carrier from the puck."
Although, Chanter was not drafted by an NHL team in June, it's safe to say that he has attracted the attention of some in the scouting community. Obviously, a successful career at UNH will only help him to reach his dream of playing in the NHL.

2013-14 Highlight Reel

Coach's Report

Dylan Chanter worked with the coaching staff of the Vernon Vipers throughout the second half of the regular season and BCHL playoffs. In May, Vernon also hosted the 2014 RBC Cup - Canada's National Junior A Championship. The Vipers advanced to the semifinals but lost to eventual champion Yorkton Terriers. I had an opportunity to interview Vernon Vipers' Associate Coach Kris Mallette and Assistant Coach David Robinson regarding Dylan Chanter's strengths and readiness for NCAA hockey:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): What are Dylan's strengths and how did he develop during the second half of the season with the Vipers?
Coach Kris Mallette: I think once Dylan was finally able to get into a steady rhythm of games he progressed well. He battled injuries for most of the first half and by the time playoffs came he was able to work himself into a top 4 rotation. He is a big body who is physically strong and plays well defensively.
Coach David Robinson: Chants was a big, solid defenceman for us. He was not only very physical for us, but he was able to make plays with the puck that really showed his natural abilities. He has a pro shot already that could be utilized in offensive situations.

Mike Lowry: What kind of adjustments will Dylan need to make as he begins his NCAA career?
Coach Mallette: I think his foot speed will need to improve and his decisions will need to be quicker but I'm confident once he becomes comfortable he will be a good defensive defenceman at the college level.
Coach Robinson: With his physical attributes and natural abilities he has the potential to turn into a solid all around defenceman. Obviously making that jump to the NCAA level he will have to get used to the speed of the game. He's a hard working kid, on and off the ice, that will just have to trust his instincts and not think too much out there on the ice.

Career Statistics

Player Season Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Dylan Chanter  (D) 2013-14 Vernon Vipers BCHL 19 0 0 0 16
Playoffs BCHL 19 4 3 7 18
Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 14 1 1 2 21
2012-13 Merritt Centennials BCHL 56 9 11 20 31
Playoffs BCHL 5 1 0 1 8
2011-12 Merritt Centennials BCHL 53 2 11 13 47
Playoffs BCHL 9 1 1 2 0
2010-11 Pursuit of Excellence 16U Midget Minor 56 4 18 22 38

*** In early June, 2014, USA Hockey changed the rule on fighting in the USHL and NAHL. Starting this season, any fighting major penalty (5 minutes) will be accompanied by an additional 10 minute misconduct penalty. Any player penalized for "major" fighting will have to sit in the penalty box for 15 minutes. Who knows - maybe this rule will come to be known as the "Chanter Rule".

Monday, September 08, 2014

UNH Freshman Goalie Adam Clark

Adam Clark: UNH Freshman Goalie

Preparation of this profile on Adam Clark began in early August. At the time, the 6'5" goalie from Sherwood Park, Alberta was expected to come to UNH and serve as the backup to senior netminder Casey DeSmith. DeSmith had been the #1 goalie for the Wildcats since early December of his freshman year when he took over for then senior Matt DiGirolamo. DeSmith was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team and in his junior year, he was named a Hockey East Honorable Mention All-Star.

Events which reportedly occurred early Sunday morning, August 31st, have jeopordized Casey DeSmith's hockey future at UNH. DeSmith was arrested by Durham Police and charged with domestic assault and resisting arrest. The University subsequently suspended DeSmith from the UNH hockey team pending further investigation.

With Casey DeSmith's immediate playing future in doubt, speculation and discussion over who will become the starting UNH goalie when the 2014-15 regular season begins on October 11th have heated up. As of today, there are two goalies on the UNH active roster. In addition to Adam Clark, there is junior netminder Jamie Regan. Regan has only played in one NCAA game - the final 6:38 minutes of a game against UMass last November.

For the past two seasons, Adam Clark has been one of the top goalies in the British Columbia Hockey League. The BCHL has 16 teams and is considered among the top Junior A leagues in Canadian junior hockey. Clark has played for the Salmon Arm SilverBacks. In the 2012-13 season, Clark had the 5th best save percentage (.914) among BCHL goalies who had played at least 30 games (the BCHL plays a 58-game regular season).

When the NHL Central Scouting Service posted it's Preliminary Rankings in November, 2012, Adam Clark was listed as a "C" candidate. The CSS saw Clark as a potential 4th-6th Round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. In January 2013, when the NHL CSS Mid-Term Rankings were released, Clark was listed as the #32 North American goalie. Although Clark finished the remainder of 2012-13 regular season with a respectable run of 6 wins and 5 loses and posted an overall record of 18 wins, 16 loses, and a tie (see Career Statistics below), he was not drafted in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Last season, Clark nearly duplicated his performance from the 2012-13 season. He compiled a record of 14 wins, 14 loses, and 1 tie, and his Goals Against Average (2.87) and Save Percentage (.911) were almost identical to the previous season. Clark missed games near the end of the Salmon Arm season due to injury. Following off season training at First Line Training in Sherwood Park, he has fully recovered and is ready for the 2014-15 season at UNH.

Commitment to UNH

Adam Clark
DOB: 3-23-1993 Hometown: Sherwood Park, Alberta
Goalie, 6'5", 210 lbs. Catches Left
Commit to UNH: September 28, 2012
"It has always been an aspiration of mine to be a part of an elite Division 1 NCAA program and as of this year when UNH approached me things just fell right into place. With a great hockey and academic program UNH couldn’t have been a better fit for me and I am extremely excited to be a part of such a prestigious program. I had talked to a couple of other schools, but none for myself or my family were as clear of a choice as UNH." from "Adam Clark: UNH's Goalie of the Future", The UNH Men's Hockey Blog

Career Statistics

Player Season Team League W L T GAA SV%
Adam Clark  (G) 2013-14 Salmon Arm SilverBacks BCHL 14 14 1 2.87 .911
2012-13 Salmon Arm SilverBacks BCHL 18 16 1 2.89 .914
Playoffs BCHL 0 2 0 5.40 .827
2011-12 Salmon Arm SilverBacks BCHL 5 13 0 4.43 .885
2010-11 Sherwood Park Kings AMHL 11 6 2 2.74 .909
Playoffs AMHL 4 3 0 3.01 .893
2009-10 Sherwood Park Kings AMHL 9 5 4 3.94 .879
Playoffs AMHL 2 2 0 3.66 .916
2008-09 Sherwood Park Kings AMHL 7 1 2 2.80 .906
2007-08 Sherwood Park Flyers AMBHL 11 3 1 2.04 .922
Playoffs AMBHL 6 2 0 3.78 .868

2013-14 Highlight Reel

Coach's Report

Over the last two years, Adam Clark has worked extensively with goalie coaches Mike Valley and Pasco Valana of Elite Goalies. Coach Valley is the Goaltending Coach of the Dallas Stars and the founder of Elite Goalies. Coach Valana is the Assistant and Goaltending Coach of the University of British Columbia's hockey team. I interviewed both coaches regarding Adam Clark's goaltending style and strengths:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): How would you describe Adam's goalie style and what are his strengths?
Coach Mike Valley: Adam is a big goaltender that is learning to play with a combination of blocking (using his big frame to his advantage) and athleticism (learning to trust and use his pure athletic base when the opportunity calls for it). He’s a hard working goalie that put a lot of pride in his development.
Coach Pasco Valana: Adam is a goaltender that plays mid crease and approaches the game with efficiency. With the game changing to a more efficient style eliminating additional and possibly unnecessary movements, Adam chooses to play between the pipes or as we call it - "He plays the game within the frame".
Goaltenders in the previous years have challenged areas that maybe they did not have to which, in turn, opened up areas of net space for the next most dangerous option. Adam's approach would enable him to cover the net space and prep for potential plays.

Mike Lowry: Does Adam remind you of any current NHL goalies?
Coach Valley: The one goaltender that he reminds me a little of is Mike Smith (goalie for the Arizona Coyotes). Again using his big body to his advantage and using the less is more approach...letting the game come to him.
Coach Valana: Adam reminds me most of Mike Smith. A large goaltender, calm, emotionally controlled and positional. His responsible approach to the game will provide his defensemen with the confidence needed to take the chances that you sometimes need to take when playing at the NCAA level. That freedom will earn the respect from his D-men and forwards and begin the 4-year relationship needed for success at the NCAA level and to amplify the coach's message.

Lowry: In Adam's time working with Elite Goalies, what have been his main areas of improvement?
Coach Valley: His understanding of the game has improved a lot and his decision making abilities (where and when to stand and why). His skating abilities have improved a lot as well which will help him recover to get to the right spot when there are rebounds, etc.
Coach Valana: The transition from Junior A hockey to the 3 times greater speed of the NCAA, the game becomes much more intelligent, the players are more accurate, deceiving and creative. Over the course of the past 2 seasons, we have been working to refine Adam's game to best occupy the netspace, control rebounds, and place them into non-populated areas, and adopting a game that encourages a 6-inch movement in net regardless of the shot.
The second area, and one that he will always be working on, will be his skating both on his skates and on his pads. Goaltender power-skating along with puck skills and playing the puck has been at the corner stone of Adam's training over the past 700 days.
In closing, Adam is honoured to be given the opportunity to play with his new team, talented players and driven coaches. He understands that playing well is his thank you back to the staff for committing to him. He intends to contribute in any way that he can to the team.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

For UNH Freshman Shane Eiserman, NHL Dream Comes Into Focus

Ottawa Senators Draft Shane Eiserman
(Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

"Eiserman is a stud; top 4 round NHL pick." Josh Ciocco, December 19, 2011

Eiserman at Cushing Academy 2011-12
A little over two and 1/2 years ago, I asked Josh Ciocco, former Captain of the 2006-07 UNH Hockey Team, what he thought of UNH recruit Shane Eiserman. At the time, Josh was wearing three hats: Hockey East Analyst for NESN, Scout/Writer for U.S. Hockey Report, and Assistant Coach at Milton Academy. Eiserman had committed to UNH in August, 2011 and was playing for Cushing Academy in the New England Prep Hockey League.

I had seen Eiserman play a couple times after he committed to UNH. In my player observation log, I wrote that "Eiserman is always working hard on his shifts. He finishes his checks, skates hard up and down his wing, shows speed carrying the puck through center ice and into the offensive zone, and hangs/bangs around the front of the net when needed." Eiserman was only 16 but he struck me as a special talent.

Turns out that Josh Ciocco - who is now the Assistant Coach at the University of Alaska Anchorage - was exactly right about Shane Eiserman. In June, he was selected in the 4th Round of the NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators with the 100th overall pick.

Getting on NHL Scouts' Radar

In the three years leading up to the 2014 NHL Draft, Shane Eiserman steadily elevated his performance and advanced to the top rungs of the junior hockey ladder. As a sophomore at Cushing Academy, Shane Eiserman scored 18 goals and 26 assists in 29 games and was the Penguins' second leading scorer.

At the June 2012 USA Hockey Selects 17 Camp, Eiserman's impressive play earned him a spot on the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-18 team. In 21 games against NCAA teams, he scored 3 goals and 3 assists for Team USA. In the team's 22 games against United State Hockey League competition, he added 5 goals and 6 assists. Eiserman may well have been ready to make the jump to NCAA hockey at UNH for the 2013-14 season but he was entering his senior year in high school. So he moved on to the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL for his last season of junior hockey.

Even before the 2013-14 USHL season began, Eiserman had earned favorable reviews by NHL scouts. In September 2013, the NHL Central Scouting Service identified Eiserman as a potential 2nd or 3rd round draft pick. Shortly after, Eiserman gave credence to the NHL scouts assessment by excelling in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game (see video highlights above).

In their January Mid-Term Rankings, the NHL CSS listed Shane Eiserman as the #39 North American Skater. At that point in the season, Eiserman had scored 8 goals and 10 assists for the Dubuque Fighting Saints and had a +/- rating of +11. By the end of the USHL season, Eiserman had scored 40 points in 53 regular season games and his +/- rating was +18. He added 2 more assists in the Fighting Saints' seven playoff games. When the NHL CSS Final Rankings came out in April, Eiserman ranking remained steady as the #45 North American Skater.

2014 NHL Draft

Shane Eiserman and his family made the long drive from West Newbury, Massachusetts to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. 30 players were drafted in the First Round on Friday, June 27th. Shane heard his name called early in the Fourth Round on Saturday. The Ottawa Senators selected Eiserman with the 100th overall pick in the draft. In an interview on draft day, the Senators' Amateur Scout Bob Janecyk described what they liked about Eiserman's game:
"He's a big, strong kid going to UNH. He's a better winger than center...who gets up and down the ice, shoots the puck and competes. A big, strong power forward at UNH hopefully for 2 or 3 years."

2014 Ottawa Senators Development Camp

Less than a week after the draft in Philadelphia, Eiserman was off to Ottawa, Canada for the Senators Annual Development Camp. From July 1 to July 7, 23 draft picks, including Eiserman, and 11 free agents participated in rigorous on-ice and off-ice training sessions.

In an interview with the Daily News of Newburyport, Shane described what the development camp was like:
"On ice I’ve haven’t experienced anything like it. You had to play well every second, so it was fun. Getting to play with all those guys, they’re high-end guys, the pace was up, you really had to be focused in because if you make a mistake out there, you stand out. It was tough, but it was a great experience with where I’m at with my development.”
I had an opportunity to interview Shane, via email, about his quest to play in the NHL, his experiences at the Ottawa Senators' camp, and his goals for this season at UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Looking back over your junior career, when did you become aware that NHL scouts were coming to watch you play? Which skills/attributes do you think got you noticed as a potential professional hockey player?
Shane Eiserman: I started really understanding the whole process when I went to the National Team. My whole team was draft eligible and it was very cool to see what they were going through. The skills I worked on were becoming more of a well-rounded power forward - driving the puck wide, making the simple plays, and playing the body.

Mike Lowry: Your cousin and personal trainer Eddie Hill knows from experience what it takes to succeed at the NHL level. He was drafted 61st overall in the 1999 NHL Draft and played 8 seasons in the AHL and ECHL. What’s the best advice he’s given you, so far, to prepare for an NHL career?
Shane Eiserman: He has just said "enjoy the ride". Take everyday as a gift and work hard to where you want to get. Not to focus on the things you can’t control and just the things you can.

Lowry: You recently completed your first, week-long Prospects Development Camp with the Ottawa Senators’ organization. The camp included three first-round draft picks, over a dozen experienced AHL players, and three more with NHL experience. How would you compare your performance with these top players both on the ice and in off-ice strength and conditioning.
Eiserman: It was an awesome experience where I could see where I am at in my development. It was fast paced but something that will definitely benefit me throughout the upcoming season. I was on pace and really surprised myself out there.

Lowry: What personal goals have you set for your freshman season at UNH?
Eiserman: I want to be a contributor to the team and help win a National Championship by playing my hard, power forward type of game. I also want to learn new things from the coaching staff and older players.

Lowry: In past interviews, you’ve talked about growing up as a UNH hockey fan and how your godmother would give you UNH game tickets for Christmas. Are there any former (or current) UNH forwards who played a style similar to yours?
Eiserman: I'm not sure I can name someone that I play like but I know I can play the UNH hockey type of game. Strong, fast, and hard.

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