Tomas Plekanec will captain the Czech Republic squad at the 2016 World Hockey Championships in Russia.
The 33-year-old, who most recently served as captain at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, will be making his eighth trip to the Worlds and his first since 2013.
Plekanec claimed silver with the Czechs in 2006 and back-to-back bronze medals in 2011 and 2012.
He will open the tournament on May 6 against a Russian contingent that also features teammate Alexei Emelin.
After capturing the Champions Hockey League title earlier this season, Montreal Canadiens prized prospect Artturi Lehkonen led his Froluna Indians to the promised land once again on route to becoming SHL playoff champions. At just 20-years of age, Lehkonen played a major role in leading Frolunda to the Swedish Elite League finals, amassing a record-breaking crop of points along the way.
In Game 5 of the SHL final against Skelleftea, Lehkonen and the Indians needed just one more victory to capture the Le Mat Trophy. As he has done throughout the post-season, Lehkonen got Frolunda’s offense going by opening the scoring just 1:46 seconds into the first period. Before the end of the first frame Lehkonen would light the lamp once more to give Frolunda a 3-0 after 20 minutes.
For his first marker, a turnover in the neutral zone enabled Frolunda teammates Ryan Lasch and Lehkonen to break out on a 2-1 before the Habs prospect put the puck in the net to open the scoring. Lehknonen’s perfectly placed shot gave Skelleftea netminder Erik Hanses no chance on the goal.
On his second goal, a superb pass from Lasch set Lehkonen up in the slot. The skilled winger deftly dangled around two defenders before depositing a back hand past Hanses for his second of the night.
With his two goals, the youngster first equalized and then surpassed Frolunda’s previous SHL playoff point record holder, Daniel Alfredsson. Lehkonen concluded his series with an impressive 11 goals and eight assists for a total of 19 points. The Habs former 2nd rounder finished just three points shy of the SHL playoff record established by another Canadiens prospect, Bud Holloway, during the 2011-12 post-season.
With another two assists in Frolunda’s 3-2 victory in Game 4 of the SHL Final, Arturri Lehkonen is approaching record territory.
Heading into Game 4 with a 2-1 series lead over Skelleftea, Lehkonen and the Indians fell behind 1-0 after the club surrendered a power play goal early in the second period. With his club trailing, Lehkonen scooped up a loose puck behind the opposing net and set up teammate Ryan Lasch with a perfect pass in the slot to tie the game up at 1-1. Just over a minute later, Lehkonen directed a heavy one-timer on net only to have the rebound bounce directly in front of teammate Johan Sundstrom, who was in prime position to light the lamp to give Frolunda a 2-1 lead.
With his 17th point (nine goals, eight assists) of the SHL playoffs, Lehkonen now trails former Frolunda superstar Daniel Alfredsson by one point for the organization’s record for most points recorded in a single post-season.
Alfredsson - who played for Frolunda on a rare all-NHL line with P.J. Axelsson and Samuel Pahlsson during the 2003-04 NHL lockout – tallied 12 goals and six assists in 14 games to set the club’s post-season record.
What’s up next for the Habs prized prospect? How about a chance to capture the SHL post-season championships in Game 5 on Sunday? We’ll keep you posted!
Artturi Lehkonen added his name to the score-sheet once again as his Frölunda Indians clashed against Skellefteå AIK in Game 3 of the SHL final on April 19.
After Frölunda jumped out to a 2-0 lead following goals by Joey Crabb and Joel Lundqvist the first 20 minutes of play, Skellefteå got on the board to pull within one goal thanks to their seventh power play opportunity of the game.
With Frölunda clinging to a one-goal lead late in the third-period, Lehkonen deftly intercepted a Skellefteå clearing attempt out of mid-air with his glove and smoothly settled the puck down on his tape before firing it home to seal the Indians’ 3-1 victory in Game 3.
The goal secures Lehkonen’s position atop the SHL playoff scoring leader-board as the Habs prized prospect’s crop of 15 points in 14 games gives him a one-point lead over teammate Ryan Lasch.
The win gives Lehkonen and the Frölunda Indians a 2-1 lead over Skellefteå AIK with Game 4 between the two combatants scheduled for Thursday, April 21.
The talk of the SHL
The Domino Effect
IceCaps report – Apr. 19
MONTREAL - A 3-2 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds in Game 5 recently eliminated the Everett Silvertips from the WHL’s Western Conference semifinals, which unfortunately means that the post-season has come to an end for Habs blue-line prospect Noah Juulsen.
Juulsen first pulled on the Canadiens jersey at the 2015 Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida, when general manager Marc Bergevin plucked the Silvertips 19-year-old rearguard out of the stands at the BB&T with the 26th overall pick. With the selection, Bergevin and his draft-day team added a valuable right-handed shooting weapon to their arsenal.
Since that memorable day in sunny Florida, the Canadiens have watched their prized first-rounder develop from a blue-chip prospect into a physically imposing two-way defenseman.
The Canadiens therefore rewarded Juulsen with an entry-level contract after the youngster caught management’s attention at development camp in Brossard back in July.
After amassing 28 points in 63 games while helping Everett to a 5th place finish in the WHL’s Western Conference, the Abbostford, British Columbia native would then lead the Silvertips into the highly competitive WHL playoffs.
Everything seemed to be rolling for Everett, as a sweep of the Portland Winterhawks in the first round of the WHL playoffs set up a second round matchup against the Seattle Thunderbirds. However, that’s when things took an unexpected turn. In Game 2 on April 10, Juulsen was dangerously struck in the face by a puck and in the blink of an eye his availability for the rest of the series was suddenly in jeopardy.
Without their rock on defense, the Silvertips suffered a 5-0 blowout loss to the Thunderbirds in Game 3. Evidently, with the physical defenseman on the sidelines, a void was left on the Silvertips blue-line, as two consecutive losses in Games 3 and 4 would seal Everett's fate.
Juulsen’s WHL season might be over, but there was still a season’s worth of positives to reflect on. For example, the former 22nd ranked North American skater by Central Scouting was called upon to represent the WHL All-Stars in the Subway Series against Russia back in November 2015. Furthermore, the Habs prospect’s defensively sound season combined with a crop of seven goals and 21 assists earned him a coveted spot on the WHL’s Second All-Star team.
IceCaps report – Apr. 19
Loving every minute of it
Canadiens mourn the loss of Charlie Hodge
Another season, another step
Canadiens prospect Artturi Lehkonen continues to be the talk of the SHL playoffs, as his Frolunda Indians battle it out against Skellefteå in the championship finals.
In the first matchup between the two finalists in Game 1, Lehkonen made an immediate impact. With the Indians trailing by one goal in the 3rd period, the 20-year-old winger set up Joey Crabb for a deflection on the power play to tie the game up at 2-2.
Furthermore, Lehkonen was instrumental in Frolunda’s go-ahead goal as the youngster drew a high-sticking penalty late in 3rd period. The Habs prized prospect would end the night with a big victory in Game 1 and a share of the lead for the SHL playoff scoring race.
The Piikkiö, Finland native’s brilliance extended into Game 2 where the Indian’s leading scorer would light the lamp to score Frolunda’s lone goal of the game. The Habs former 2nd rounder’s power play marker was also his eighth post-season marker, which gives him sole possession of top spot in the SHL playoff goal-scoring race.
This recent bout of post-season success is hardly a surprise for the fearless 5-foot-11 winger, who presently leads the playoffs in both goals and points with 14 points and 8 goals. Moving forward, Lehkonen will look to extend his personal scoring streak to six games in Game 3, which is scheduled for April 19.
Prospect Report: Playoff update
Loving every minute of it
Canadiens mourn the loss of Charlie Hodge
Another season, another step
Montreal Canadiens 2015 first round draft selection Noah Juulsen and the Everett Silvertips are presently squaring off against the Seattle Thunderbirds in the second round of the WHL playoffs. After splitting the first two games of the best-of-seven series, the teams now head to Everett, where Game 3 is set for Wednesday night.
The Habs’ prized blue-line prospect, who amassed seven goals and 21 assists in his third season of WHL hockey, has let his defensive game do his talking for him this season. Juulsen and the defensively-sound Silvertips made short work of the Portland Winterhawks, completing the four-game sweep of their U.S Division opponent in the first round of the WHL playoffs.
The Silvertips’ defensive dominance extended into the second round, where Everett kicked off their series against the Seattle Thunderbirds, with a 3-0 victory in Game 1. The young blue-liner chipped in with an assist while helping netminder Carter Hart shut down the Thunderbirds en route to a 26-save shutout performance.
Puck drop for Game 3 in Everett is set for 7:05 p.m. PDT.
Habs prospect Artturi Lehkonen’s impressive playoff harvest of12 postseason points in just 11 games recently launched the former second-round pick into a tie for top spot on the Swedish Hockey League’s playoff scoring leaderboard.
Lehkonen has continued to stand out in Frolunda’s Semi Finals series against Lulea having lit the lamp on April 8 and April 10, before adding an assist in the series clinching victory in Game 6 on Tuesday afternoon. Frolunda will move on to face either Skelleftea or Vaxjo in the finals.
Earlier this season, the 20-year-old winger claimed the Champions Hockey League title as his Indians bested Finland’s Oulun Karpat by a score of 2-1 in the championship tilt.
As chance would have it, Lehkonen drew fellow Habs prospect Lukas Vejdemo’s Djurgardens IF as a first round opponent, which ended Vejdemo’s postseason run.
With his goals in the first and second periods on Saturday night, Alex Galchenyuk hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Galchenyuk, at 22 years and 57 days old, became the third-youngest player in Canadiens history to score 30 goals in a single season. For their part, Bernard Geoffrion and Stephane Richer accomplished the feat at the age of 21.
Galchenyuk surpassed Mario Tremblay, Maurice Richard, Claude Lemieux, Steve Shutt and Marc Tardif, who all scored 30 goals in a single season at the age of 22, but more than 57 days had elapsed in that 22nd year when they reached the impressive mark.
- After enjoying a day off on Friday, the Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday morning in preparation for their final game of the year against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre.
- Prior to the start of the morning skate, defenseman Mark Barberio skated with athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine as he continues to rehab from a concussion he suffered on March 16 against the Buffalo Sabres.
- Brian Flynn will make his return to the Canadiens’ lineup after being sidelined for the last two months with a lower-body injury. It will mark Flynn’s first outing since February 9, when, interestingly enough, the Canadiens downed the Lightning 4-2 in Montreal. On Saturday morning, the Lynnfield, MA native skated on a line with Paul Byron and Torrey Mitchell.
“I’m happy that I can get one game in,” said Flynn, who was one of many Canadiens players this year to spend an extended period of time watching from the sidelines due to injury. “I’ve obviously never seen anything like this before. There are a lot of similar injuries, lower-body injuries that there isn’t much you can do with. There’s only so much you can do with the training staff and all the machines they can hook you up to. It’s just time [that’s needed] to heal things.”
- Even if Saturday night’s contest is essentially meaningless for the Canadiens standings-wise, the Bell Centre faithful can still expect the home team to come out strong in an effort to close out the year on a high note. If the Canadiens do manage to come out on top in their final game of the year, they will have swept the season-series against Jon Cooper’s contingent with four victories in four opportunities.
“It’s important to finish strong, even if we’ve been getting some tough results since the start of December and we’ve been dealing with a ton of injuries. We have to make sure to play a good game and to finish on a positive note under the circumstances,” explained head coach Michel Therrien. “The guys have been playing with a lot of intensity lately. It has to continue.”
- Minutes before practice began, the Canadiens announced that Alex Galchenyuk had won the Molson Cup for the 2015-16 campaign, which is awarded to the top player on the team, as determined by three-star selections all year long. Galchenyuk was named first star eight times this season, and the Canadiens’ bench boss believes it’s a sure sign that No. 27 is making incredible strides forward.
“With respect to Alex, we’re really happy with his progress. Since joining us when he was 18, he’s improved in different aspects of his play. He’s a lot more confident and responsible. There’s still work to be done, but we’re happy with his progress,” explained Therrien, whose late-season decision to put Galchenyuk on a line with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher has paid serious dividends for the trio. “He’s come a long way since the beginning of the season. He’s really reached a whole new level. The challenge with working with a player like Alex is to make sure we see progress in his learning curve.”
- All of Paul Byron’s hard work this season was formally recognized on Saturday morning when the Canadiens announced that he’d claimed the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy as the team’s “unsung hero” as voted on by members of the media. Byron set career-highs with 11 goals and 61 games played after being claimed off waivers from the Calgary Flames back in early October.
“I never expected for this year to play out the way it did. It was a real rollercoaster ride. I’m really happy that Montreal gave me a chance to play here,” said Byron, who bested goaltender Mike Condon by just four points to secure the honor which last season went to Dale Weise. “It’s just in my character to never give up and to always give everything I’ve got when I’m on the ice. I’m really proud to have had a year like this. It’s a real honor for me to win this trophy.”
- Mike Condon will get the start in goal against Tampa. In his two previous outings against the Lightning this season, the 25-year-old netminder has given up just three goals while posting a 1.44 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage along the way. Condon registered his first career NHL shutout against the Lightning less than two weeks ago.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on Rogers Sportsnet and TVA Sports.
Lines and D pairings at the morning skate:
Words From The Room - April 9
Game Preview: Canadiens vs. Lightning
Paul Byron voted the 2015-16 Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy recipient
Alex Galchenyuk named the Canadiens' 2015-16 Molson Cup Player of the Year
The Canadiens hit the ice in Raleigh for one final road practice ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Hurricanes.
- Following practice, head coach Michel Therrien began his media opp with some well wishes for Jacques Demers. The former Canadiens head coach was hospitalized on Wednesday night after suffering a stroke, but is now in stable condition.
“I’d like to take a moment, on behalf of myself and the entire organization, to wish Jacques a speedy recovery. We heard the news this morning, and hope he’s doing better.”
- For the first time since 2001-02, a fifth goaltender in a single season will get the start for the Canadiens on Thursday.
Charlie Lindgren was acquired from the St. Cloud State Huskies in the NCHC a week ago, and with 30 wins in 40 games, the 22-year-old put up a 0.925 save percentage and 2.13 goals against average during his 2015-16 collegiate campaign.
Although the netminder did not meet the media pregame, his teammates were eager to find out what he’s capable of.
“If there’s a position you want a new guy to jump into, it’s goalie. You don’t have to worry as much about systems as some of the other positions,” explained captain Max Pacioretty. “It’s a good spot for him, it’s an opportunity for him to show what he’s made of. At this point of the season there’s not much pressure, so he can go out there and play his game and I’m excited to see how it turns out.”
- The Canadiens conclude their final road trip of the season on Thursday, and will look to the rookie netminder for inspiration.
“We’re always looking for that little extra push right now. At home it’s easy to get motivated, but on the road in a position like this -- two teams that are out of the playoffs -- you sometimes need to search for that extra push,” continued Pacioretty. “Helping him get that first win is a good thing for us to rally around.”
While not exactly a mulligan for last Tuesday, Ryan Johnston, who will be playing his second NHL game on Thursday, agrees.
“Obviously I would have liked to have a win in my first game, but as a goalie it’s probably even more important, because you can be held responsible more than others -- I hope he’s not listening to me say this,” joked the 24-year-old rearguard who made his NHL debut in a 4-1 loss to the Panthers. “It would definitely be good to get him a win.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. from PNC Arena, and will be broadcast live on RDS and Sportsnet.