Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Hextall Joins the Flyers (Again)

The father has helped the son.

Former University of North Dakota forward Brett Hextall will join the Philadelphia Flyers organization, where his dad, Ron, once tended net and now serves as general manger. He has signed a one-year minor-league contract, according to nj.com.

The younger Hextall will be assigned to the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate in Lehigh Valley. He tallied 39 goals and 42 assists for 81 points in 115 career collegiate games with the then-Fighting Sioux from 2008 to 2011, according to his stats page at uscho.com.

A 5’10”, 186-pound California native, Hextall also put up 254 penalties in three seasons while helping UND to three NCAA Tournament berths, two Western Collegiate Hockey Association championships, and two WCHA regular-season crowns. He was chosen in the sixth round by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft after playing junior hockey with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League.

Hextall turned pro in 2011 and has spent the past three years with Portland (AHL), with whom he put up a career-high 11-12—23 points and 83 PIM in 59 appearances last season, as noted at hockeydb.com. In three campaigns with the Pirates, he registered 27-26—53 points and 221 PIM in 197 regular-season outings.

Hextall is a fourth-generation professional player, following his father Ron, his grandfather Bryan Hextall Jr., his great-grandfather Bryan Hextall Sr., and his great uncle Dennis Hextall.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Milnao Chooses OHL over BC

It was reported last week (while I was on vacation, of course) that Boston College incoming freshman forward Sonny Milano decided to instead sign with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, as reported at uscho.com. He was the Columbus Blue Jackets first-round draft choice (16th overall) at this year's NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia.

Truthfully, I never believed that Milano, who had originally committed to Notre Dame, was ever going to wind up in Chestnut Hill. He possesses superlative skills, particularly stickhandling, but scouting reports have also said he often overhandles the puck and tries to do too much out on the ice. Maybe BC head coach Jerry York could have weaned him off of that, and also made him a better all-around player. 

Though Milano said several times that he was committed to BC, I felt I'd only fully believe it when I saw him suited up in maroon and gold. He could have developed just as well playing at Conte Forum for a year or two instead of jumping right away to major juniorbut now we’ll never know.

Honestly, I’m more excited about Milano’s former U.S. National Team Development Program teammate Alex Tuch joining the Eagles this season. They need more big bodies up front to crash the boards and the net, and the Minnesota Wild’s first-round selection (18th overall) this year has good size (6-foot-3, 213 lbs.) and possesses a rocket shot. He should do well in supplementing BC’s usual crop of smaller, skilled forwards.

Mike Vellucci of Plymouth is a good coach and should get a lot out of Milano, who simply may have also just wanted to play hockey and not deal with the academic side of the college hockey equation. While he’s chasing a Memorial Cup, though, Milano may wonder “what if” himself, especially if the Eagles secure another NCAA championship or two over the next few years.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Fedorchuk to Join Nanook Hall of Fame

An old friend of mine, Dean Fedorchuk, will be feted with the ultimate honor from the University of Alaska Fairbanks next month, 20 years after he played his final game for the Blue and Gold.

The Nanooks’ second all-time leading scorer with 215 points and their all-time leading goal scorer with 113 goals, the Winnipeg native will be inducted into the Nanook Hall of Fame in late September along with former UAF head coach Guy Gadowsky, now the head coach at Penn State after a seven-year spell at Princeton.

Fedorchuk, who played professionally in Europe for 14 seasons after North American stints with Kalamazoo (IHL) and Dayton (ECHL), was one of the most exciting players to ever appear in a Nanook uniform. I should know—I was working at UAF and had the privilege of watching him score 29 goals as a sophomore in 1991-92, including a hat trick and then a spectacular buzzer-beating marker against rival Alaska Anchorage at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

The Nanooks’ No. 3 collected a nation-high 42 goals as senior in 1993-94 when he was also a First-Team All-America selection and a Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist. No NCAA Division I player has scored 40 goals in a single season since. Fedorchuk also tied for the national scoring lead with teammate Tavis MacMillan that season with 74 points as the Nanooks finished 24-13-1 and boasted one of the top power-plays in the nation. MacMillan, a former Nanook player, assistant coach and head coach, was inducted into the Nanook Hall of Fame in 2009.

Fedorchuk later played seven seasons in Germany, where he tallied 185 goals and 361 points in 298 games. He spent his first five years there with Neuweid EHC where he recorded back-to-back campaigns of 82 and 96 points in his first two campaigns, respectively. He later went on to play seven seasons in Denmark, and has also served as a scout with his hometown Winnipeg Jets.

Fedorchuk also coached for three years in Denmark and another in Sweden, before ultimately taking an assistant coaching position in Croatia with Medvescak Zagreb (KHL), where he remains today. He still summers in Fairbanks, where he runs the annual ALCAN Hockey Camps , and will be the third UAF hockey player to be inducted into the Nanook Hall of Fame along with MacMillan and all-time leading scorer Steve Moria.

Congrats, Feds!