Monday, August 31, 2009

Bobby Hughes Traded For Rob Hennigar

Rob Hennigar
(Photo by James West)

The Carolina Hurricanes have traded center Bobby Hughes to the New York Islanders in exchange for center Rob Hennigar.

The 26-year-old Hennigar, last listed at 5-foot-11, 194 pounds, split his first professional season in 2008-09 between the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies.

In 38 contests with the Grizzlies, Hennigar tallied 15 goals and 44 assists for 59 points. With the Sound Tigers, he landed 13 points (3 G, 10 A) in 34 games.

The Jordan, Ontario-native spent the previous four years at the University of New Brunswick. He led his team in scoring for four consecutive seasons, shattering university records with 177 points, including 131 assists, in 108 career games. In 2007-08, Hennigar was named Canadian college player-of-the-year.

Prior to getting his education, Hennigar spent four seasons with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. In 278 OHL contests with Windsor, he racked up an impressive 92 goals and 152 assists for 244 points.

Now acquired by Carolina, Hennigar is scheduled to skate somewhere between Albany and Florida in 2009-10.

Taking Hennigar's spot in Bridgeport will be Bobby Hughes, who spent the past two seasons with the River Rats.

Originally from Richmond Hill, Ontario, the 21-year-old Hughes, last listed at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, is one of several Rats to be crippled by an unlucky streak of injuries.

In two years with Albany, Hughes was limited to only 53 contests.

Drafted by Carolina in the fourth round in 2006, Hughes officially kicked off his professional career in 2007. He played just 26 games before suffering a season-ending neck injury. He marked a solid 16 points before his rhythm was interrupted.

In 2008-09, Hughes played seven games early in the season, but was put back on the shelf until mid-February, just in time to be re-injured in the team's bus crash. Hughes was cleared to play in March and skated in 16 games during the final stretch, notching two goals and two assists.

From 2003 to 2007, Hughes spent four years with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. In his final junior year, Hughes was one of the league's top ten scorers, landing 96 points (40 G, 56 A) in 59 regular season games.

If Hughes can stay healthy, he should develop into a nice prospect for the Isles.

According to the Hurricanes' press release, completion of the trade is subject to a physical of Hughes by 3 p.m. on Thursday.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ranking the Top Twenty

Hockey's Future ranks the Hurricanes' top 20 prospects.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Boychuk Rookie-of-the-Year?

The Hockey News has rated Carolina prospect Zach Boychuk as one of the top ten candidates for rookie-of-the-year. The accuracy of the report is a little questionable, as Boychuk is expected to play the majority of next season in Albany, but it sure speaks volumes for the depth of the organization.

It also brings up an interesting topic. The article notes that Boychuk will have "every chance" to make the NHL "as Rod Brind’Amour begins to show signs of his age."

Although Boychuk is probably not the leading candidate for the job, the Canes could be interested in a fifth center. Michael Ryan? Brandon Sutter? Zach Boychuk? The gig could be up for grabs.

General Manager Jim Rutherford recently said he expects Brind'Amour to "play a big role" with the Hurricanes next season, possibly on the second line. If this is the case, a fresh River Rat would probably be preferred over a stale spectator as the back-up middle man. But we'll just have to wait and see.

Manzato Signs in Switzerland

"Daniel Manzato will return to Switzerland for the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Early Roster Predictions

With about six weeks to go before opening night, things are shaping up quite nicely for the River Rats. Offense, defense and goaltending all look solid.

Last season's rock between the pipes, Justin Peters, and his new partner, two-time OHL goalie-of-the-year Mike Murphy, are set to be a dynamic duo. Ensuring depth in net, former NHL'er Mike Morrison will be just a call away in Florida.

Defensively, the team is stacked with talented heavy hitters and point snipers.
The familiar faces of Casey Borer and Brett Carson will likely become essential elements of the Rats' blue line. The newly acquired Jay Harrison will provide leadership and experience. On the physical side, Zack Fitzgerald, if reports are true, should be the opposition's worst nightmare. Carolina may steal Bryan Rodney for his offensive abilities, but rookie sensation Jamie McBain should be able to fill any void at the point. The additions of Brett Bellemore and Jonathan Paiement will provide additional depth.

Up front, the Rats are loaded with explosive young prospects.
Potential future stars Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman are expected to crack the pros with a bang. Playmaker Brandon Sutter will lead the team at center. Jerome Samson will attempt to defend his title as top scorer. Rookie prospects Chris Terry and Matthew Pistilli will bring all-around skill and character. Nick Dodge will return for his second pro season, looking to build on his stellar rookie performance. Steven Goertzen will provide grit and toughness. Michael Ryan, Pat Dwyer and Mike Angelidis should all be back as reliable staple power forwards. Nicolas Blanchard, all healed up from the bus crash, will be eager to play and produce points. Stefan Chaput will be back from last year's knee injury to complete the breakout season he never finished. Also available in the system will be Harrison Reed, Rob Hennigar and possibly Jacob Micflikier, Brad Herauf and Yannick Tifu, all of whom will likely play in Florida.

This time around, there will be no shortage of talented skaters. The Rats should be a very competitive team, especially if the first-year forwards adapt well to the pros.

Names could still be added or subtracted, but as of now, this is what your 2009-10 Albany River Rats will look like...

Justin Peters
Mike Murphy
Mike Morrison

Bryan Rodney
Jay Harrison
Casey Borer (neck surgery 9/21/2009)
Brett Carson
Jamie McBain
Zack Fitzgerald
Jonathan Paiement
Brett Bellemore

Benn Olson (added 9/10/09)

Brandon Sutter
Jerome Samson
Drayson Bowman
Zach Boychuk
Michael Ryan
Pat Dwyer
Nick Dodge
Chris Terry
Nicolas Blanchard
Steven Goertzen
Stefan Chaput
Mike Angelidis
Matthew Pistilli
Harrison Reed
Rob Hennigar (added 8/31/09)
Jacob Micflikier (added 9/10/09)
Brad Herauf (added 9/10/09)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Signing of Yelle Bodes Well For Albany

"The signing of Stephane Yelle means that Brandon Sutter and his rookie cohorts will get a chance to work together and develop chemistry in Albany," writes Bubba over at Canes Country.

Morrison happy to be home

Goaltender Mike Morrison is glad to be back in North America. Lindsay Kramer has the story at

Thursday, August 13, 2009

2009-10 Schedule Released

As expected, the AHL today released the 2009-10 schedule. The Rats' full schedule looks like this...

The Rats' website has a rundown.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rumor: Rats Sign Jacob Micflikier

Keith Wozniak, who covers the Rochester Americans, has heard through the grapevine that the Rats' have signed forward Jacob Micflikier.

Last season Micflikier spent time with the Amerks and the Florida Everblades. Rochester shares their ECHL affiliate with the Rats.

A couple of weeks ago, Malcolm Cameron, coach of the Blades, told the Naples Daily News that Micflikier had "received interest from a few AHL teams, as well as a couple of options in Europe."

Wozniak writes: "Supposedly Jacob Micflikier has/is signing with the Albany River Rats but I have not been able to confirm it."

If we hear anything official, we'll let you know.

AHL Schedule Tomorrow at 4pm

The league says it is finally ready to release the 2009-10 schedule. Expect an announcement tomorrow at 4pm.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rats Add Depth in Net

Goaltender Mike Morrison
(Photo by Bill Manley)

The River Rats have picked up veteran netminder Mike Morrison on a two-way AHL/ECHL deal.

With seven professional seasons under his belt, Morrison, a 30-year-old native of Medford, Massachusetts, will bring experience and depth in net.

Morrison will start the 2009-10 season with Albany's affiliate in the ECHL, the Florida Everblades. He may become Justin Peters' back-up should rookie Mike Murphy need additional conditioning. Morrison will also be prepared to step up in the event of an injury.

The 6-foot-3 netminder has spent most of his days as a back-up.

Morrison began his professional career in 2002 after finishing four years at the University of Maine. He served as the Black Bears back-up until his senior year, when he played 30 games and registered a 2.19 GAA and a .921 save percentage.

Morrison was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the seventh round in 1998. He has played professional hockey in every corner of North America, from Ottawa, to Edmonton, to Phoenix, to South Carolina. But despite playing at a variety of levels, Morrison has had trouble finding a job as a go-to starter.

Morrison has notched 86 AHL games and another 77 in the ECHL. He saw time in 29 NHL contests with the Oilers, Senators and Coyotes. Last season, Morrison played in Austria and Sweden.

Morrison spent 2007-08 with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, playing a career high 43 games. He finished the season with five shut outs, a GAA of 2.80 and a .911 save percentage.

In 2005-06, Morrison played in 21 games with the Edmonton Oilers, ending his longest NHL stint with a record of 10 wins, 4 losses and 2 ties. He finished with a 2.83 GAA and a .884 SV%.

"He may never be a No. 1 in the NHL," said Oilers scout Chris McCarthy, "but I wouldn't count him out to be a backup someday with someone. He's got heart, and he's a competitor."

"He's got good size, and moves well for a big guy," McCarthy said of Morrison. "He has good quickness, and challenges shooters, but he needs work with controlling rebounds, and staying focused with the task at hand, but he's learning that now and is giving it his best effort to be a good pro."

“(Albany) jumped on (Morrison) right away,” said Malcolm Cameron, coach of the Florida Everblades, to the Naples Daily News. “They wanted to have a good goaltender in the system, and with the experience that Mike has it works really well for them. ... If you’re going to pull a goaltender up from the ECHL, it helps to have a good veteran in the organization."

Now that Morrison has signed a two-way deal with Albany, he his set to start next season with the Florida Everblades. According to the Blades' press release, he will attend training camp in Albany and then be assigned to the ECHL.

Hurricanes to Participate in Prospects Tournament

The Hurricanes will be participating in the 8-team NHL Prospects Tournament next month. Rats' coaches Jeff Daniels and Geordie Kinnear will be behind the bench. Below is the team's full roster.

Valiquette, Alain
Murphy, Mike

McBain, Jamie
Jordan, Michal
Day, Josh
Schmitz, Beau
Reid, Elgin
Rissanen, Rasmus
Bellemore, Brett

Boychuk, Zach
Sutter, Brandon
Bowman, Drayson
Paradis, Philippe
Kennedy, Matt
Pistilli, Matt
Reed, Harrison
Chaput, Stephan
Terry, Chris
Morneau, Samuel
McCrae, Justin
Dodge, Nick

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Healed Borer ready to play again

Chip Alexander of the News & Observer catches up with Albany defenseman Casey Borer.

Hurricanes confidence brimming with new season

Writer Brian Compton covers the Hurricanes' "States of the Union," "Prospect Roundup," and "Draft Recap" for

(Note: Ignore the "offseason transaction" box. It is not accurate. Also, Zach Boychuk played in Carolina at the beginning of the 2008-09 season, not the end as the writer states. And oddly, there is no mention of Chris Terry, who finished last season as the OHL's second highest scorer and signed a three-year entry level deal this May.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

With Options Limited, Manzato Considers Europe

Articles are roughly translated from French, German and Italian.

Daniel Manzato Still Waiting
Daniel Manzato Still Not Fixed
Manzato Studied in Switzerland

According to this latest article, Manzato plans to return to Switzerland.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rutherford: Canes Set on Defense

Hurricanes' General Manager Jim Rutherford reiterates his position on next year's defense, revealing to the Raleigh News & Observer that restricted free agent Anton Babchuk will likely be traded for future draft picks or a young prospect.

Introducing Zach Boychuk

Zach Boychuk
(Photo by Jim McNally)

This 5-foot-10, 180-pound multi-skilled forward, selected 14th overall in the first round in 2008, is considered to be one of the top prospects entering professional hockey this season.

Only 19-years-old, Zach Boychuk is best known for his explosive speed, dynamic puck control and instinctive hockey senses.

Boychuk, originally from Airdrie, Alberta, compares his style to that of Sidney Crosby or Daniel Brière. Rats' fans may view him as a slightly larger version of Brian Gionta or Zach Parise, perhaps Patrik Elias with a bit less razzle dazzle. Any comparison, however, does not do the young skater justice.

Boychuk, nick-named "Chucker," is unique in his own right. Spawned from the ice-cold youth rinks of Alberta, he is a natural-born playmaker and goal-scorer. Some may say hockey skills are written into his genetic code.

"I started skating when I was two-years-old. My mom tells me I always had a stick in my hands,” Boychuk said in a 2008 interview. "I just had a passion for hockey. When I was young I was always playing street hockey on the cul-de-sac, and that is pretty much what I'd do all day when I wasn't at school."

Boychuk joined his first ice hockey team when he was only six. Ten years later, at the age of 16, he had earned a spot on the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League.

In four seasons with Lethbridge, Boychuk scored 310 points (130 G, 180 A) in 272 junior career games. Last season, he stacked up 70 points (35 G, 35 A) in just 54 contests, proving to be one of the league's most skilled forwards.

Boychuk also represented his country at several international competitions. Most notably, he helped lead Canada to back-to-back gold medal victories at the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2008 and 2009.

At the 2008 World Championship Boychuk played alongside fellow Carolina prospect Brandon Sutter. The two are said to be good friends.

Boychuk skated in two contests with Carolina at the beginning of last season, but was reassigned to juniors for further development.

Zach Boychuk
(Photo by Jennifer Bock)

After finishing the 2008-09 season with Lethbridge, Boychuk joined Albany for the Rats' two final contests. He notched his first professional point in a game against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins on April 10th.

Boychuk, who inked a three-year, entry level deal with Carolina in 2008, will officially kick off his professional career this October. If all things remain equal, a winking River Rat will be sewn to his sweater for most of 2009-10.

Fans in Albany will undoubtedly enjoy his presence. All reports suggest his speed, talent, and drive are extremely fun to watch.

"Zach is a pure athlete," said Boychuk's coach in Lethbridge Mike Dyck. "Everything that we do whether it’s on or off the ice seems to come very easily to him. He’s got unbelievable athletic ability and because of that he’s a great skater, he handles the puck at a high speed, he really does everything at high speed and that’s what separates him from the average player . . . not too many guys can do what he does on a consistent basis."

In 2008, E.J. McGuire, NHL Director of Central Scouting, commented: "Zach is a skilled, see the ice type forward. He quarterbacks the power-play and might be the best two-step quickness guy in all of junior hockey. In two steps he is at top speed and he can hit the brakes and delay the play with the best of them as well. Zach is an all-around offensive player who sees the ice well and is just a treat to watch."

Some scouting reports warn that Boychuk may not have the size to compete professionally, but the Hurricanes disagree.

"He’s a high-energy player with grit and skill, and he knows how to score," said Canes' amateur scouting director
Tony MacDonald. "He’s not a real big guy, but it’s not an issue with him. He plays big. He uses the body well. He hits. He works. He’s a solid two-way hockey player, and an exciting player to boot."

"This kid's a goal-scorer, a sniper," said
MacDonald. "He can put the puck in the net. He'll go to the net and he's elusive and slippery. ... He's a more complete player than a lot of the bigger guys available. He's got a better pedigree."

"When you have a player that size," said Canes' GM
Jim Rutherford, "there are certain things that a player needs to be able to do. He has to have really good hockey sense. He has to be really quick. He passes the test on that. We’re fine with his size."

“He’s a highly-skilled guy," said Rutherford. "He has great speed, great hands, and he should have a great future with us."