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Kuhnhackl hoping to join other Germans with Penguins - 07-18-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

 

Finding a San Jose Sharks fan in Landshut, Germany might seem like an odd endeavor. After all, there are just over 5873 miles separating the two cities.

But there was plenty of reasons for Tom Kuhnhackl and countless hockey fans in Germany to root for the California team. During the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, the Sharks employed four of the country's better players in Marco Sturm, Marcel Goc, Thomas Greiss and Christian Ehrhoff.

Three of those players  - Goc, Greiss and Ehrhoff - are now members of the Penguins. Kuhnhackl is hoping he can join them some day.

The son of Erich Kuhnhackl, considered to be the "Wayne Gretzky of Germany," Tom Kuhnhackl will have to improve on the limited success he has experienced as a professional thus far if he hopes to reach the NHL. A fourth-round pick in 2010, Tom Kuhnhackl made his professional debut with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL in 2012-13 but was limited to 11 games and four points due to various injuries. During 2013-14, he was mostly healthy but bounced between AHL and ECHL due in part to a bloated lineup in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton full of established AHL veteran forwards.

With the Penguins not pursuing many AHL free agents this offseason, there would appear to be ample opportunity for Tom Kuhnhackl and other forward prospects to account for more playing time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2013-14.

Kuhnhackl, 22, is attending the Penguins' prospect camp this week. Recently, he talked about his development.

You bounced between the AHL and ECHL last season. Was that difficult?

"I think it was a good thing. A really good experience for me, especially since I didn’t have a good couple of seasons before that with injuries and surgeries before that."

How important was it to simply be healthy for the most part after dealing with injuries in previous seasons?

"It felt great. It was just nice to be a part of the team the whole time. To go on road trips. Just to get to know [teammates] better. Because when you’re hurt, you’re mostly not going on the road trips."

How much of an adjustment has it been getting used to slimmer North American rinks versus wider European rinks these past few seasons?

"I like it. You don’t have as much time. You have to make quick decisions. Good decisions. You don’t have a much time so I like the smaller ice."

Are you trying to get bigger and stronger to play in North America?

"I’m trying to gain weight but you don’t want to be too heavy. I want to be a fast skater. If you’re too heavy, you can’t be fast, right?"

What was it like seeing Germany win the World Cup in soccer Sunday?

"Super excited. It was a great feeling. It’s been 24 years since [the last time] Germany won the World Cup. Unfortunately I couldn’t watch it. I was stuck at the airport. I followed it on Twitter. Obviously, it was a great feeling."

Did you play soccer in Germany?

"Yeah, obviously I’m from Germany. I didn’t have a choice so I played soccer."

How did you get involved in hockey? Through your father?

"Yeah. When you’re young, you just look around, you’re looking through drawers and you find videos and pictures of your dad. You’re wondering, ‘Really, my dad was a hockey player, not a soccer player?’ I asked him and he said ‘Yeah, I played hockey.’ So I decided to play hockey too."

 

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-18-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Josh Archibald (right) is the latest Nebraska-Omaha product to join the Penguins.

-“I really hope to get NHL games. I feel like I’m ready and I’m prepared.” - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Bobby Farnham.

-Former Penguins forward prospect Stephen Dixon has joined Luleå of Sweden's SHL.

Neapolitan ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-“I’m pretty open-minded. Regardless of what happens, if I play or don’t play, I’m ready for anything. I’m looking forward to a new challenge, regardless if it’s outside of hockey or still in hockey with a different organization.” - Unrestricted free agent Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur on his future.

Atlantic Division

-Patrice Brisebois resigned as the Canadiens' director of player personnel.

-The Panthers will place single-game tickets on sale beginning today. The Penguins only road game against the Panthers is Dec. 22.

Central Division

-The Wild re-signed unrestricted free agent goaltender John Curry, a former Penguin, to a one-year two-way contract.

Pacific Division

-The Coyotes have had a pretty quiet offseason.

Adams Division

-Former Predators forward Teemu Laakso has joined the Växjö Lakers of Sweden's SHL.

-Former Robert Morris and Nailers forward Chris Kushneriuk has joined the Florida Everblades of the ECHL.

(Photos: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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Mar'Qywell Jackson rounds out Duquesne's 2014 recruiting class

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

SooDetroit.com

Duquesne received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-5 guard Mar'Qywell Jackson, a UTEP transfer, during his campus visit Thursday. Jackson, an incoming freshman from East English Preparatory Academy in Detroit, enrolled at UTEP this summer before quickly deciding to relocate closer to home.

Jackson made his transfer intentions public with a trio of tweets July 10:

• To the EP miners fan I'm sorry I have to leave...I just want to be closer to home sorry

• But to say I had a great time with the team and coaches

• It's just time to go home and talk things over with my mom and high school coach

"Mar'Qywell came in and tried it and felt it was a little too far from home," Miner coach Tim Floyd told the El Paso Times. "That's one of the things the summer is for. We will release him (from his scholarship) to the school of his choice and we wish him well."

Jackson, a consensus three-star recruit (though Rivals at one point listed him as a four-star), averaged 26 and 24 points, respectively, as a junior and senior. He received interest from a number of big-time schools, including Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, USC and Arizona.

His initial eligibility is unknown, but considering that he both signed a letter of intent and enrolled briefly at UTEP it is likely he will be sidelined for the 2014-15 season. Regardless, he's the final piece to Duquesne's recruiting-class puzzle, joining freshmen TySean Powell and Eric James.

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West Virginia again projected to finish eighth in the Big 12

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

There's a clear distinction between the Haves and the Have Nots in the Big 12, at least in the eyes of the media. The Big 12 media preseason poll was released Thursday, and for the second year in a row it's West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas — in that order — bringing up the rear.

Two years ago, the Mountaineers were selected to finish second, behind Oklahoma, and even received seven first-place votes. But the reality of life in the Big 12 set in and have brought West Virginia hurtling back to earth. Head coach Dana Holgorsen's team went 7-6 in 2012, its first season in the Big 12, and fell out of bowl contention with a 4-8 season in 2013.

Oklahoma, the preseason favorite, received 47 first-place votes, followed by Baylor with nine. West Virginia was a full 127 points behind seventh-place TCU. 

Here is the full 2014 Big 12 preseason poll, with first-place votes in parentheses:

1. Oklahoma (47)
2. Baylor (9)
3. Kansas State
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma State
6. Texas Tech
7. TCU
8. West Virginia
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-17-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Winning the Memorial Cup last season was a big step forward for Penguins goaltending prospect Tristan Jarry (above).

-What do the Penguins' management changes mean for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes?

-"I’m a goal scorer I think so I try to score as many as I can. When you have one chance in overtime, you need to score." - Penguins prospect Anton Zlobin on his reputation of being a clutch goal-scorer in the postseason.

-Taylor Pyatt is considering playing in Europe next season.

Hynes speaks:

-Scott Harrington speaks:

-Brian Dumoulin speaks:

-Jake Hildebrand speaks:

-Former Penguins assistant coach Troy Ward was named head coach of the WHL's Vancouver Giants.

-Former Penguins prospect Casey Pierro-Zabotel has joined the ECHL's Gwinnett Gladiators.

-Happy 57th birthday to former Penguins all-star forward and assistant coach Bryan Trottier. A former Hart Trophy winner and a vital part of the Islanders Stanley Cup dynasty in the early 1980s, Trottier joined the Penguins as a free agent in the 1990 offseason and spent three seasons with the franchise. Providing leadership on a young team missing the talents of injured captain Mario Lemieux for most of the season, Trottier (right) helped guide the squad to its first Patrick Division championship while appearing in 52 games and scoring 28 points in 1990-91. In the playoffs, Trottier appeared in all 23 of the team's games and contributed seven points including two game-winning goals as the franchise claimed its first Stanley Cup title. In 1991-92, Trottier recorded 29 points in 63 games and was selected to the All-Star Game. In the playoffs, he once again appeared in all 21 of the team's games and scored seven points as the franchise won its second consecutive Stanley Cup title. He retired in the 1992 offseason and sat out in 1992-93, but returned as a player/coach in 1993-94. That season, he saw action in 41 games and contributed 15 points. Trottier retired as a player for good in the 1994 offseason and became a full-time assistant with the Penguins. He served in that capacity until the 1997 offseason when he took a head coaching job with the AHL's Portland Pirates.  Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997, Trottier, a noted Brian Bellows fan along with teammate Kevin Stevens,  is one of the most accomplished players in NHL history with 1,425 career points, 16th-most in NHL history. In 156 regular season games with the Penguins, Trottier scored 72 points. In 46 postseason games, he scored 14 points.

-Happy 54th birthday to former Penguins forward Jay Caufield. One of the toughest players in team history, Caufield, a former linebacker at North Dakota, came to the Penguins after being claimed off waivers from the North Stars prior to the 1988-89 season and spent five seasons with the franchise. In 1988-89, Caufield (right) saw action in 58 games and scored five points while racking up a team-leading 285 penalty minutes, a mark which remains a franchise record for rookies. He also appeared in nine playoff games that spring and racked up 28 penalty minutes. Caufield (right) was limited to 37 games in and three points 1989-90 but still compiled 123 penalty minutes. In 1990-91, he only played in 23 games and recorded two points and 71 penalty minutes but still got his name on Stanley Cup that spring. Caufield saw a jump in playing time in 1991-92 as he played in 50 games and recorded 175 penalty minutes and once again helped the team claim a second Stanley Cup title. His final season in the NHL was 1992-93 as he appeared in 26 contests with 60 penalty minutes. He was released in the 1993 offseason. In 196 games with the Penguins, Caufield scored 10 points and recorded 714 penalty minutes, ninth-most in franchise history. After being replaced by a Pittsburgh firefighter in a Stanley Cup final against the Blackhawks, Brad Tolliver Caufield became a personal trainer and helped Mario Lemieux during his comeback in the 2000-01 season. He currently works as a broadcaster with Root Sports.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Rangers signed former Ducks forward Matthew Lombardi to a two-year contract worth $1.6 million. His contract will have a salary cap hit of $800,000. Lombardi, 32, spent last season with Genève-Servette of Switzerland's NLA. In 46 games last season, he scored 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists).

-EN Says: Lombardi is a playmaking center who has dealt with injuries, most notably concussions, throughout his career. He gives the Rangers some bottom-six depth.

Atlantic Division

-The Sabres re-signed restricted free agent forward Tyler Ennis (right) to a five-year contract worth $23 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $2,812,500, Ennis' new contract will have a cap hit of $4.6 million. Appearing in 80 games last season, Ennis, 24, scored 43 points (21 goals, 23 assists).

-EN Says: Ennis was one of the few bright spots for the Sabres last season. Despite a horrible situation with a really bad team in a rebuild, Ennis was able to produce a fair amount of offense. He's a slick waterbug of a skilled winger who has been a fairly consistent 20-goal threat throughout his career. This is a fair contract for a player who will be part of Buffalo's future.

-The Sabres re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.3 million. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $925,000, Ruhwedel's new deal will have a cap hit of $650,000. Appearing in 21 games last season, Ruhwedel, 24, recorded one assists.

-Ruhwedel is a small (6-foot-1, 181 pounds) puck moving defenseman who is probably no better than a bottom-pairing blue liner.

-The Maple Leafs re-signed restricted free agent forward Peter Holland to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.55 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $870,000, Holland's new deal will have a cap hit of $775,000. Appearing in 43 games last season, Holland, 23, scored 11 points (six goals, five assists).

-EN Says: Holland is a former first-round pick of the Ducks who never quite fit in with that organization. He came to Toronto via trade last season and found a role as a fill-in anytime injuries set in. With the departure of Dave Bolland as a free agent, there could be a spot on the NHL roster for Holland this season.

 

-The Bruins re-signed restricted free agent forward Jordan Caron (right) to a one-year contract worth $600,000. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $640,000, Caron, 23, appeared in 35 games last season and scored three points (two goals, one assist).

-Caron is a former first-round pick who has never been able to completely establish himself at the NHL level. He has mostly served as a fit-in for the Bruins anytime injuries have struck. For that role, this contract is more than fair.

 

-The Panthers re-signed restricted free agent forward Brandon Pirri to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.85 million. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $618,333, Pirri's new deal will have a cap hit of $925,000. Appearing in 49 games last season, Pirri scored 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists).

-EN Says: After never really finding a role with the Blackhawks, Pirri was dealt to the Panthers and found a way to produce albeit with a bad team.

Central Division

-“It was not even really a thought of continuing your career anywhere else. I think we’re both happy that we’re locked up here for a while.” - Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane on the identical eight-year $84 million contract extensions he and captain Jonathan Toews signed this offseason.

-How will the Blackhawks manage the salary cap with the Kane and Toews contracts?

-The Jets re-signed restricted free agent forward Carl Klingberg to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Blues signed former Flames defenseman Chris Butler to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Blues signed former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Benn Ferriero to a one-year two-way contract.

Pacific Division

-The Sharks re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Jason Demers (right) to a contract worth a total of $6.8 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1.5 million, Demers' new deal will have a cap hit of $3.4 million. Appearing in 75 games last season, Demers, 26, scored 34 points (five goals, 29 assists).

-EN Says: With Dan Boyle leaving as a free agent, Demers will be expected to take on a bigger role with the Sharks. That means more minutes in every situation. This contract is an endorsement of his abilities to be a more important player.

-What's next for former Penguins forward Paul Bissonnette now that he knows he won't be re-signing with the Coyotes?

-The Oilers hired former Flames/Panthers forward Rocky Thompson as an assistant coach.

(Photos: Kenneth Andersen/Getty Images, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images and Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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