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FIDDLER'S FACTS: NHL break comes while Graves, MacEwen were enjoying strong seasons

Zack MacEwen during an on-ice training session last summer.
Zack MacEwen during an on-ice training session last summer. - Jason Malloy

The NHL’s suspension of play due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) has not only silenced hockey fans everywhere but pushed to the background the strong showings by players with local connections like Colorado’s Ryan Graves and Vancouver’s Zack MacEwen, whose careers are definitely on the rise. 

Graves, the Yarmouth, N.S., native who turned 25 on Thursday started his junior career with the P.E.I. Rocket, and has been the biggest surprise in the NHL this season coming from obscurity to become the plus-minus leader. Meanwhile, MacEwen, a 23-year-old Stratford native, has earned regular playing time with the Canucks, adding grit and ability to score on a team that needed both if they were to enjoy a playoff run. Both are in the final year of their contracts.

 

Ryan Graves trained with other Island professional hockey players at the Pownal Sports Centre during the 2019 off-season.
Ryan Graves trained with other Island professional hockey players at the Pownal Sports Centre during the 2019 off-season.
Starring in the Stanley Cup playoffs will guarantee any player a long look and a likely raise. The unfortunate break for both means they’ll have to repeat the performances all over again. Injuries and a new crop of youngsters coming out of junior and fighting for an NHL contract add to the uncertainty, so let’s hope both get signed to long-term deals.

Having no NHL has likely saved some head coaches and general managers. There are a number of top teams, but a short playoff run will send some bench bosses and GMs to the sidelines permanently. 

Former Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant is in no rush to jump back into the coaching ranks as he’s paid through next season by the Las Vegas Golden Knights. He’s certain to be at the top of the interview list of a number of squads, especially contenders that falter. Gallant is regarded as one of the best in the business and, at this stage of his career, I doubt he’d be too interested in a non-contending team.

Tryon’s Scott Harris is part of the New Jersey Devils’ management group and he’d love nothing better than to see Gallant behind their bench, but I would not bet on it happening. The Devils were a huge disappointment with 68 points when the season was postponed and in a division with Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Columbus, the Islanders and a much-improved New York Rangers, the road back to the Stanley Cup may be a long one. Some people feel Gallant could be headed to Detroit to reunite with his old linemate, Steve Yzerman, but the Red Wings were dead last in the NHL. By the time the Motor City might challenge for the Cup, Gallant could be like Rip Van Winkle.


Local

You may not have noticed UPEI Panthers standout Kameron Kielly has signed a pro contract with the Minnesota Wild’s AHL affiliate. Wild general manager Bill Guerin watched Kameron at the Pittsburgh Penguins rookie camp a couple of years ago and kept track of him. 

The Wild asked for the tapes of three Atlantic University Sport games, two that Kielly chose and one the Wild selected. Based on the tapes and his terrific stats, 42 points in 30 games with a sixth-place club, and an enthusiastic call from Iowa Wild head coach Tim Army, the  Wild sent a contract.

Another player that was hurt by the NHL stoppage is Charlottetown’s Josh Currie, who led the Edmonton Oilers’ AHL farm club in Bakersfield in scoring with 24 goals in 56 games and was a likely call-up had the Oilers advanced to the NHL playoffs. His strong offensive season, coupled with his solid defensive play and the fact he can sign without breaking the bank suggests if he’s not in Edmonton, he’ll land with another NHL team.


Harness racing

The North America Cup eliminations at Mohawk Park have been rescheduled to Aug. 22, the same date as our own The Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer, which will hurt our bet. There are options, change the Gold Cup date or have an afternoon race in Charlottetown.

Exhibition Park in Saint John, N.B., has set qualifying dates for May 30 and June 2 with the first card on June 6. 

Longtime owner Neal Moase, who has raced horses when Mike MacDonald was on the go at Blue Bonnets, appears to have another good one in the great-looking mare Berazzled, p, 1:50:2 a six-year-old daughter of Ohio sire Charley Barley, who has banked $460,000. This past week, she trained in 1:55:4 in Charlottetown for Jonah Moase, which tells me she’ll be on the top of the open mares class. Good luck Neal and Jonah.


Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at fiddlersfacts@hotmail.com.

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