Lots of mailbag questions this week, so let’s get right to them:
With all of the young, small forwards in the system, and with Drouin and Kucherov ready to be the 2 small forwards on the top six in 2 years, do you think that they attempt to re-sign St. Louis or do they let him walk when his contract expires next year? (Donnie D via BP Messageboard)
Yzerman haters won’t believe me, but I think it’s up to Marty. If Marty wants to play for another year or two, I don’t see how Yzerman keeps him off the roster (stop laughing, haters, it’s a lot harder to make Team Canada than it is an NHL club). This is coming from someone who wasn’t surprised by Marty’s omission from Team Canada. As long as Marty will accept a cap-friendly contract and is an asset on the ice, I don’t see why he’s not re-signed. I also, respectfully, don’t think Drouin is in the same “small” category as he’s basically about 6’ tall and plays with a big base.
For Brett Connolly, the first one was the hardest.
The Syracuse Crunch forward, who posted 74 points in 89 games last season, went 10 games before registering his first American Hockey League goal this year. Still, he knew it was only a matter of time before the goals would start flowing.
Connolly finally broke through with a power play goal against Norfolk Dec. 6, turning months of frustration into relief.
"I knew it would come around," Connolly said. "At the start of the year, things weren't going in for me, but I think, in terms of my stats, I'm right back to where I was in the first 22 games last year. Usually it works itself out."
Despite receiving word that he was selected to represent his country at the Olympics, Kristers Gudlevskis is focusing on the task at hand.
The netminder was included on the Latvia men's national hockey team's preliminary roster for the games in Sochi next month, but after finishing practice with the Syracuse Crunch Tuesday, Gudlevskis reiterated what's important to him now.
"I don't concentrate on (the) tournament yet," the 21-year-old said. "I concentrate on the Crunch and do everything possible to win some games, get some points. When I need to go to the Olympics, then I start concentrating on the Olympics."
Defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote is finally making his return to the NHL after a seven year absence after signing a 2-year, 2-way contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday. Cote has been an integral part of the Lightning organization for its AHL squads the last three year, most recently with Syracuse.
In September, we called Cote an "elite player for the Lightning organization" for his mentoring roles with prospects, high character, and all-around likability.
Simply put, there are players with all the skill in the world that kids try to emulate, trying trick shots and near-patented moves. Cote's the type of person and player that a dad will take his son by the shoulders, turn him in Cote's direction, and say "be like him." Even if the kid never makes the NHL, he's a player and person his family can be proud of.
For a second-straight season, Vladislav Namestnikov spent most of December watching from the stands.
After getting off to more than a point per game pace, the Syracuse Crunch center had his sophomore season interrupted when he required surgery on his left hand, which was broken from blocking a shot against Hamilton at the Bell Centre in Montreal Nov. 22. The 21-year-old is now counting the days until he can return to the lineup.
"I'm even hungrier now," Namestnikov said. "I just want to get back as soon as possible. I can't wait."