Getting closer to the start of summer, there have been a few things rolling around that don’t get a whole blog post dedicated to it, but have built up enough to warrant one now. In sum,
— Pittsburgh signed Juuso Riikola to an entry level contract. He’s a Finnish defenseman. Undrafted, steady handed puck mover was second on his Liiga team in points last year.
— The guys from the Pittsburgh faction of The Athletic had a feature piece on him that you can, as long as you are a subscriber, can check out here.
— Lukas Bengtsson made it official and signed in the SHL for next season. It’s a three year contract. Don’t be surprised if the Penguins simply protect his North American rights going forward, but his days are done on Coal Street.
— There is a new ECHL team in St. Johns, Newfoundland and they have a kick ass logo. They will be a Toronto affiliate.
— Etienne Marcoux, who was one of 167 goaltenders the Penguins used at the position last season, earned himself an AHL deal with the Laval Rocket.
— Wheeling has a new head coach. His name is Mark Dennehy. He has ties with Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan. A great hire.
— The AHL extended Dave Andrews through 2020.
— Ex-Penguin Bobby Farnham re-signed with the Springfield Thunderbirds.
— Mama, it’s those men again. Another Athletic piece on Jordy Bellerive, who is a man against boys with Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League. He may make NHL team out fo camp in the fall, but if he doesn’t, he will need to go back to the Hurricanes because he’s too young to play in the AHL.
Hitting on the news, I don’t see Riikola coming over here to play 50+ games in the AHL personally, but if he wants to learn the North American game he may have to….Dennehy is a good hire because he did more with less at tiny Merrimack College which was a small fish in the big pond known as college hockey in the Northeast….There are a lot of things I don’t like about the AHL (teams playing 68 games, linesmen who are in over their heads on a nightly basis, a training ground for referees who are cast in a bigger spotlight who are sometimes in the same boat, the high price of AHL Live, etc.) but the one constant is Andrews and his vision has catapulted the AHL into the second best brand of hockey in North America and some would say the world. The League will be at 31 teams in 2018-19 with the inclusion of the Colorado Eagles and may get to 32 if NHL Seattle is granted a franchise, so what better man to keep running the ship than Andrews. It was said that he was close to retiring, but he was talked into staying around for a little while longer. The League will be better for it.
Toronto swept Lehigh Valley in four games and Texas dispatched pesky Rockford in six. These two will play for the Calder Cup starting Saturday in Toronto.
That’s pretty much it. When news builds up on me I’ll drop another post in, but for now enjoy the warm weather.