Sunday, July 31, 2016

{allcanada} Top prospects for Maple Leafs


The Toronto Maple Leafs have placed a high priority on acquiring speed and skill through the NHL Draft and in trades. In an attempt to change the culture of the organization, Toronto is grooming prospects from within.

Many of the Maple Leafs' top prospects had success in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies, and some are expected to push for jobs in the NHL this season.

Here are the Maple Leafs' top five prospects, according to

1. Auston Matthews, C

How acquired: Selected with No. 1 pick of 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: Zurich (Swiss League): 36 GP, 24-22-46

Matthews, 18, was the top pick in June after playing professionally for Zurich SC in Switzerland last season. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native is a solid package of speed and skill, at his best when the game is on the line. He looked very much at ease playing for the United States at the 2016 IIHF World Championship.

"He is the real deal," said Marc Crawford, who coached Matthews (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) in Switzerland. "He reminds me a lot of (Los Angeles Kings forward) Anze Kopitar with how he carries his speed and drives to the net and the overall game that he has. He has an NHL shot and the quickness and agility in the offensive zone of a Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames forward)."

2. William Nylander, C

How acquired: Selected with No. 8 pick of 2014 NHL Draft

Last season: Maple Leafs: 22 GP, 6-7-13; Toronto (AHL): 38 GP, 18-27-45

A gifted offensive force, Nylander, 20, looked right at home during a 22-game audition with the Maple Leafs last season. Strong on his feet and hard to knock off the puck, Nylander (5-foot-11, 190) has an NHL shot, featuring a quick release. He put up good numbers in the AHL, with 77 points (32 goals, 45 assists) in 75 games over two seasons, but his performance slipped in the playoffs.

3. Mitchell Marner, C

How acquired: Selected with No. 4 pick of 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: London (OHL): 57 GP, 39-77-116

Marner, 19, was the most decorated player in junior hockey last season, leading London of the Ontario Hockey League to the Memorial Cup title. He had 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 18 playoff games with the Knights and two goals and 12 assists in four Memorial Cup games.

After three seasons of junior, Marner (5-foot-11, 160) likely has learned as much as he can at that level and is likely to at least start the season with the Maple Leafs, who hope he is able to report to camp in the neighborhood of 170 pounds. Despite being slight, Marner's game has an edge to it.

4. Nikita Soshnikov, LW

How acquired: Signed as free agent, March 20, 2015

Last season: Toronto: 11 GP, 2-3-5; Toronto (AHL): 52 GP, 18-10-28

Soshnikov, 22, was among a handful of prospects given a look with the Maple Leafs late last season and seemingly passed the audition, playing with speed and physicality with a willingness to play the role of an agitator. The 5-11, 186-pound left wing is best suited for third- or fourth-line duty but has shown a nice touch around the net that suggests he'll be a reliable secondary scorer in the League.

5. Nikita Zaitsev, D

How acquired: Signed as free agent, May 2, 2016

Last season: CSKA Moscow (KHL): 46 GP, 8-18-26

The Maple Leafs have had their eyes on Zaitsev, 24, for the past year and expect him to crack their top six this season. Zaitsev's 13 points were tied for most among KHL defensemen in playoff scoring last season. He also played for Russia in the IIHF World Championship, where he was named to the all-star team.

Zaitsev (6-foot-1, 176) is solid on his skates, tough to beat in 1-on-1 puck battles and has a hard shot from the point.

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{allcanada} Reasons for optimism, questions facing Maple Leafs


The Toronto Maple Leafs have resisted the temptation of a quick fix over the past few years. Unlike previous regimes that promised to be patient and then jumped the gun by making a big trade that cost them youth and draft picks, president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Lou Lamoriello continue to build through the draft.

If Toronto remains on that path, homegrown talent will ultimately form the nucleus of the Maple Leafs when they make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here are four reasons for optimism entering this season:

1. Brendan Shanahan's in charge

The future of the Maple Leafs is directly tied to Shanahan's vision. A strong personality, Shanahan was not intimidated by bringing other powerful voices into the mix, including coach Mike Babcock and Lamoriello. Shanahan is a proven winner, as are his coach and GM. Lamoriello said his initial goal was to bridge the gap between entitlement and responsibility on and off the ice. He may be old-fashioned in his handling of players, but discipline was needed and Shanahan knew Lamoriello was the man for the job.

2. Mike Babcock's strong voice

The Maple Leafs paid a premium to get the man they considered to be the best coach in the world. Toronto finished 30th in the NHL in Babcock's first season, but there was a noticeable improvement in play and discipline. Babcock is very rigid in how he wants his players to perform, and that can grate on the nerves of veterans. However, with Toronto predominantly a young team, the coach has a captive audience. Babcock has very high expectations of his players, and those who do not toe the line will not be tolerated. There is a reason Babcock has been invited to coach Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and why he was behind the bench for the past two Olympic gold medal teams: He gets the most out of his players.

3. Frederik Andersen is the No. 1 goaltender

Coming off a season when he shared the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest number of goals (with Anaheim Ducks teammate John Gibson), the Maple Leafs believe Andersen is the answer to their goaltending concerns. They were so convinced of that, they traded the No. 30 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to acquire him from the Ducks.

Andersen (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), who will be 27 when the season begins, is entering the prime of his career and will be given every opportunity in Toronto. He began last season 0-6-1 when the Ducks struggled but wound up 22-9-7.

If the Maple Leafs continue to improve defensively, Andersen will be a big part.

4. Patience is paying off

For years it was said Maple Leafs fans would never put up with a tear-down and rebuild. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leafs Nation has grown frustrated with quick fixes that simply did not work.

Shanahan and his group have made it very clear to the fans they will not do that. Fans watched patiently last season when prospects were inserted into the lineup and gave them a glimpse of the future. Perhaps not all the young players will make the Maple Leafs, but there were enough quality performances to conclude the organization is moving in the right direction.

Here are three key questions facing the Maple Leafs:

1. How soon can the young nucleus contribute?

Forwards Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitchell Marner have been projected to be elite scorers in the League. How quickly they become impact players will play a huge role in how quickly the Maple Leafs return to the playoffs. Matthews will likely get the chance to be the No. 1 center, and centers Nylander and Marner could start off playing wing. The Maple Leafs ranked 28th in goals last season (192) and could use a boost on offense. Forward Josh Leivo, on the bubble to make the team after signing a two-year contract, had five goals in 12 games last season. Veteran left wing James van Riemsdyk will make a healthy return after missing 42 games with a broken foot.

2. Can Frederik Andersen give the Maple Leafs a minimum of 60 games?

Andersen split the workload with Gibson in Anaheim last season, when most of the best goalies in the NHL were playing 60 or more games. Braden Holtby, winner of the Vezina Trophy as the League's best goalie, played 66 games for the Washington Capitals. That will be the expectation for Andersen this season. In three NHL seasons, Andersen has appeared in 28, 54 and 43 games. Playing behind Babcock's defensive system, a minimum of 60 games should be doable.

3. Will a leader emerge?

Toronto did not anoint a new captain after Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9. There has been some sentiment that fourth-year defenseman Morgan Rielly would be a suitable replacement, but he is 22 years old and the Maple Leafs don't seem eager to give the role to such a young player. It could be they will wait for Matthews to establish himself and then name him captain, in the way the Edmonton Oilers seem to be waiting for Connor McDavid to grow into that role.

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{allcanada} Inside look at Toronto Maple Leafs


When Mike Babcock took over as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to last season, he said there would be pain in the coming years.

The Maple Leafs finished 29-42-11, the worst record in the NHL, but a funny thing happened on the way to getting the No. 1 pick in 2016 NHL Draft: Leafs Nation appeared to endorse the careful rebuilding of an organization that has not won the Stanley Cup since 1967.

Toronto fans accepted the last-place finish because it gave the Maple Leafs the best odds of winning the NHL Draft Lottery, which they did, and allowed them to choose center Auston Matthews.

"We got a lot better (adding Matthews)," Babcock told the Maple Leafs website. "Lou [Lamoriello] is a better general manager, I am a better coach and the team is way better ... [Matthews is] going to be a dominant center for the [Maple] Leafs with and without the puck. He's going to be a championship-type center."

Matthews, 19 on Sept. 17, is the Maple Leafs' first legitimate No. 1 center since Mats Sundin left in 2008, and they have a dependable No. 1 goalie, Frederik Andersen, who was acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks for the 30th pick in the 2016 draft and a second-round pick in 2017.

"Whenever you have a goaltender of this magnitude, of this success, it breeds confidence from the defense through the forwards and from the forwards through the defense," Lamoriello said. "We feel that it's a necessity with the growth and where we're at."

Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and Lamoriello have vowed to patiently construct a team that, once it gets good, will be good for a long time, and there is every reason to believe the additions of Matthews and Andersen helped set the stage for a Stanley Cup Playoff push. Toronto has made the playoffs once in the past 11 years.

This will be the Maple Leafs' third season under Shanahan, who has made significant changes to the culture of the organization. He hired Babcock and signed him to an eight-year contract reportedly worth $50 million. Shanahan also brought in Lamoriello, who helped the New Jersey Devils win three Stanley Cup championships.

"Our goal is to really just be the best that we can be," Shanahan told The Canadian Press this offseason. "... We had a lot of good things last year obviously, and I think that we're pointing [in] the right direction with a lot of the work from Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello. And now it's just a matter of growing and growing together."

Shanahan, who won the Stanley Cup three times as a player and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013, spent his first year on the job analyzing what Toronto had and then made significant transactions that have reshaped the Maple Leafs.

In the past couple of years, Toronto traded forward David Clarkson, captain Dion Phaneuf and right wing Phil Kessel, who led the Maple Leafs in scoring in each of his six seasons. This summer, Toronto traded goalie Jonathan Bernier to Anaheim.

Prior to the past two seasons, the Maple Leafs signed a number of veterans they ultimately moved before the NHL Trade Deadline, mostly for draft picks.

The Maple Leafs' newest additions now will come from within; Matthews and forwards William Nylander and Mitchell Marner are expected to make the team this season.

Nylander, 20, was the No. 8 pick in the 2014 draft and was leading the American Hockey League in scoring last season when he left to play for Sweden at the IIHF World Junior Championship. Nylander was injured in that tournament but wound up joining the Maple Leafs for 22 games, when he had six goals and seven assists.

Marner, 19, was chosen No. 4 in the 2015 draft and has one year of junior eligibility remaining. He was the Ontario Hockey League most valuable player, the Canadian Hockey League player of the year, and MVP of the Memorial Cup for victorious London. He likely has outgrown junior hockey.

"We're going the right way," Babcock said. "We're not trying to maintain. That maintain part is what kills you. It's not easy to win in this League. But now, and this is no word of a lie, we're loaded with kids. Real kids. There's five or six who are going to score big-time in the NHL."

One of the players Toronto traded, rugged defenseman Roman Polak, re-signed with the Maple Leafs, and they signed 24-year-old defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, who played the past seven seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.

After a few years of concentrating on acquiring skill, Toronto took aim at adding size and signed free agent left wing Matt Martin from the New York Islanders. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Martin brings an abrasive style and led the NHL with 365 hits (4.6 per game) last season.

The Maple Leafs auditioned a number of prospects last season, including forwards Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, Josh Leivo, Nikita Soshnikov, Kasperi Kapanen and Frederik Gauthier, the No. 21 pick of the 2013 draft; defensemen Connor Carrick, Viktor Loov, Rinat Valiev; and goaltender Garret Sparks. Each is expected to push some of the veterans for a job next season.

Pain, it seems in Toronto, has been replaced by light at the end of the tunnel.

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{allcanada} Hajrullahu's five field goals lead Argonauts past Redblacks


OTTAWA — Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu counted for 16 of the Toronto Argonauts points Sunday night, but it was the two points in the standings that gave him the most satisfaction.

Hajrullahu's fifth field goal of the night — from 53-yards out with 1:15 to play in the game — gave the visiting Argonauts a 23-20 win over the Redblacks and first place in the East Division, one point ahead of Ottawa.

"We had a great week of practice and I was trusting my holder and my snapper and my protection and that's all I needed," said Hajrullahu, who also had a punt single.

"Now we're going into the bye week and now we're going in with a win otherwise it would leave a bad taste in your mouth. Now we can go home for the whole week and enjoy it."

Redblacks kicker Chris Milo made a 55-yard field goal with a little more than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter to tie the game 20-20.

Toronto's Logan Kilgore, making his first CFL start in place of the injured Ricky Ray, went 25-of-42 passing for 322 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.

"I thought he played a hell of a game," said Argos coach Scott Milanovich.

"We started a little slow offensively, much of which wasn't his fault. He just kept plugging and got better as the game went on. I was impressed with his poise and his ability to move the pocket and make some plays."

Ottawa's Henry Burris, making his return to the lineup after injuring the pinky finger on his throwing hand in Week 1, was 20-of-34 passing for 218 yards, with one touchdown and two picks.

Hajrullahu's 24-yard field goal at 8:38 of the fourth quarter gave the Argonauts (4-2) a 20-17 lead.

After a drive stalled on an overturned call that would have given the Redblacks (3-1-1) a first down, Milo kicked a 50-yard field goal at 10:41 to level the score at 17-17.

A 37-yard field goal from Hajrullahu at 2:51 of the quarter had given the Argonauts a 17-14 lead.

The teams traded touchdowns early in the third quarter and it was Kilgore striking first as he connected with Kenny Shaw on a 30-yard passing play at 4:07. Hajrullahu converted the score for an 11-7 Toronto lead.

A little under three minutes later Burris and Ernest Jackson combined on a 13-yard catch-and-run play at 6:51 and the Redblacks regained a 14-11 lead following the conversion by Milo.

On the final play of the third quarter Hajrullahu booted a 49-yard field goal to tie the game 14-14.

The only first-half points the Argonauts could produce came from a 71-yard punt single off the foot of Hajrullahu late in the first quarter and a 43-yard field goal in the opening minute of the second quarter.

The Redblacks managed just two first downs in the opening quarter and were unable to put together a sustained drive until half way through the second quarter.

Burris completed five passes in one drive for 74 yards, but on a fake field-goal attempt Burris had his pass intended for Zach Evans in the end zone intercepted by AJ Jefferson.

Two series later Burris was able to put another drive together that totalled 56 yards, and gave way to backup Brock Jensen who snuck the ball into the end zone with 46 seconds remaining in the half for the game's first major.

Milo converted the score to give Ottawa a 7-4 lead.

On the ensuing drive Kilgore had a pass intercepted by Mitchell White on the Ottawa 11-yard line with nine seconds to play in the half. Burris took a knee twice to run out the clock and go into the break with a three-point lead.

"First off I'll give them credit. They did what they needed to do to win the game," said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell.

"From our point of view that was a game for the taking and we didn't find a way to get it done."

The Redblacks will host the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday.

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{allcanada} O's top Jays in 12th to avoid sweep


TORONTO — The Baltimore Orioles are back in first place in the American League East division and the win column.

Jonathan Schoop hit a go-ahead single while Adam Jones launched a three-run home run in the 12th inning to help Baltimore beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-2. The win snapped a five-game skid for the Orioles and gave them a 1/2 game lead over Toronto for first in the division.

"We outlasted them," said Jones. "They grinded, we grinded, (it was) a good game to go into an off day, a much-needed win."

Jones' three-run homer came off Jesse Chavez and also helped the Orioles (59-45) avoid a three-game sweep. Franklin Morales (0-1) was charged with the loss.

Baltimore closer Zach Britton pitched a scoreless ninth and 10th before Mychal Givens did the same in the 11th. Givens (8-1) was credited with the victory.

Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez pitched seven solid innings allowing two runs, four hits and two walks. The 24-year-old leads the American League with a 2.71 earned-run average.

"(It) just sucks we couldn't pull that one out at the end, they're a good team," said Sanchez.

Baltimore starter Chris Tillman pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs while scattering five hits and striking out six.

Newly-acquired reliever Joaquin Benoit, Roberto Osuna, Jason Grilli and Brett Cecil pitched four scoreless innings for Toronto (59-46), but Morales struggled out of the gate in the 12th.

He issued a four-pitch walk to Pedro Alvarez to begin the inning before Alvarez moved to second on a balk and scored on Schoop's single. After J.J. Hardy walked, Chavez came on in relief and gave up a no-doubter to Jones, his 20th of the season.

The Blue Jays drew first blood in the second after Devon Travis delivered with an RBI fielder's choice that scored Russell Martin.

Troy Tulowitzki led off the fourth by greeting Tillman's first pitch with an absolute rocket off the facade of the 500 level at Rogers Centre. The solo shot was Tulowitzki's 18th homer of the season, giving Toronto a 2-0 lead.

Tulowitzki was hit on the fingers of his right hand by Tillman in the sixth inning. The shortstop was in considerable pain but played on for a bit before being removed following the seventh.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons says that Tulowitzki has a small chip fracture in his right thumb and that the team would re-evaluate him on Monday.

"I'll get up, come to the field, see how it feels, and hopefully get some inflammation out of there," said Tulowitzki. "I could throw, but wasn't able to grip a bat. If I was able to go, I definitely would have been in there."

Sanchez had just 73 pitches through six scoreless innings, but Baltimore got to him in the seventh. Chris Davis led off with a walk and Mark Trumbo followed with a double. Davis scored on an RBI groundout by Alvarez and Trumbo plated after a Matt Wieters sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2.

"I thought there was a couple questionable calls all night, maybe one or two that at bat, that changes my approach to Davis there," said Sanchez. "With that being said, any time you issue a lead off walk they come back to haunt you."

Notes: Blue Jays outfielder Junior Lake cleared waivers and was sent to triple-A Buffalo while also being removed from the 40-man roster.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had the incorrect score and incorrect pitcher that gave up the 12th inning home run.

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{allcanada} Bernardello scores, Impact draw DC United


WASHINGTON — Hernan Bernardello scored in the 86th minute to give the Montreal Impact a 1-1 tie with D.C. United on Sunday night.

Bernardello, who signed with Montreal (7-5-9) on July 24, came on for Kyle Bekker in the 71st. His goal, off a feed from Matteo Mancosu, was his first in MLS play. He played 28 combined matches for Montreal in 2013 and 2014.

Patrick Mullins bounced a header, off the entry by Taylor Kemp, off the ground into the top-right corner in the 19th minute. It was the first goal of the season for Mullins, who was acquired from New York City FC on July 20.

United (5-8-8), which outshot the Impact 16-8, is winless in its last five games.

Montreal has just one loss in its last nine matches (3-1-5).

The Impact's Didier Drogba received a red card in the 81st minute.

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{allcanada} Acosta, Urruti score as FC Dallas downs Whitecaps


FRISCO, Texas -- Kellyn Acosta and Maximiliano Urruti scored to help FC Dallas beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 on Sunday night.

Acosta buried a right-footer in the bottom-right corner off a feed from Michael Barrios in the 56th minute. Three minutes later, Urruti slipped behind the defence and beat goalkeeper David Ousted from the corner of the 6-yard box, set up by Atiba Harris' feed from midfield. It was Urruti's sixth goal of the season.

Dallas' Chris Seitz had one save and has seven shutouts this season, tied with Luis Robles of the New York Red Bulls for most in MLS.

Vancouver (8-9-6) is winless in its last three matches.

FC Dallas (13-6-5), which outshot the Whitecaps 16-6, is unbeaten in its last three games and has just one loss in its last seven. It leads MLS with 44 points.

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{allcanada} Toronto FC caps off strong July with convicing win over Crew


TORONTO— July has historically been the month when Toronto FC's Major League Soccer season begins to fall apart. Not this year, though.

Sebastian Giovinco scored his 12th goal of the campaign and helped set up two others as TFC earned a convincing 3-0 win over the Columbus Crew on Sunday night before 23,979 fans at BMO Field.

With a second consecutive win, Toronto (8-7-6) moved up to third in the Eastern Conference, a point behind the New York Bulls with two games in hand.

Who'd have thought at the start of July that the Reds would be in such a good spot by the end of the month, what with the club mired in a major injury crisis? Toronto ended up winning three of six games in July, taking 11 out of 18 points, and recording two clean sheets. The Reds haven't yet found their peak at the midway point of the summer, and that's pretty encouraging.

The challenging portion of the schedule isn't over just yet, with two games next week, and a handful of key players still expected to remain on the sidelines. But Toronto has displayed great resolve over the last four weeks, and shown that, perhaps, it has greater depth than it usually gets credit for from some critics.

In addition to the continued absences of goalkeeper Clint Irwin and midfielders Michael Bradley and Will Johnson, the Reds were also missing a fourth starter due to an injury to Benoit Cheyrou on Sunday. Marky Delgado started in his place in front of the back four. Jonathan Osorio was back in the starting lineup after missing last weekend's game due to illness.

Cheyrou's minor hamstring strain meant coach Greg Vanney had to go with a young and somewhat inexperienced foursome in midfield — Delgado (21), Osorio (24), Tsubasa Endoh (22) and Jay Chapman (22).

The youngsters, though, more than held their own on this night, working in unison to create scoring chances, and helping the defence shut down the Crew's dangerous attacking duo of Federico Higuain and Ola Kamara.

It didn't take the kids long to get involved in the proceedings and leave their mark. In the eighth minute, Delgado pressured a Columbus player deep inside his zone and won the ball. After creating the turnover, Delgado started a quick passing play that ended with Sebastian Giovinco's shot from 25 yards out taking a wicked deflection off the back of Endoh and curling just inside the far post.

If Toronto's first goal was down to luck, then the second one was pure class. Justin Morrow and Osorio exchanged passes down the left before shifting the ball in the middle to Giovinco. The Italian made a quick turn and run, fed a pass to Chapman, and then received a sublime ball back from the Canadian before firing a shot from just inside the box past goalkeeper Steve Clark in the 24th minute.

Chapman could have scored just before halftime after Morrow set him up all alone at the top of the penalty area, but the young Canadian's side-footed attempt was tipped over the crossbar by Clark.

Clark came up big again just after the restart, getting down low to deny Giovinco after he found himself with a clear shot on goal from in close. Moments later, the Italian hit the post on two consecutive shots on the same sequence of play, including one off a nifty back-heeled pass from substitute Jozy Altidore.

Altidore made it 3-0 in the 87th minute when his shot from deep inside the box took a deflection and dipped over Clark. It was the first goal of the season for the American forward, who only returned to action last week after being out since mid-May with a hamstring injury.

NOTES: This was the third and final match of the season between Toronto and Columbus — the previous two contests ended in draws. Columbus leads the all-time series with 12 wins and eight draws in 26 meetings… Sunday's game is the second in a run of four straight at home for the Reds, who will host Real Salt Lake (Aug. 3) and New England (Aug. 6).

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{allcanada} Emerson Etem marches in Vancouver Pride Parade


Vancouver Canucks forward Emerson Etem took part in the Vancouver Pride Parade on Sunday.

"Thank you to everyone showing support!" Etem wrote on Twitter. "Getting super rowdy at the Vancouver #prideparade."

"I was here and I wanted to be a part of it," Etem told this week. "I've been here all summer. I just think it's a great opportunity to show my support. I've just felt, especially in the hockey community, the more open and the more information that we know about all this, it just gives people who are in the LGBTQ community that maybe play hockey that they're not afraid to participate and show our welcomeness and support for them."

Etem, 24, started last season with the New York Rangers before he was traded to Vancouver on Jan. 8 for forward Nicklas Jensen and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He was often a healthy scratch and had three assists in 19 games with the Rangers.

Working again with Canucks coach Willie Desjardins led to a smooth transition; Etem played for Desjardins with Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League and had 65 points in 72 games in 2009-10. Etem had seven goals and five assists in 39 games with Vancouver.

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{allcanada} Ottawa to host 2017 Grey Cup, coinciding with Canada's 150th anniversary


OTTAWA — The 2017 Grey Cup will take place in Ottawa.

Canadian Football League commissioner Jeffrey Orridge made the announcement prior to Sunday night's matchup between the Ottawa Redblacks and Toronto Argonauts.

The 105th Grey Cup will coincide with Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation and take place on November 26.

"The Grey Cup game and festival are iconic national events that provide a tremendous boost to the local economy, but more than that, they bring our nation together," Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said in a release.

A pre-game video montage featured Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Hon. Catherine McKenna. The video led into an on-field ceremony at TD Place Stadium where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police handed the Grey Cup off to former Ottawa Rough Riders member Tony Gabriel, who hoisted the trophy to mid-field.

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{allcanada} Matthew Tkachuk won't skate at U.S. evaluation camp


Forward Matthew Tkachuk will not skate for the United States during National Junior Evaluation Camp, USA Hockey assistant executive director of hockey operations Jim Johannson said Sunday.

"Matthew Tkachuk is not going to participate on the ice during the camp," Johansson said. "He's here to be around the coaches and the players. We're keeping him out of physical contact."

Tkachuk, who the Calgary Flames selected with the No. 6 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, sustained an ankle injury while playing for London of the Ontario Hockey League during the Memorial Cup in May. He participated at Flames development camp earlier in July.

Johansson said Tkachuk will remain at camp through Tuesday to continue getting to know United States coach Bob Motzko and his staff as well as potential future teammates. The National Junior Evaluation Camp, which runs through Aug. 6 at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., is the first step in picking the team that will play for the U.S. at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"The biggest thing is get to know the players," Motzko told prior to camp. "That's first and foremost. Throughout the summer, whether we have some phone conversations or emails, that's what you're doing. It's all a mystery; it's all online or in conversation. Now we actually get to put a face to a name. … It's a starting point that starts to put us all in the same room together, puts us on the same ice sheet together, and we can start to get some familiarity with who we have and what we have and the direction that we want to go."

Tkachuk, 18, was expected to be a key part of a forward group at the camp that included 11 first-round NHL draft picks and two who are expected to be high picks in the 2017 NHL Draft, Kailer Yamamoto of Spokane of the Western Hockey League and Casey Mittelstadt of Eden Prairie (Minn.) High School.

Tkachuk (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) is also one of three forwards who helped the United States win the bronze medal at the 2016 WJC, along with Alexander DeBrincat (Chicago Blackhawks) and Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks). Tkachuk tied Columbus Blue Jackets prospects Zach Werenski and Sonny Milano for the U.S. lead with seven assists, and shared the scoring lead with Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) with 11 points.

Johannson also said Colin White (Ottawa Senators) will join the camp Aug. 4 but will be held off the ice while he recovers from wrist surgery. White also played on the 2016 WJC team and had seven points in seven games.


GOALIES: Jake Oettinger, Boston University, H-EAST (2017 draft eligible); Tyler Parsons, London, OHL (Calgary Flames); Evan Sarthou, Tri-City, WHL (2017 draft eligible); Joseph Woll, Boston College, H-EAST (Toronto Maple Leafs)

DEFENSEMEN: Jack Ahcan, St. Cloud State, NCHC (2017 draft eligible); Nicholas Boka, Michigan, BIG10 (Minnesota Wild); Joseph Cecconi, Michigan, BIG10 (Dallas Stars); Sean Day, Mississauga, OHL (New York Rangers); Casey Fitzgerald, Boston College, H-EAST (Buffalo Sabres); Adam Fox, Harvard, ECAC (Calgary Flames); James Greenway, Wisconsin, BIG10 (Toronto Maple Leafs); Caleb Jones, Portland, WHL (Edmonton Oilers); Chad Krys, Boston University, H-EAST (Chicago Blackhawks); Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota, BIG10 (Boston Bruins); Luke Martin, Michigan, BIG10 (2017 draft eligible); Joseph Masonius, Connecticut, H-EAST (Pittsburgh Penguins); Charlie McAvoy, Boston University, H-EAST (Boston Bruins); Jack Sadek, Minnesota, BIG10 (Minnesota Wild)

FORWARDS: Joseph Anderson, Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC (New Jersey Devils); Kieffer Bellows, Boston University, H-EAST (New York Islanders); Brock Boeser, North Dakota, NCHC (Vancouver Canucks); Jeremy Bracco, Kitchener, OHL (Toronto Maple Leafs); Logan Brown, Windsor, OHL (Ottawa Senators); Alexander DeBrincat, Erie, OHL (Chicago Blackhawks); Christian Fischer, Windsor, OHL (Arizona Coyotes); Erik Foley, Providence, H-EAST (Winnipeg Jets); Trent Frederic, Wisconsin, BIG10 (Boston Bruins); Jordan Greenway, Boston University, H-EAST (Minnesota Wild); Max Jones, London, OHL (Anaheim Ducks); Clayton Keller, Boston University, H-EAST (Arizona Coyotes); Luke Kunin, Wisconsin, BIG10 (Minnesota Wild); Tanner Laczynski, Ohio State, BIG10 (Philadelphia Flyers); Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie, HIGH-MN (2017 draft eligible); Thomas Novak, Minnesota, BIG10 (Nashville Predators); Rem Pitlick, Minnesota, BIG10 (Nashville Predators); Jack Roslovic, London, OHL (Winnipeg Jets); Troy Terry, Denver, NCHC (Anaheim Ducks); Tage Thompson, Connecticut, H-EAST (St. Louis Blues); *Matthew Tkachuk, London, OHL (Calgary Flames); Riley Tufte, Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC (Dallas Stars); Brendan Warren, Michigan, BIG10 (2017 draft eligible); Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane, WHL (2017 draft eligible); *Colin White, Boston College H-EAST (Ottawa Senators)

*- not skating

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

{allcanada} Whitecaps acquire Barnes from Dynamo


VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps acquired forward/midfielder Giles Barnes in a trade with the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.

Barnes has four goals and two assists in 14 matches so far this season and has 31 goals and 14 assists in 113 Major League Soccer regular-season appearances.

He was named Houston's captain prior to the 2016 MLS campaign.

The 27-year-old Barnes has made 18 appearances with the Jamaican national team after deputing in March 2015.

Barnes, who turns 28 next week, joins Vancouver after nearly four years with the Dynamo. Before making the move to North America, the London, England native spent eight years playing on home soil, debuting with Derby County at the age of 17.

In exchange for Barnes, Vancouver will send Houston general allocation money and right of first refusal to defender Keyner Brown — pending receipt of his international transfer certificate and Canadian work permit.

"Giles is a dynamic offensive player in the prime of his career," said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson.

"He knows MLS, has experience at the top levels in England, and is a great character in the locker-room. We're very excited to add him to our group."

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{allcanada} After Rogers Cup loss Nestor shifts focus to sixth Olympic appearance


As Daniel Nestor left the court on Saturday night, the Aviva Centre crowd promptly rose to their feet and cheered in adulation despite the result.

Nestor, 43, along with partner Vasek Pospisil, the lone Canadians left at the Rogers Cup, lost a tightly contested semi-final match, 6-4 6-7 10-7 (in non-Slam doubles the third set is played as a tie-breaker). Facing a standing ovation following his 28th Rogers Cup appearance, Nestor briefly looked up on his way to the tunnel and offered a short wave to the fans, more boisterous in this moment than at any during the actual match.

Nestor likely has more competitive years left in him, but heading into the tournament— as has been the case for a few years now—many openly wondered if this would be the 43 year-old's final appearance at the Rogers Cup. If it turns out to be, it was a fitting goodbye.

You see, Nestor is the Tim Duncan of tennis: a perpetual winner who has, quietly, assembled a truly jaw-dropping resume. A surefire hall of famer, his peers revere him, and he's stayed at the top of his game as the sport evolved around him. Of active players on tour, only Roger Federer and the Bryan brothers have won more ATP titles (he trails Federer by just two).

And yet he does it without the attention and adulation of Canadian counterparts like Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard, both of whom, by Saturday, had been eliminated from Rogers Cup action.

What more does Daniel Nestor have to do?

That the doubles draw takes a backseat at tournaments like this isn't all that surprising. The game isn't as fast-paced, and its less-marketed stars, like Nestor, don't draw in the casual fan. For the first-half of the Nestor-Pospisil match, the stands were half-empty, making it feel like something of a filler between the two men's semi-finals.

Which is a shame— and not only because it means less people are likely to enjoy, or appreciate, Nestor's success. Doubles is an entirely different experience than singles. At times it looks like human pinball, and it's not rare for entire rally stretches to be played without the ball hitting the ground as opponents volley back and forth. At other times, it feels like chess boxing— bursts of athleticism followed by moments of stagnation. It carries with it an entirely different strategy than singles, and teams use hidden hand signals to adjust their game plan on the fly, like a pitcher exchanging signs with a catcher.

It also a sport that allows for longevity, as Nestor can attest.

On Saturday, he showed few signs of age. After letting a 4-2 lead in the second set slip, Nestor was instrumental in winning the tie-breaker at 6-6. As Pospisil had difficulty keeping his shots from going long, Nestor took control, at one point hitting three straight winners to even the match at one set apiece.

In the third set tie-break, the pair quickly found themselves down 2-6. Their opponents, Britain's Jamie Murray (older brother of singles star Andy) and Brazil's Bruno Soares, seemed to get stronger as the match went on and, despite a comeback that brought the score to within one point, proved more consistent than the homecrowd favourites.

On Monday, Nestor and Pospisil will fly down to Rio de Janero to represent Canada at the Olympics, and after the match seemed ready to move on from tonight.

It was sixteen years ago in Sydney, Australia, that Nestor and partner Sebastien Lareau took home gold, still Canada's lone Olympic medal in tennis. Just don't ask Pospisil for any details. "Honestly I'd be lying if I said I remembered," Pospisil said as Nestor chuckled. "I guess I was too young."

The age gap—17 years— is readily apparent between them, but often serves the pair well. Throughout their match on Saturday, Pospisil was a bundle of uncontained energy relative to his partner, jumping and urging his team after winning points—"C'mon!"— the frequency of his fist-pumps increasing with the stakes of the match.

Nestor, he of more than a few rodeos, is less excitable, both on and off the court.

As Pospisil studied his shoes for most of the pair's post-match press conference, visibly dejected, Nestor's analysis of their performance at the tournament was even-keeled.

"We feel fine," Nestor says, immediately following the match. "We played some good matches, didn't play our best but played well. [Murray and Soares] were just a little bit more solid today," he said adding, that he "started the match pretty slow."

Pospisil's self-criticism was much sharper.

"My problem is getting down on myself," he says, two days removed from admitting his confidence level was nearing an all-time low after he lost in the second round of the singles draw. "That was not a very good performance on my side. As the match was going on my level was dropping. I feel responsible for that third set."

Nestor knows his role as the steady veteran on this team. "Part of doubles," he explains, "you have to show support, keep the energy up and focus on the next point. We have confidence in each other that you're going to turn it around eventually."

Next week will mark Nestor's sixth appearance at the Olympics, where Canadian tennis fans will get another opportunity to appreciate his continuing accomplishments in the sport— he's won two titles in 2016 and Saturday was his fifth semi-final appearance. But even with more than two and half decades of pro tennis behind him, Nestor's not ready to spend too much time gazing into the rearview mirror quite yet. There's still more tennis to be played.

"It's exciting," says Nestor of the upcoming Olympic tournament, "because I think we can win a medal."

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{allcanada} Former Blue Bomber Armstrong, wife killed


Police in Houston say that former Winnipeg Blue Bombers player Antonio Armstrong and his wife were killed Friday morning by gunshots in their home.

A 16-year-old boy has been charged with the murders, but his identity has been withheld.

Armstrong, 42, played college football for Texas A&M, was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, and eventually played four games in 1995 for the Miami Dolphins.

He played three seasons for the Blue Bombers and was the team's defensive player of the year in 2000.

In a statement, R.C. Slocum, who coached Armstrong at Texas A&M, said, "Antonio was a special young man. He was an All-American and an outstanding player, but he was an even better person," Slocum said. "He was such a positive influence on his teammates. He always had a great big smile and was a joy to coach."

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{allcanada} Blue Jays beat Orioles to take over first place in AL East


TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays are rounding into form at the right time.

They were rewarded for it on Saturday with sole possession of first place in the American League East.

Devon Travis hit a home run, Kevin Pillar drove in four, and the Blue Jays used a seven-run fifth inning en route to a 9-1 victory over Baltimore that moved them a half-game up on the Orioles for top spot in the division for the first time since early April.

"We're starting to play some good baseball, and that's really what it comes down to, playing good baseball at the right time," said Pillar. "It's definitely something to be celebrated."

With a third of the season still to be played, the Blue Jays seemed to be taking the achievement in stride.

Toronto's run to close out last season did not start until this time last year. While enjoying the position that they are in, they are encouraged by what got them there.

"It means we're playing good baseball," said catcher Russell Martin, who had a pair of doubles. "There's still a lot of baseball left. But I think we're starting to play good ball. We're swinging the bats well. We're playing good defence. And we're pitching well.

"What I like about this team is the consistency of our starting pitching. I feel like it's been that way all year. If you want to be on a winning team, one of the main things you want to have is pitching."

Saturday's starter, J.A. Happ, improved to 14-3 on the year, tying the league lead in wins with four other pitchers. He also matched a season high with 11 strikeouts, going seven-plus innings while allowing only three hits.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons called Happ's performance "dominant."

Martin echoed that sentiment.

"His fastball was just exploding toward the plate," Martin said. "It was a good mix of his two-seamer and his four-seamer. … When you're aggressive and you get ahead of hitters, you can take a good hitter and take away the aggressiveness a little bit. When he's using both sides of the plate, up and down as well, it's like he has four different pitches with his fastball."

Shut out through the first four innings, the Blue Jays (59-45) sent 11 batters to the plate in their decisive seven-run fifth.

Toronto trailed 1-0 heading into the fifth and started rolling with a one-out home run from Travis. Baltimore pitchers then walked four of the next five batters, including an intentional walk to Michael Saunders.

Edwin Encarnacion, Martin and Pillar combined to drive in five runs with doubles in the fifth and Troy Tulowitzki earned an RBI for a bases-loaded walk.

Pedro Alvarez accounted for the lone run for the Orioles (58-44) with a home run off Happ in the second inning, giving Baltimore a 1-0 lead.

The loss was the first for Yovani Gallardo (3-3) versus the Blue Jays, who had been 4-0 with a 1.78 earned-run average heading into the game.

The Blue Jays had not been in first place in the division since winning their first two games of the year.

Notes: After saying he would not field any more questions on the subject earlier in the week, Gibbons said starter Aaron Sanchez would likely be heading to the bullpen at some point this season: "It's one of those deals that nobody wants to do it, but it's probably going to happen for his own good." Sanchez is likely to pass the most innings he has ever pitched in a season, 133 1/3 in 2014, in his scheduled start on Sunday. Sanchez is 11-1 with an American League-low 2.72 earned-run average in 132 1/3 innings so far this year. The Blue Jays have been rumoured to be interested in acquiring a starter before Monday's trade deadline. … Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson left the game in the bottom of the eighth inning after an infield single. Gibbons said Donaldson's hamstring tightened up on the play, but that he did not think the injury was serious. Darwin Barney finished the game in Donaldson's place.

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{allcanada} Jamie Benn hopes to be ready for World Cup


FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn hopes to be ready to play for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 in September.

Benn, 27, had surgery July 14 for a core muscle injury sustained during offseason workouts. He signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension July 15 that runs through the 2024-25 NHL season.

"I think this is a surgery that I'm able to come back a little quicker than double-hip surgery (he had in May 2015)," Benn said after an event at Stars headquarters Saturday. "That's the main focus I'm training towards being able to make it for World Cup. We'll just see what happens."

The left wing said he expects to return to the ice in the coming week. The tournament begins Sept. 17.

"I feel pretty good," Benn said. "I'm making progress. Much like last summer [when I was recovering from double-hip surgery], these things take time. The hardest part is just trying not to do too much too early. We're sticking to the rehab program and working our way forward."

Benn was second in the NHL with 89 points and third with 41 goals playing 82 games for the second consecutive season in 2015-16. He finished third in voting for the Hart Trophy as League MVP.

In 13 Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Stars last season, Benn had five goals and 15 points. The Stars won the Central Division with 109 points and were the top seed in the Western Conference but lost in seven games to the St. Louis Blues in the second round.

Benn said his first two weeks of rehab have included little activity, but he hopes to start ramping things up next week.

"Well, the last two weeks have been pretty boring, not doing too much, letting it heal and recover," Benn said. "Doing little exercises here and there, but I think this week I could be able to pick it up a bit and possibly even skate later in the week."

Benn and teammate Tyler Seguin, who missed all but one of Dallas' playoff games with calf and Achilles injuries, will have their first Team Canada practice Sept. 5. The World Cup runs through Oct. 1 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

A fifth-round pick (No. 129) at the 2007 NHL Draft, Benn, who won the Art Ross Trophy as the League leader with 87 points in 2014-15, has 192 goals and 448 points in 508 regular-season games.

Benn has been Stars captain the past three seasons and said the thought of leaving Dallas never entered his mind during the two-week negotiation process between the Stars and his agent, Rich Evans.

"I fell in love with Dallas, Texas ever since I got down here," Benn said. "Here I am sticking around here year-round. I have all the belief in [general manager] Jim Nill and the coaching staff around here that we're going to do something special. [Nill] is a smart man, he's an unbelievable guy and an easy guy to talk to. I've definitely built a relationship around him. We have the same goals and I want to do it as a Dallas Star."

When Benn's extension begins after this season, he will be tied with Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins for fourth-highest average annual value ($9.5 million) in the NHL, according to General Fanager. Only Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks ($10.5 million), Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings ($10 million) and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals ($9.538 million) are ahead of Benn.

He admits his new salary may seem lucrative, but one thing remains crystal clear: Benn's desire to help the Stars win the Stanley Cup, something Dallas hasn't done since 1999.

"It's still pretty surreal," Benn said of his extension. "I learned how to be a professional later than the other kids, but this is what I want to do and I'm putting all my time and effort into being the best player I can be for this hockey club."

Benn takes pride in what he and the Stars have accomplished but looks ahead with great optimism and a belief that the best years are to come.

"I think they definitely are," Benn said. "We've got a good core in here and we can only build off that. It's not hard to see that Jim has changed this team quite a bit in three years, and I'm definitely happy to be a part of it."

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{allcanada} Linesman Don Henderson still recovering from Wideman hit


Linesman Don Henderson had surgery to repair two ruptured disks in his neck and there are fears from those close to him that his career could be over, according to Kevin Paul Dupont of The Boston Globe.

Henderson has officiated over 1,300 NHL games since joining the league in 1994.

The 47-year-old hasn't been able to work since Jan. 27, when he was hit from behind by Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman. He underwent surgery three weeks ago.

The whole ordeal, which saw Wideman claim he was dazed after being on the receiving end of a hit by Nashville Predators forward Miikka Salomaki, had the NHL investigate Wideman's motives by looking through his personal text messages.

Wideman received a 20-game suspension and served 19 games before an independent arbitrator retroactively cut the suspension in half, saving Wideman over $282,258.56 in salary.

The league eventually fired the arbitrator who made the decision and filed a lawsuit against the NHL Players' Association back in June.

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