Each week, CHL.ca goes coast to coast to highlight the top stories from around the league.
Starting anew in Sherbrooke
Put that one in the win column.
Coming away with a 2-0 victory versus the Baie-Comeau Drakkar on Saturday, the Sherbrooke Phoenix picked up their first win of the season, a longtime coming for the club that entered the year as the top-ranked team and one that has been amongst the most challenged by pandemic restrictions.
One of 12 Quebec-based clubs participating in the first of two protected environment events, the Phoenix returned to the ice with the addition of Slovak-born netminder Samuel Hlavaj, who was thrilled to make his debut following a quarantine period.
It was an impressive return for Hlavaj, who suited up for both games in the back-to-back, first appearing in a 3-2 shootout decision versus the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in which he earned third-star recognition before retaking the blue paint the following night and turning aside 26 shots to record his fourth career shutout. In all, Hlavaj wrapped up the week with a 0.96 goals-against average while stopping a combined 56 of 58 shots to earn QMJHL Player of the Week honours.
While Hlavaj is back with the Phoenix, the club also saw change up front, parting ways with captain and Pittsburgh Penguins first-round pick Samuel Poulin who was moved to the Val-d’Or Foreurs prior to the league trade deadline in a transaction that returned a collection of draft choices to Sherbrooke.
1/2 MOT DU COACH 🔁
« C’est triste de voir partir un joueur qui aura transformé notre culture d’équipe. Professionnel, leader, capitaine exemplaire, Sam nous laisse un héritage qui n’a pas de prix dans le monde du sport. Il avait l’équipe et la ville tatouées sur le cœur. » pic.twitter.com/H7fbrbcil9
— Phœnix de Sherbrooke (@PhoenixSherbroo) January 25, 2021
Poulin made an invaluable contribution over part of four years with the Phoenix, helping to establish an internal culture that culminated with a CHL-leading and franchise-best 106 points in 2019-20, and in only the club’s eighth season since joining the QMJHL in 2012.
But much like their moniker, the Phoenix were ready to start anew, then sending a trio of first-round selections to the Saint John Sea Dogs for 2021 NHL Draft prospect Joshua Roy.
“He is one of the exceptional players,” Phoenix general manager and head coach Stephane Julien told Jerome Gaudreau of La Tribune. “We are talking about a 17-year-old player who is already the (leading) scorer of his team. He is what we call a great opportunities player. When it takes a goal, (he) will be there. He can (score) a lot of points especially on a winning team and he is able to score the goal that will make the difference. He has great hands, great vision, and is good on the power play.”
Chosen first overall in the 2019 QMJHL Entry Draft, Roy had a successful first season with the Sea Dogs. In 60 appearances, he recorded 16 goals and 28 assists for 44 points, good for eighth among first-year players and just nine points back of top spot. Roy has carried that offensive magic into the new season, already with 17 points in just 15 outings, while he now looks to build on that performance in Sherbrooke.
Dellandrea getting it done
Deep in the heart of Texas, Ty Dellandrea is shining bright.
Making his NHL debut with the Dallas Stars on Friday, the former Flint Firebirds captain earned more than 15 minutes of ice time all while making a solid impression with Stars bench boss Rick Bowness.
“This kid is full of confidence. We love it,” Bowness told Matthew DeFranks of The Dallas Morning News. “He is an NHL player. He is a rookie, but he is going to play a lot. You saw that we are not afraid to put him out in any situation. He is a very confident kid for a 20-year-old. He is earning the minutes and it is well deserved.”
#OHLAlumni Ty Dellandrea (@tydellandrea) skated 15:32 in his #NHL debut as #GoStars won big on opening night. @FlintFirebirds captain and all-time leading scorer received #OHL Mickey Renaud Captain’s Trophy in 2019-20. pic.twitter.com/UGdD9AcNX9
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) January 23, 2021
Lining up with Andrew Cogliano and fellow OHL graduate Radek Faksa, Dellandrea showcased his skill both at even strength and on special teams, including an impressive penalty-kill performance in which he blocked two shots on the same shift. The budding centre then continued to dazzle in his second showing, going 5-for-7 in the dot while also earning ice time in the closing minutes as the Stars held on for their second consecutive win over the Nashville Predators.
“I have no problem putting (Dellandrea) out in any situation: key face-offs, key penalty kills, power play, against really good lines,” Bowness added. “He can play centre, he can play right wing. He is a big part of the future of this team.”
Chosen 13th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, Dellandrea joins the Stars after spending four seasons with the Firebirds counting 231 career contests in which he amassed 94 goals and 122 assists for a franchise-leading 216 points.
Rallying around Sopotyk
The hockey world has once again shown itself to be a close-knit community.
Following a devastating snowboarding accident over the weekend that left Kamloops Blazers left-wing Kyrell Sopotyk with life-altering injuries, the hockey community far and wide has rallied around the budding forward with countless well wishes and generous financial support.
Establishing an online donation page to help fund possible renovations, health-care costs, and additional support, the venture received three times its initial goal in its first day, with CHL teams, players, alumni, and fans among the many donors.
My best friend Kyrell was in an accident over the weekend and is currently in hospital. He is the best guy I know and him and his family would do anything for anyone. Please donate if possible! Love you brother stay strong ❤️ https://t.co/L2tFg2kJSU
— Connor Zary (@ConnorZary) January 25, 2021
The campaign was kickstarted by Kathleen Zary, the mother of Blazers teammate Connor Zary who has known Sopotyk since childhood when the two were teammates in Saskatchewan minor hockey.
“As a mom, my first priority would be to look after my child and I wouldn’t be thinking of going to work or where my next paycheque is coming from,” Zary told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week. “I wouldn’t want any of that on my shoulders. To see the overwhelming support has been an amazing blessing for the family. I know they are eternally grateful for everybody’s help.
“Whether it is Saskatchewan or Kamloops, you know the hockey community is always going to get behind of one their players.”
For fans wishing to donate, click here.