Sunaya Sapurji

  • Rocky's ready to rumble as head coach of Windsor Spitfires

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    Rocky Hockey is coming to Windsor and the Spitfires better be ready. On Friday, the OHL team announced they had hired former Edmonton Oilers assistant coach Rocky Thompson as head coach, replacing Bob Boughner.

    “We want to play fast and we want to play aggressive,” said Thompson of his new team. “We want our system to definitely be more aggressive than the Windsor Spitfires have played in the past.

    “I’m a family oriented individual it means everything to me and I know the culture has been great there, but I’m going to build on that foundation and there’s going to be trust in our locker room. Individuals are going to have success, but they’re going to want to be a part of the group. That’s something I can bring – bringing people together, teaching them the game and getting the most out of them.”

    “The type of people that we are we’re all very similar personalities,” said Thompson, a former third-round pick of the Flames in 1995. “The way we were able to succeed in the game was with hard work and determination because we weren’t the skilled guys out there. We had to come in the back door and come up the hard way which is always a good way because you feel good after a hard day’s work.”

  • General managers hoping their gambles pay at CHL import draft

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 6 days ago

    There were lots of gambles taking place on Tuesday as the Canadian Hockey League held their annual import draft. Many big names – including players taken last weekend at the NHL entry draft – were in the mix as 120 players had their CHL rights picked up.

    Going first overall to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan was Russian forward Vladimir Kuznetsov. The 17-year-old won a gold medal with Russia at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last year and played the regular season with his hometown Yekaterinburg in the MHL, Russia’s junior league. He finished with 12 points in 43 games. He won't be eligible for the NHL draft until 2016.

    Russia lead the charge at the draft with 19 players selected followed by the Czech Republic (12) and Finland and Sweden tied at nine players a piece.

    One of the biggest names taken on Tuesday was Swedish defenceman Oliver Kylington, a second-round pick of the Calgary Flames. The 18-year-old was one of the biggest surprises last weekend when he fell late in the second round – 60 th overall – despite being projected as one of the top European skaters for the entry draft in Sunrise, Fla.


  • Paul Bittner forges his own path from hockey-mad Minnesota to the NHL Draft

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago

    There was never a dull moment in the Bittner household. It was in the small town of Crookston, with a population just under 8,000, in northwest Minnesota, that Jon and Jo Bittner raised their three rambunctious boys. There was Mark, the oldest; Ryan; and the baby, Paul – all two years apart.

    He might have been the youngest, but Paul was the most independent and headstrong of the three boys. When he tried skating as a two-year-old, he refused any help from his brothers or his parents and would often be found on their backyard rink, lying flat on the ice.

    “He wanted nothing to do with any of us,” said Mark, now 22. “He’d say, ‘No! I’ll do it myself,’ so he’d rub his skates on the ice and just lay there in the middle of the ice. When we would play we’d only have one goalie on our outdoor rink so we’d have skate around him and avoid him.

    “One day he was up and skating with us and from then on we were all skating together.”

    That big backyard rink would host shinny games for all the neighbourhood kids. It would feature Jon’s favourite polka hits blasting from the speakers, much to the chagrin of the younger crowd.

    The town was in shock. Why would Bittner leave?


  • NHL Scouts Poll: The class of 2015 is average beyond the top 10

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    The 2015 NHL entry draft has been fastidiously churning in the hype machine for more than a year now. That’s to be expected with the likes of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel eligible to walk down the draft floor in Sunrise, Fla., on Friday evening.

    Both players have been labeled as potential generational talents and dissected to their fullest – McDavid since he was a 14-year-old and Eichel following in the spotlight a few years later. But there are other familiar names, too. There’s Boston College defenceman Noah Hanifin and forwards Dylan Strome of the Erie Otters, Lawson Crouse of the Kingston Frontenacs and Mitchell Marner of the London Knights.

    The top-end talent has given the impression that this year’s draft could be as good – if not better – than the draft class of 2003, in which every single player drafted in the first round (led by first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury) played, at the very least, a handful of games in the NHL.

    So, what do the experts think?

    The general consensus is that this year’s draft is great at the top, but the high-end talent will taper off in the middle of the first round.

    Is there a player you think is rated lower in the (NHL) rankings than he should be?

  • Leafs hiring Oshawa's D.J. Smith opens up another CHL job vacancy

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 20 days ago

    The junior hockey job market continues to heat up as teams across the CHL fill the vacancies that opened up once the regular season ended. In the interim, many of those jobs for head coaches and general manager have been filled. However, with the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL scooping up many of the CHL's best and brightest, there are still a few openings to be filled. 

    The latest vacancy opened up on Tuesday afternoon when the Leafs hired Oshawa Generals head coach D.J. Smith to join Mike Babcock's coaching staff as an assistant. Smith led the Generals to a 51-11-2-4 record which culminated in an OHL title and a Memorial Cup victory last month.

    “I would like to thank (owner) Rocco Tullio and the entire Oshawa Generals organization as well as our great fans for supporting myself and my family over the past three seasons,” said Smith in a press release. “I am excited to begin a new chapter with the Maple Leafs and work alongside Mike Babcock, Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer.”

    Both Hiller and Brewer had worked as assistants to Babcock in Detroit with the Red Wings.

  • Maple Leafs will preach patience with their NHL draft picks

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 27 days ago

    When it comes to the 2015 NHL entry draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs are saying all the right things concerning their fourth-overall pick. They’re preaching patience with their prospects.

    It’s a refreshing change from an organization that hasn’t much success developing high-end talent.

    “We’re going to look to be patient,” said Mark Hunter, the Leafs director of player personnel and interim co-GM. “We want to protect our asset that’s fourth overall. We want to develop them and make sure they’re getting better without stumbling around where it’s unnecessary.”

    At the recent NHL draft combine, Toronto’s brain trust was on hand to scope out the prospects for themselves and interview their potential picks. Among the players in the mix for the fourth pick include Boston College defenceman Noah Hanifin, Erie Otters centre Dylan Strome and London Knights winger Mitchell Marner.

    Marner is the player the Leafs are most familiar with since the 18-year-old was drafted by Hunter back when he was working as the general manager with the OHL’s Knights. Mark Hunter’s brother Dale was also the coach in London, so the Hunters have been keeping a close watch on Marner’s development.

  • Top prospects pushed to the limit during 'tough' combine testing

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 1 mth ago

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — After his combine testing was over on Saturday morning, Connor McDavid once again met with the media. He couldn’t stop yawning. Whether that was from the boredom of being asked the same questions repeatedly or from running the grueling gauntlet of the fitness testing, one couldn’t say.

    Coming into the event, the 18-year-old said his main goal was to avoid embarrassment on the pull-up bar, which had caused problems for Flames pick Sam Bennett last year when he couldn't do a single one. McDavid passed that portion with flying colours, managing to finish with six pull-ups, a task not everyone could best. The hardest test for the prospects on Saturday was the Wingate bike test which measures peak anaerobic power and capacity and McDavid and Eichel were no exceptions.

    “That one’s absolutely crazy,” said McDavid, who finished with a peak power output of 17.49. “It’s tough but it’s fun and it was good to get it over with.”

    When asked what his toughest challenge was, Eichel's answer was similar.

    Being as competitive as they are, Eichel said he was looking at the TV screens to see how his tests scores fared against the other players – including McDavid.

  • Sarnia forward Zacha hoping to leave Czech mark at the NHL draft

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 1 mth ago

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — Pavel Zacha has a number set in his mind when it comes to the NHL entry draft on June 26. The 18-year-old is looking to be the first top-10 pick from the Czech Republic since the Columbus Blue Jackets took Jakub Voracek seventh-overall in 2007.

    In the final NHL central scouting rankings, Zacha was listed eighth among North American skaters.

    “I hope I’ll be top-10,” said the Sarnia Sting forward at the NHL scouting combine on Saturday. “For almost like 10 years after Voracek no one from the Czech Republic was drafted in the top-10, so it would be amazing for me and for Czech hockey too.”

    At the combine Zacha said he conducted interviews with at least 24 different NHL clubs. He said the one with Philadelphia was special because he was a fan of Jaromir Jagr growing up and became a Flyers fan as a result.

    Back at home playing with Bili Tygri Liberec he was lucky enough to play with former NHL star Petr Nedved who was the captain of the team. He remembers sitting in the locker room for the first time as a 16-year-old and being in awe. Nedved took Zacha under his wing and helped convince him to come to North America to hone his skills in the Canadian Hockey League.

  • Memorial Cup final: Generals get it done thanks to unsung heroes

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    QUEBEC CITY — It wasn’t too long ago that Anthony Cirelli was playing AA hockey in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. He moved to AAA for his minor midget year and spent last season playing major midget.

    On Sunday night, the 17-year-old walk-on scored the game winner in overtime to hand the Oshawa Generals their first Memorial Cup title in 25 years.

    “Words can’t describe what I’m feeling right now,” said Cirelli, on the ice after the Generals defeated the Western Hockey League-champion Kelowna Rockets 2-1. “I’m just really proud of the team. We worked all year round for this and this was our goal.

    “I’m in shock. We just won the Memorial Cup.”

    Cirelli scored both goals for the Ontario Hockey League champions, including the decider a mere 1:28 into the first overtime period. Kelowna goalie Jackson Whistle stopped overager Chris Carlisle’s initial shot, but the rebound came out to Cirelli who shook off a Rockets defender to whack the puck into the net. It was a remarkable finish for an undrafted, unheralded player who persevered despite not having the same kind of pedigree as many of his Generals teammates.

    That’s high praise from Smith, who stands a towering 6-foot-6.

    “It’s awesome.”