Spirko headed to Russian super league

Former UND forward Rastislav Spirko is headed to the KHL – the Russian super league.

A Slovakian website reported the move.

Spirko left UND after his sophomore year, the 2005-06 season. He played professionally for one year in Slovakia before moving to the Czech league.

For the last two years, Spirko has played for HC Pardubice.

Murphy signs with EHC Linz

Former Sioux defenseman Curtis Murphy has signed with EHC Linz in the Austrian Elite League, according to this site.

Murphy had played the last four years in the Swiss Elite League with Langnau. He tallied 22 points in 47 games a year ago.

Prior to going to Europe, Murphy was a perennial all-star in the AHL, where he played in the Minnesota Wild organization. Murphy played five seasons in the AHL and one game with the Wild in the NHL.

The Saskatchewan product played four years at UND and was a member of the 1997 national championship team.

J.P. Lamoureux signs with Ljubljana

Former Sioux goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has signed a one-year contract with Olimpija Ljubljana — a Slovenian team in the Austrian Elite League, agent Neil Sheehy says.

Lamoureux last played for the Calgary Flames’ top minor-league team, the Abbotsford Heat, in the American Hockey League. Lamoureux posted a 2.20 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage for Abbotsford.

The previous year, Lamoureux played for  the Buffalo Sabres’ top minor league team, the Portland Pirates.

Lamoureux played four season at UND and was a Hobey Baker Award finalist as a senior.

Oshie signs one-year extension with Blues

Former UND forward T.J. Oshie has signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Blues worth $2.35 million. Oshie would have been a restricted free agent beginning Friday.

Oshie had 34 points in 49 games last season. He missed a bunch of games early in the season with a fractured ankle.

The one-year contract is a clear signal that the Blues want Oshie to prove himself on and off the ice (he had an unexcused absense from practice last season) before giving him a long-term deal.

Oshie has worked out in Brainerd and Grand Forks this summer and there have been reports that he’s been more dedicated than ever this offseason. That dedication has potential to pay off big next summer when he will once again be a restricted free agent.

Way-too-early look at 2012

The 2011 NHL draft is in the books and the first speculation about 2012 is starting to slip out. Yes, you have to take it with a grain of salt. The rankings will have a completely different look to them in 12 months.

But still, it can be fun to look at the way-too-early projections.

ESPN is the first to start posting a look ahead to next year’s draft and the early rumblings are that it could be another exciting one for the Sioux.

ESPN currently has Sioux defenseman recruit Jordan Schmaltz going No. 2 overall behind Russian forward Nail Yakupov. The highest any Sioux player has gone is No. 3 (Jonathan Toews). Red Line Report has Schmaltz listed as the No. 14 overall prospect.

Because of his monster year in Sioux City last year, I think everyone knew that Schmaltz had a chance to be a high pick.

The surprising one may be that ESPN says that Sioux forward recruit Stefan Matteau is a possible top 15 pick. Matteau didn’t put up huge numbers with the U.S. Under-17 team (and wasn’t asked to join the U-18s for the world tournament), but it hasn’t deterred ESPN from naming him as an elite player.

As I said earlier, take these rankings with a huge grain of salt, as they will likely change quite a bit throughout the year. We probably won’t get our first really good look at draft rankings until December, when Central Scouting comes out with its midterm report.

Belfour headed to Hall of Fame

Ed Belfour is headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The UND great was one of four to get the call on Tuesday afternoon. Belfour ranks third all-time in the NHL in wins, has a Calder Trophy, two Vezinas, four William Jennings trophies, six all-star selections, an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup.

The others who were elected: Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Howe and Doug Gilmour. The induction ceremony will be held on November 14.

For a full story on Belfour, see www.grandforksherald.com

Herter to Duluth, etc.

Another former Sioux player has worked his way into the college coaching ranks.

Jason Herter is leaving his job as Fargo Force head coach and general manager to be an assistant coach at Minnesota-Duluth under Scott Sandelin, a former Sioux defenseman.

That means the Force will be looking for their fourth coach in four years. The previous three all had Sioux ties — Dean Blais (former head coach), Steve Johnson (former player) and Herter.

Byron Pool was named interim head coach, but Lincoln Stars head coach Chad Johnson (a former Sioux player) could be a candidate to replace Herter. Former Sioux defenseman Andy Schneider is an assistant under Johnson in Lincoln.

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Minnesota also will have a new assistant coach this season.

The school announced that John Hill will not be returning and several news outlets have reported that Mike Guentzel will be coming back to campus to fill that spot.

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East Coast media outlets reported this weekend that Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves was a top candidate for the Devils job.

But Eaves tells the Wisconsin State Journal that he has not had any contact with the Devils.

NHL draft day two

The second day of the NHL draft is underway in St. Paul. UND could have three players picked today.

The Florida Panthers drafted Rocco Grimaldi with the third pick of the second round (33rd overall). Grimaldi even joked with the media that he’s taking his talents to South Beach.

First round

15. New York Rangers — J.T. Miller, UND

Second round

33. Florida Panthers — Rocco Grimaldi, UND
34. New York Islanders — Scott Mayfield, Denver
60. Minnesota Wild — Mario Lucia (uncommitted, but Minnesota a finalist)

Round 3

82. Los Angeles Kings — Nick Shore, Denver
83. Anaheim Ducks — Andy Welinski, Minnesota-Duluth
91. Florida Panthers — Kyle Rau, Minnesota

Round 4

92. Edmonton Oilers — Dillon Simpson, UND
97. Montreal Canadiens — Josiah Didier, Denver
98. Columbus Blue Jackets — Mike Reilly, Minnesota
101. Vancouver Canucks — Joseph Labate, Wisconsin
110. Los Angeles Kings — Michael Mersch, Wisconsin

Round 5

128. Columbus Blue Jackets — Seth Ambroz, Minnesota
129. New Jersey Devils — Blake Pietila, Michigan Tech
130. Toronto Maple Leafs — Tony Cameranesi, Minnesota Duluth
131. Minnesota Wild — Nick Seeler, Nebraska-Omaha

Round 6

154. Florida Panthers — Eddie Witchow, uncommitted (UND is a possibility, he says)
174. Pittsburgh Penguins — Josh Archibald, Nebraska-Omaha
177. Washington Capitals — Travis Boyd, Minnesota
178. Tampa Bay Lightning — Adam Wilcox, Minnesota

Round 7

187. Winnipeg Jets — Aaron Harstad, Colorado College
189. New Jersey Devils — Patrick Daly, Wisconsin
196. Phoenix Coyotes — Zac Larraza, Denver
197. Buffalo Sabres — Brad Navin, Wisconsin
199. Chicago Blackhawks — Alex Broadhurst, Nebraska-Omaha

Miller goes No. 15 to New York

On Friday night, we saw another Sioux player go in the first round of the NHL draft. It almost seems common now that 10 have been first-rounders in the last decade.

But when you flip through the record books, it’s clear that Friday’s pick was fairly special. The New York Rangers picked UND incoming freshman J.T. Miller with the No. 15 overall pick. Only two Sioux forwards have gone higher — Jonathan Toews and Drew Stafford.

Ironically, Stafford was in the media room while Miller was being interviewed and Sioux coach Dave Hakstol pointed out to Stafford that Miller would be wearing green and white in the fall.

Miller had a lot of family members in the crowd and they erupted when he was picked. For a full story on his selection, see the Herald’s coverage.

A couple of other notes:

–Despite the speculation out there that Miller isn’t 100 percent set on UND, he sure seemed set on it at the draft. He told the N.Y. media that he would be going to North Dakota and that he wanted to play hard there. “I’ll be a guy who works hard, just like the Sioux do,” he said.

–There were probably at least 10-15 media types around Miller for the interview, but I was actually expecting more considering it was New York that selected him.

–Rangers GM Glen Sather didn’t do any interviews (that I’m aware of), but a scouting director told the New York Times that Miller was an underrated goal scorer. It also speculates that the Rangers might try to sign Miller, but that seems fairly far-fetched considering it benefits neither New York nor Miller.