The Saskatoon Blades are well represented in Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play plan. Five alumni have been invited to participate in training camps this week ahead of exhibition play at the end of the month.
19-year-old forward Kirby Dach is lacing up with the Chicago Blackhawks in a continuation of his rookie campaign, goaltender Braden Holtby is hunting down a second Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals, and Czech defender Libor Hajek is competing for a roster spot with the New York Rangers. Rounding out the five invites is Anton Khudobin, who’s charging for the number 1 position in the Dallas Stars crease, and Nelson Nogier with the Winnipeg Jets.
C – Kirby Dach
The older brother to current Blades forward Colton, Kirby Dach is enjoying a productive and successful first year in the NHL. The St. Albert native has 8 goals and 15 assists for 23 points in 64 regular-season games, helping the Blackhawks to a 32-30-7 record. Dach is expected to make the ‘Hawks play-in roster, which will compete in a five-game series against the Edmonton Oilers beginning August 1st.
G – Braden Holtby
No surprise to see Braden Holtby back in the blue paint with a Washington Capitals logo on his chest. A cornerstone for the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions, Holtby has been the Caps go-to netminder for the better part of eight seasons. He’s a five-time All-Star and Vezina Trophy winner on top of a Stanley Cup champion, and helped the Capitals finish 1st in the Metropolitan Division this year. However, compared to previous seasons, Holtby’s numbers have slid, boasting a 3.11 goals-against-average and 0.897 save percentage. Washington will compete against Tampa Bay, Boston, and Philadelphia in round-robin play beginning next month, which will decide their first-round playoff matchup.
D – Libor Hajek
A two-year former assistant captain for the Blades, Libor Hajek has split time with the New York Rangers and the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL the past two years. Hajek saw increased playing time in The Big Apple last season, dressing in 28 games and pitching in with 5 assists. In 23 games with the Wolfpack, he lit the lamp once on top of two helpers. According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Czech figures to be the next man up should a defenseman go down with an injury during the playoffs.
G – Anton Khudobin
A prominent netminder for the Blades in 2005-06, Anton Khudobin is lacing up with the Dallas Stars after a surging regular season. In 26 starts, the Kazakstanian chalked up an impressive 0.930 save-percentage and 2.20 goals-against-average — both marks sitting fifth among NHL starters. Khudobin picked a good time to get hot as well, seeing he’s up for a contract renewal as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and is competing for time against Ben Bishop. Dallas earned a spot in the round-robin format against Vegas, St. Louis, and Colorado, and will drop the puck on August 3rd.
D – Nelson Nogier
While he doesn’t have much experience playing at the NHL level, Nelson Nogier has a strong case to compete for a roster spot with the Winnipeg Jets. The pride of Saskatoon and former Blades assistant captain has 11 career NHL games under his belt, with a large bulk of his playing time spent with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL over the last four years. The high-impact, defensively sound rearguard put up 1 goal and 9 points in each of the last two seasons with the Moose, while adding a combined 93 penalty minutes. Should he earn a spot on the Jets play-in roster, he’ll lace up against the Calgary Flames for the best-of-five series beginning on August 1st.
NHL RETURN TO PLAY SCHEDULE