BY MIKE KILLBREATH
Posted January 20, 2017
Flint Firebirds celebrate Kole Sherwood becoming city's first CHL Player-of-the Week winner
FLINT — It was two days ago that the Flint Firebirds celebrated the first player to skate for them on the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center's ice making it to the National Hockey League for a regulars season game. Friday night they celebrated their first winner of the Canadian Hockey League's Player-fo-the-Week award.
The announcement of Flint's Kole Sherwood as the weekly honoree came from the CHL's office in Toronto on Tuesday, and the Firebirds celebrated at Friday's home game with the team's president, Kosta Popista, taking to the public address system for a pre-game salute on the ice to Sherwood. The team also commemorated the big honor by distributing an autographed mini photo poster of Sherwood to fans as they came into the arena.
"Sherwood's big week was highlighted by a seven-point performance last week in Saginaw when he tied an all-time franchise record with five goals — one shy of the all-time OHL record of six," Papista said to fans prior to presenting Sherwood with a commemorative plaque on the ice before the opening face-off Friday.
Sherwood's big night last week at Saginaw was among a had a trio of multi-point efforts to help the Firebirds earn three of a possible six road points to stay competitive in the OHL’s Western Conference playoff race. They went into Friday's game with a record of 20-18-1-3 to hold down the eighth and final spot, but lost a rematch of Wednesday night's matchup with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The Soo won 5-4 Friday night on Flint's ice after losing 5-4 at home on Wednesday night.
Sherwood's big night at Saginaw led the Firebirds to an 11-2 romp over the Spirit and he added a goal and an assist two nights later in Niagara against the Ice Dogs to figure in both Flint goals in a 5-2 loss. The Ohio native then extended his personal point-streak to a career-high eight games on the road Saturday with a goal and assist as third star of a 4-3 shootout loss to the Erie Otters.
The 19-year-old from New Albany, Ohio, came to the Firebirds this season in a trade with the London Knights. He scored 12 goals and tallied 34 points last season during 61 regular season games Sherwood is playing in his second career OHL season and first with the Firebirds after winning an OHL and Mastercard Memorial Cup title with the London Knights last season. He currently ranks 13th in OHL scoring with 50 points in 38 games including 22 goals and 28 assists. Sherwood made history in July, 2015, when he became the first Columbus native to sign an entry-level contract with the hometown Blue Jackets.
Also considered for the award this week was Tyler Wong of the Lethbridge Hurricanes who scored five goals and five assists for 10 points in four games, and Tyler Boland of the Rimouski Oceanic who scored three goals and six assists for nine points in four games.
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic became the first former Flint Firebirds player to play in a National Hockey League regular season game Tuesday for the Carolina Hurricanes in their game in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.
Nedeljkovic came to Flint at the start of last season in the franchise's shift from Plymouth last season after long-time Hurricanes owner Peter Karmonos sold the Whalers to Rolf Nielsen.
While 61 of the franchise's players advanced to the NHL while playing in Detroit and Plymouth, Nedeljkovic becomes the first who played at Flint's Dort Federal Credit Union. The franchise had 11 first round NHL draft choices and nine more who went in the second round since becoming an expansion team in the Ontario Hockey League as the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors in 1990. They played at Joe Louis Arena as the Detroit Junior Red Wings and later at the Detroit Whalers under the ownership of Karmonos before moving to Plymouth's Compuware Arena in 1998 to become the Plymouth Whalers.
Defenseman Jalen Smereck became Flint's first player to make an appearance in the NHL during a pre-season game this season with the Arizona Coyotes. Smereck, an undrafted prospect from Detroit, signed a three-year entry level NHL contract after impressing the Coyotes enough in rookie camp to win a chance to play with them during pre-season games.
Nedeljkovic, who is also an American-born player, was already a prospect of the Hurricanes when he came to Flint. He was a second round pick of the Hurricanes in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
He was traded away from the Firebirds in mid-season a year ago to the Niagara Ice Dogs after posting a 3.28 goals against average for them in 19 games. He appeared in 141 games with the Plymouth Whalers during the first three years of his OHL career, posting goals against averages of 2.28, 2.88 and 3.13.
Nedeljkovic has appeared in three East Coast Hockey League games with the Florida Everglades in each of the past two seasons, and started this season in the American Hockey League with the Charlotte Checkers — the primary affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes. He was called up to the Hurricanes on Monday, not knowing he would make his NHL debut the following day.
The call-up news came after Nedeljkovic posted consecutive victories in the AHL for the first time this season. He made a career-high 42 saves en-route to a 3-2 shootout victory over the defending Calder Cup Champions, Cleveland Monsters, last Friday before making 22 saves in a 5-3 triumph over Cleveland the following night. He had a 3.30 goals against average in 18 AHL games so far this season.
After trailing 4-1 to the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, the Parma, Ohio native was called upon at the 9:16 mark of the second period in his home state to make his NHL debut against the team he grew up watching on television, Nedeljkovic was perfect in his opportunity, making all 17 saves on 17 shots in 29:57 of action between the pipes.
Along with Nedeljkovic making his NHL debut, 366 Canadian Hockey League alumni were listed on NHL opening day rosters representing more tahn 53 percent of all players in the league to start the 2016-17 season. For nine consecutive years from 2007 to 2015, the first-pick overall in the NHL Draft came from the CHL — seven who played in the OHL. The seven were Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid.
Smereck is one of two current Firebirds who have signed contracts with NHL clubs. Forward Kole Sherwood signed a three-year NHL contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Flint’s Nicholas Caamano was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the most recent NHL Draft in June 2016 when last season's top scorer Will Bitten was also selected. Caamano and Sherwood competed in NHL training camps this fall with Everett Clark (St. Louis Blues), Connor Hicks (Detroit Red Wings), Luke Kirwan (Detroit Red Wings) and Alex Peters (Carolina Hurricanes).
Kole Sherwood becomes Flint's first CHL Player-of-the-Week award winner
Sherwood fires in franchise record 5 goals to lead Flint Firebirds to 11-2 romp in Saginaw over the Spirit
The Flint Firebirds distributed copies of the autographed mini poster of Kole Sherwood Friday night to commemorate Sherwood getting the city's first Canadian Hockey League Player-of-the-Week honor. He had a five-goal game in Saginaw to highlight a trio of multi-point games last week.
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January 20, 2017
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