Monday, February 9, 2015

Upcoming NCAA Free Agents - Daniel Ciampini, Union College Dutchmen

In this new segment, I'm going to be looking at impending Unrestricted Free Agents coming from the NCAA. These are mostly juniors and seniors who have not been drafted by an NHL team and could directly be signed by a team (although it can sometimes be sophomores as well). Each year brings a new crop of NHL-ready players, or just about, from the schools around the country. Many are signed to entry-level contracts and either jump directly to the NHL, or are sent to the AHL affiliates.

(Image rights are property of Union College)
For each segment I will take a look at a specific player that looks to be an upcoming free agent this offseason. Today we look a Union College's forward, Daniel Ciampini. The 24 year old is in his senior year at Union and will most likely look to sign with an NHL team in the offseason. In fact, Ciampini will probably be one of the most sought-after free agents, as he is currently leading the entire league in goals and is second in points (only by 1 to Jack Eichel of Boston University).

Ciampini's position is listed as "Forward" on his Elite Prospects Page, but from what I've seen of him, he plays mainly as a Right Wing. He stands at 5'11" and 185 pounds, and will have to build more muscle to his frame if he wants to play in the NHL, especially if he wants to play his game. I will elaborate on his game below.

 Looking further at his page, one can't help but notice his impressive statistic line. So far in 28 games this season, Ciampini has scored 42 points (23G 19A). As mentioned above, he leads the NCAA in goals scored and is 2nd overall in points scored. The most promising sign is that Ciampini has made progress throughout all 4 years at Union. Last season he had a point per game pace, scoring 41 points (23G 18A) in 41 games and the year before saw him score 21 points (11G 10A) in 36 games.

While the numbers don't say everything, Ciampini's are very promising and show that he has the ability to improve himself with experience.

Ciampini is probably best known for his hat trick in the frozen four semi-final match against Boston College to send the Dutchmen to the National Championship in 2014. Let's take a look at those goals.

(Ciampini is #17 in the Garnet colored jerseys)

Ciampini's goals are at 3:31, 5:15 (PP), and at 8:15 (EN), but I linked the beginning of the entire video because I want to point out that Ciampini does more than score goals for Union, and you can see that pretty well from his positioning and role on the team. You'll notice his game in the offensive zone is to immediately park himself in front of the opposing goaltender. From here he'll look for either tip-ins or rebounds to score. This is how he scored his first 2 goals of the game.

However, that's not the only way he scores goals. With less than 10 seconds to go, Ciampini makes a move around Penn State defenseman and then the goalie to score the game-winning goal.

(Goal is at 4:33)

Nice hands.

Defensively, Ciampini is pretty responsible in his own end, enough to play on the penalty kill. Although that could be for the threat of scoring a short-handed goal, like he did against Boston University earlier this year. As seen below. His positioning in the offensive zone is excellent, he just needs to work on his defensive zone positioning more to even out his 200 foot game. The good thing is that this can be taught, whereas offensive instinct and a "nose for the net" cannot truly be taught.

(The goal is around the 5:38 mark)
Ciampini makes a good play blocking the pass from the point and creating a breakaway for himself.

Also a good thing is Ciampini's ability to make plays while moving at relatively high speeds, as seen with his assist on the Powerplay around the 7:24 mark of the video against Boston University.

In late January, Ciampini lead Union College to win the Mayor's Cup by beating RPI by a score of 8-3. Ciampini had 3 goals and 3 assists that game.

So all in all, if a NHL team were to sign, or were looking to sign Ciampini, what would they be getting? This is my analysis:


-Nose for the net
-Good forechecker
-Able to score "greasy goals" around the net
-Experience playing in high-pressure games
-Good positioning in the offensive zone, makes himself known on every offensive shift
-Plays top line minutes on a very offensively-sound team
-Power play and Penalty kill experience


-Needs to move his feet more in the defensive zone, can be sometimes seen loafing back
-Needs to add more muscle in order to play his game in front of the net (will come in time), so he doesn't get pushed around
-Will his game translate to the NHL?


I can see Ciampini's ceiling as a 2nd line scoring winger. His play style reminds me of a combination of Brendan Gallagher (of the Montreal Canadiens) in that he's a relatively small forward that crashes the net on the rush, and a smaller Steve Bernier (of the New Jersey Devils) in that his role in sustained offensive possession or on the Power play is to park himself in front of the opposing goalie looking for screens, tip-ins, and rebounds.

Any team that is short on RW prospects should definitely give this guy a look, as well as a team that wants a good player for a boost in secondary scoring in their lineup.

Thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions for improvement or if there is a player you'd like me to look at, please let me know. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog for more articles!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A World Of Hockey: SC Bern, Switzerland

Today's Edition of A World Of Hockey features a team from Switzerland that I had the pleasure of seeing! Today we look at the team, SC Bern, from Switzerland's top league, the NLA (National League A). SC Bern is one of 12 teams competing in this league, and are located in the Swiss capitol of Bern. SC Bern was founded in 1930, and ultimately began competitive play in 1931. Their current head coach is former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach, Guy Boucher, and have won the championship for the NLA a total of 13 times (including when the NLA was formerly known as the NDA and also Nationalliga A) starting in 1959.

(I don't own the rights to this image)

SC Bern has some of the highest attendance rates out of any European hockey team (including the KHL as well), averaging almost 16,000 people per home game. I was lucky enough to be a part of that home crowd for a game in January. (More on that below)

This is the jersey I purchased. It's the black home colors. A lot of people seem to have trouble getting past the advertisements on the jersey and the ice. To them I say, without these ads, smaller leagues like Swiss NLA (despite its highest averaging attendance out of all the European leagues) would cease to exist. Once I started considering that, I didn't worry so much about the ads on the ice/jerseys and just enjoyed the hockey.

I didn't take a picture of the sleve, but you'll notice a "2014-2015" on the sleeve by the elbow. I think the reason for this is because the team can sell different designs each year to help further financially support the team. 

This match I attended was the semi-final match in the Swiss Cup Championship, not to be confused with the NLA championship. Some quick background on the Swiss Cup is that it was established in 1957 and featured all Swiss top-tier leagues, which would include not only the NLA, but also the second highest league in Switzerland, the NLB. The tournament ran until 1972, ultimately closing because financial and other reasons that I'm not too sure. SC Bern was able to win a Swiss Cup Championship in 1965.

In May of 2013, the Swiss Ice Hockey Associated announced that they would be restarting the tournament for 2014-2015. So I found myself in Bern on January 7th to experience a game. I didn't know too much about SC Bern other than it was a fairly popular team and that it was pretty big rivals with the team in the "city" I was staying in, Fribourg.

(Fun fact, this was not only due to geographic proximity but also beer sponsorships of the teams. Local Fribourg beer, Cardinale, sponsored Fribourg, while Bern-based Feldschlösschen sponsored SC Bern. Unfortunately both major breweries were moved to different parts of the country, mainly after 
Feldschlösschen bought out Cardinale...oops)
Now from a language perspective, I am fluent in English and very comfortable speaking French. I had been doing that for most of my time in Switzerland. I had also tried to learn as much German as possible before going. The German spoken in Switzerland is extremely different than in Germany. Some Germans view Swiss German as "not real German" (not my words). Either way, it was extremely interesting to see the difference between the Fribourg/Geneva area with mostly French with some English signs and  barely any German and Bern where everything is completely in German.

Either way, getting to the arena, PostFinance Arena, which opened in 1967, was a lot of fun and allowed me to practice some German, mainly asking people if the group I was with was going the right direction. The night's match would be against ZSC Lions, the reigning NLA champions. SC Bern had won the championship for the NLA the year before, so I knew this would be a great game.

For any Buffalo Sabres or New Jersey fans wondering whatever happened to Henrik Tallinder (with all due respect to him though, I really don't think people are...), he's playing defense for ZSC.

If you are interested in going to just about any European league game (hockey or football/soccer), you need to know that there are separate sections in the stands for the home team and for the visiting team. I found tickets for the standing section in the home team section of the arena. There are seats themselves available but for a slightly more expensive price. There were significantly more people in the standing section, as there was more room. Including currency conversion rates (CHF to USD), the ticket itself cost me about $26, which is an incredible offer considering I'm used to the higher prices of North American games.)

(My view during the warm-ups)

Before the teams even stepped onto the ice there was singing, chanting, and yelling from all corners of the arena, by both teams. The most noise were from, and the chants were being lead, by the section of the arena with all the flags and drums. They were being rallied by two men with a megaphone. An unreal atmosphere, nothing like I'd ever experienced before.

I will keep the game recap short, SC Bern scored a goal 9 seconds into the game and the entire arena went bonkers. Throughout the match, the home fans felt the referees missed a lot of major calls and ended up throwing all sorts of cardboard (mainly beer containers) onto the ice. Again, this was nothing like I'd ever seen before. If you threw an item onto the ice (insert Leafs jersey throwing joke here) at any NHL game, you would consequently be thrown out of the arena. (And yet, they usually have trouble finding whoever throws the octopi on the ice at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.)

ZSC would ultimately tie it up late in the first period, and the second period was chippy as the crowd got further and further upset at the referee crew. However, late in the third period, SC Bern got a power play, to which the entire arena (even those in the sitting seats) stood up and starting applauding, as if nothing else mattered before that moment. All I could think of was whether or not I had stepped into a Disney sports movie.

And, with 22 seconds to go...

I caught some magic on my phone. (Yes I was being that guy that had his phone out at the game)

SC Bern plays Kloten for the Swiss Cup Final on February 11th in Bern.

SC Bern also participated in the recent Champions Hockey League tournament featuring teams from almost all the European hockey leagues. SC Bern was in Group E with teams HC Trinec from Czech Republic, Stavanger Oilers from Norway, and Tappara from Finland.

SC Bern did not qualify for the playoffs and finished last in their group. Not the finish you want to see (especially because rival Fribourg-Gotteron finished on top of their group D), but it is a good re-introduction to international play for a growing Swiss Program.

Important Links for SC Bern:
-NLA Home page (French or German Option...can be translated through Google)
-SC Bern Website
-SC Bern Facebook Page
-SC Bern Twitter Page
-SC Bern Youtube Page

Thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions, please let me know.Be sure to comment and follow me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog for more articles!
Let me know if you'd like to see more videos or pictures from the game. I will gladly post them.