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  • 2007-08 Japanese players in North America

    Posted by simon c on 2008 May 29日 Thursday

    Now that the Spokane Chiefs have been crowned as the Memorial Cup champs, Gatineau Olympiques’ Takuma Kawai’s season has ended, along with the seasons of all Japanese players in North America. Here are their 2007-08 stats.

    Player

    Team

    League

    GP

    G

    A

    P

    PIM

     

    Kawai, Takuma

    Gatineau Olympiques

    QMJHL

    47

    5

    8

    13

    20

     
     

    (Playoffs incl. Memorial Cup)

    17

    1

    2

    3

       

    Nishiwaki, Masahito

    Dayton Bombers

    ECHL

    64

    14

    17

    31

    44

     
     

    (Playoffs)

     

    2

    0

    1

    1

    0

     

    Takahashi, Kazuma

    Utah Grizzlies

    ECHL

    28

    0

    5

    5

    31

     
                     

    Player

    Team

    League

    GP

    W

    L

    T

    GAA

    Sv%

    Fukufuji, Yutaka

    Bakersfield Condors

    ECHL

    47

    18

    18

    1

    3.39

    0.899

     

    (Playoffs)

     

    6

    2

    2

    2

    3.55

    0.912

    Kawai played regularly on the powerful Olympiques team, but was converted from forward to defense with 15 games left in the season. He only managed 1 goal in the Q playoffs, but got 2 assists and was an even +/- 0 at the Memorial Cup. Hopefully his appearance in the Memorial Cup sparked an interest in some NHL teams to take a flyer on him with a late round pick.

     

    The five-foot-11, 190-pound Kawai is actually a forward who was moved to defence in February because of injuries on Gatineau’s blue-line. He made an impact in Monday’s Memorial Cup loss to Belleville with two assists.

    He’s a role player with a feisty, hard-hitting style _ hence the missing teeth _ which are desirable qualities whether he plays forward and defence.

    “It was kind of hard at first,” Kawai said of the switch. “I had to adjust. I’m enjoying it right now. I like to make a pass and make a hit too.”

    “Now, I have to use my head a lot. (Before) I just skated, made a hit and came back.”

    Kawai’s older brother Ryuichi Kawai is a defenceman for the Seibu Prince Rabbits of the Asian Hockey League. The younger Kawai started following his brother to hockey practice when he was three years old.

    Nishiwaki is one of Japan’s top forwards and among the league leaders in scoring (more than a point per game) when he was in the Asia League. It took him some time to establish himself on the Bombers, but being 6th on the team in scoring, he was an important player. Hopefully he’ll challenge himself overseas again, as this was only his first season in the States, and he should be better adapted to the minor league hockey environment next season. After Dayton lost out in their best of 3 first round series, Nishiwaki came back to join Team Japan in time for the World Championships Division I in Sapporo where he scored 2 goals in 5 games.

    Takahashi was more of a role player back in Japan where he scored less than a point per game but had at least 1 PIM per game (119 PIM in just 41 GP in 2004-05). He managed to hang on for a full year on the Utah roster, even though he was scratched for many games and was asked to be a role player with limited ice time when he got into games. Hopefully he’ll get another crack at the ECHL next season, as he definitely took a step up from the previous season when he played in the SPHL. 

    Fukufuji was lucky enough to get called up to the NHL the previous season when the LA Kings didn’t want to risk putting Jason LaBarbera through waivers where he probably would’ve been picked up by another team, as he was absolutely dominating the AHL then. Anyways NHL proved to be way beyond Fukufuji’s level as he was shellshocked into 4.37 GAA and .837 Save % in 4 games before being sent back down. Yutaka had a reasonable season and excellent playoffs despite being on a weak team (hence the unimpressive numbers). Hopefully the team in front of him will be better next season, and if he continues his solid play, maybe he can get some time in the AHL between the pipes. I’m interested in seeing what he can do at that level, as he’s proven himself in the ECHL over 5 seasons (including parts) already. 

    3 Responses to “2007-08 Japanese players in North America”

    1. Martin said

      ” as this was only his first season in the States, and he should be better adapted to the minor league hockey environment next season ”

      He won’t be going back, as the Cranes only gave permission for one season.

    2. simoncurrie said

      Ah I see, thanks for the info Martin. So this was only a one year “challenge” then. That’s too bad for Japanese hockey, as he’ll definitely grow faster as a hockey player in a challenging environment, but the allure of financial and living condition stability of playing in Japan means that it’s unlikely for top Japanese players to quit their teams to completely transfer to overseas clubs (former players get to stay on and work in the company after their playing careers are over), instead they’ll be the big fish in a small pond, which is unfortunate because their potential as hockey players will not be maximized.

    3. Martin said

      Yeah, it’s a shame……but the Cranes were lost without him and Plante last season.

      Apparently the team covers all expenses for the first year, and if you decide to stay on after that, you are on your own. I think that Ito Kengo had the same deal.

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