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  • Posts Tagged ‘takuma’

    Japanese players not (yet) in the ECHL

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 October 21日 Wednesday

    Three Japanese born players tried out for ECHL and IHL teams this season, but none of them made the cut. The economic downturn has also affected minor league pro hockey as several teams in the AHL and ECHL have folded or suspended operations for this season with probably more casualties in the lower leagues. This means that the pro hockey market is overflowing with capable players, and some players are having to play in lower leagues than their skills would normally warrant. Our Japanese challengers seem to have become casualties as well.

    takahashi

    Former Nikko Ice Buck Kazuma Takahashi spent the past 2 seasons with the Utah Grizzlies, and he got an invite to the Stockton Thunder training camp after a successful FAT (Free Agent Training Camp). Despite being productive during he did not make the final cut and the official reason given was his old battle wound from 9 years ago, despite the fact that he played in the ECHL for the past 2 seasons. Luckily he was then invited to the SPHL tryouts, and was signed by the Louisiana IceGators along with Takaaki Ishikawa who just graduated from college and was due to play for the China Sharks of the Asia League before the team changed directions and became the China Dragon.

    takuma

    As for the Kawai brothers, defenceman Ryuichi and forward Takuma, who also went through a successful FAT and then were trying out for the IHL Bloomington PrairieThunder, they were both attractive players who played well during the tryout (their words) but they were cut because of lack of visas. Now, I thought teams were supposed to provide the visas once they signed the players, not the other way around. But the Kawai brothers are now back in Japan and are waiting for their US work permits to be issued. In the meantime, the expansion AL team Tohoku Free Blades have picked them up and they will definitely upgrade the upstart team. Their contracts with the Blades are supposed to be temporary until they head back to the States, but who knows what will happen.

    ryuichi

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    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, ECHL, hockey, information, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Asia League 2009-10 Preview

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 September 17日 Thursday

    logo

    The ever changing Asia League of Ice Hockey had another paradigm shift this past off season. They’re easier to sum up in point form, so here we go:

    • Seibu Prince Rabbits are no more. The club has folded after finding no takers for its 5-oku yen (~$5m) annual team budget. With this, the league and Japanese hockey has lost their most powerful backer in the Seibu Group. The fallout from this catastrophic event saw former Seibu players becoming Seibu group employees, picked up by other Asia League teams, or moving to teams abroad.
    • Tohoku Free Blades are born! In the place of Seibu, a new team based in the Tohoku region (north east part of the main Honshu island) has joined the league. This is something to be celebrated as times are tough for the entire corporate sports scene in Japan with various company teams folding, disbanding, and suspending operations and hockey being no exception. The Blades are backed by major sports equipment retailer Xebio.
    • s_logoChina Sharks are now the China Dragon. The Chinese entry in the Asia league has severed its ties with the NHL San Jose Sharks after only one season. The Sharks had provided coaching and players who were crucial to the Chinese team avoiding the league basement for the first time in the league’s short history. But the team is heading in a new direction with its Belarusian coach and fewer imports in order to train their domestic players (the Dragon are essentially the Chinese national team). It is unclear what the financial arrangements were when the San Jose Sharks were affiliated with the China Sharks and what brought about this change in direction.
    • The league is shortening the playoffs to a best of 5 format instead of a best of 7 format that produced so much drama last season (bad move). Top 4 teams will make the playoffs instead of the top 5 (I liked the best of 3 play-in round between 4th and 5th place teams). It is also adopting IIHF rule changes that does not permit line changes for teams that committed icing, and also initial faceoffs on powerplays will take place in the offensive zone.

    Now, let’s take a team by team look at the upcoming season in more detail:

    c_logoNippon Paper Cranes (21-4-11, Playoff Champions)

    The defending champions from the 2008-09 season returns with a team largely unchanged. The Cranes have reduced the number of imports from two (Brad Tiley, Kelly Fairchild) to one (Pierre-Olivier Beaulieu) in order to save costs (Beaulieu has only ECHL and German 2nd division experience, thus should be considerably cheaper than the more experienced Tiley and Fairchild, but whether he’ll be able to contribute as much remains a question to be answered), and have also picked up national team member Daisuku Obara from Seibu. The amazing playoff run last season that capped off with the championship trophy was largely due to the outstanding goaltending of Hisashi Ishikawa who absolutely stood on his head in many postseason games. More of the same will be needed for the team to repeat as champions as the top of the league could be a logjam.

    a_logoAnyang Halla (23-4-9, lost in semifinals)

    In 2008-09 Halla became the first non-Japanese team to claim the regular season title. However, the team was unable to overcome the eventual champions Cranes despite having the home ice advantage in a tough 7 game series that went the distance (4 of the 7 games were 1 goal games). The core of the team is intact as Halla has done the previously unthinkable in the AL by inking their successful imports to multiyear deals (3 years for leading scorer Brock Radunske, 2 years each for Jon Awe and Brad Fast). With sniper Song Dong-Hwan back having a successful season (35GP 45P) after missing 2 seasons to military service, the team looks poised to avenge their playoff disappointment from the previous season.

    o_logoOji Eagles (22-4-10, lost in semifinals)

    The Eagles have decided to really save on expenses by doing away entirely with imports for the upcoming season. Instead the team has added national team forwards and former Seibu players Sho Sato and Yosuke Kon (the AL and Team Japan pest, in the Esa Tikkanen mould, it’s a compliment). The production from veteran imports Ricard Persson and Shane Endicott will be missed, but with the parent company Oji Paper’s finances on shakier grounds with the economic downturn, the team will ice an all-Japanese squad this season (though the team still has a “ringer” in Japanese passport holding Japanese-Canadian Aaron Keller who is also a national team defenceman). It’s still a good team, especially with the addition of Sato and Kon, but it’s tough to see this team taking either the regular season title or the playoff trophy home with them.

    h_logoHigh1 (13-4-19, lost in first round)

    The High1 club had a disappointing 2008-09 season being unceremoniously swept out of the play-in first round of the playoffs against the eventual champs Cranes after a 5th place finish in the regular season where they were not in contention with the top 4 teams. The team looks to rebound to 2007-08 form when they finished 2nd in the regular season. The team has brought back Tim Smith who had a successful run from 2006-08 (63GP 106P) and has also brought in new imports D Jeremy Van Hoof and F Trevor Gallant. Along with their Korean rookies, the team has also added Japanese rookie Hiroki Ueno who scored 30 points in 24 games for Waseda University in the Kanto University League (top university league in Japan).

    d_logoChina Dragon (6-4-26, did not make the playoffs)

    The ever changing Chinese entry in the Asia League will play as the China Dragon this season. The former China Sharks became the first team to send a non-Chinese team to the bottom of the standings last season largely in part to the excellent goaltending by NHL and AHL veterans Wade Flaherty (who won AL goalie of the year last season) and big, tough defenceman Steve McKenna, and the team showed the most discipline of any Chinese team in AL history by staying close in many games where they were blown out in the past (well, it may have been mostly due to Flaherty who played every game making 40+ saves per game with a 91.7% save percentage). The Dragon are allowed to have 7 imports on their roster, but intend on entering the season with only 3 or 4 imports in order to be less reliant on imports to better develop domestic players. The team is under the stewardship of experienced Belarusian Andrei Kovalev, and its imports haven’t been announced as of yet. Unless the team can sign a Flaherty-class goalie, look for China to sink back to the bottom of the league standings in the coming season. Oh yeah, and the new Dragon logo is totally underwhelming and uninspiring piece of bureaucratic art(?), don’t they have snazzy designers in Shanghai these days?

    i_logoNikko Ice Bucks (6-2-28, did not make the playoffs)

    The Bucks had their worst season since AL begun by becoming the first non-Chinese team to finish the season at the bottom of the table. The interesting choice of using unproven import forwards Eric Lafreniere (34GP 10P) and Mickey Gilchrist (36GP 19P) did not quite work out, but this is the team that has experienced the most changes during the offseason. Firstly, the Bucks have brought in 6 former Seibu players including national team captain Takahito Suzuki and NT goalie Naoya Kikuchi, the addition of 3 quality defencemen is sure to bolster their game in the defensive zone, and the addition of Bud Smith gives the team flexibility with its top 6 forwards. With such a significant upgrade to their team, the Bucks are the wildcard in the 2009-10 season. If the team gels well, it could finish high in the standings and fight their way through the playoffs. Though a 2 year plan is probably more realistic.

    fb_logoTohoku Free Blades (expansion team)

    The unproven Blades take the place of powerhouse Seibu in the league. The team was created last year based on 14 players who made the cut in team tryouts. Then once the team was officially approved to join the league, the Blades went out and reinforced their lineup with Asia Leaguers and imports. It was a coup obtaining Bin Ishioka (36GP 18P) from Seibu and D Steve Munn and LW Bruce Mulherin have a good trackrecord in the English league the past couple of seasons and have proved to be solid additions to the team so far in the preseason. The goaltending duties will fall on homegrown Michio Hashimoto who got bumped from the Bucks when they acquired Kikuchi, but Hashimoto is capable of stealing some games and will keep the team in games where they have no business being in. The Blades will play most of their games in Hachinohe, Aomori, but will also play a series in Koriyama, Fukushima, another city in the Tohoku region.

    pr_logoSeibu Prince Rabbits aftermath: 6 players including Suzuki and Kikuchi have signed with the Bucks, Kon and Sho Sato have signed with Oji, the Cranes acquired Obara, Kashino and Ishioka went to Tohoku, Yuya Yamada to High1, and G Inoue who was to become the first Seibu player from the Seibu junior team has joined China. Players going overseas are Go Tanaka to German 2nd division team ESV Kaufbeuren, Ryuichi Kawai (along with his younger brother Takuma who is the first Japanese player to appear in the Memorial Cup) are training in Alberta in now-retired Ryan Fujita’s hometown of Taber, Alberta (also Devin Setoguchi’s hometown) and will be trying out for minor league teams, long time ALer Joel Prpic has signed with Medveščak, the Croatian entry in the EBEL (Austrian based international league), and is waiting for his Croatian passport (his parents are Croatian) to be processed and should start playing with them in October.

    To say the least, this should be a very interesting Asia League season with so many changes to the league. I expect Halla to be the team to beat in the 2009-10 season, but the top of the standings could get very congested with the Cranes, Eagles, High1, and the Bucks all having a crack at it. Unless China can bring in a quality goalie, I expect the Dragon to be doormats once again, and the expansion Blades should finish ahead of them with Hashimoto in nets. And since the teams have only been playing preseason games in their respective regions (Hokkaido, Honshu, Korea, and China) probably to cut costs, so we are even more in the dark than usual regarding team strength and chemistry.

    The season opens on 19 September with the Hokkaido teams hosting the Honshu teams and the Korean derby in Anyang. Let’s drop the puck!

    PS This is exactly the 600th post on this blog, yay!

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, Japan, NHL, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

    AL Preseason Shorts + Ichiro

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 September 7日 Monday

    • Oji Eagles and Nippon Paper Cranes played a pair of free admission preseason games in Tomakomai, Hokkaido over the weekend. Results were 3-2 and 4-1 for an Oji sweep.
    • Tohoku Free Blades were officially admitted into the league on 5 September. Well, this was just a rubber stamping process since the club is starting out its life on stable grounds.

    freeblades-109788

    • Ex-Seibu Prince Rabbit D Ryuichi Kawai and (probably) his younger brother and ex-Gatineau Olympique Takuma Kawai are going to be on the ice for the University of Lethbridge team’s tryouts, even though they’re both not enrolled with the university. Apparently the training camp has guys trying to crack AHL and ECHL clubs, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare. The brothers are staying and training with ex-Seibu Ryan Fujita whose home is about a 40 minute drive from Lethbridge, Alberta.
    • The immortal Ichiro earned his 2000th Major League hit in style with a double against the A’s. Always a showman who marks special occasions with crafty hits or big bombs more often than his usual slap and dash.

    Mariners Athletics Baseball

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, baseball, ECHL, hockey, information, MLB, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Blades – Bucks preseason results

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 August 30日 Sunday

    The new AL team Tohoku Free Blades faced off against the bolstered Nikko Ice Bucks over the weekend for two preseason games. These two games were the Blades first official games (their games up to now had been against understrengthed squads, non-AL teams or not full 3×20 games).

    29 August 2009

    Nikko Ice Bucks 4 (0-1, 2-0, 2-1) 2 Tohoku Free Blades

    SOG: 43 – 12

    Attendance: 872

    30 August 2009

    Nikko Ice Bucks 4 (1-0, 2-0, 1-1) 1 Tohoku Free Blades

    SOG: 30 – 16

    Attendance: 882

    The word is that Steve Munn and Jon Smyth were solid for the Blades, Bin Ishioka scored both goals in game 1, Michio Hashimoto kept the team in the game despite being vastly outshot in the first game, and the team was less tense in the second game and played a more overall solid game despite the untelling scoreline.

    Goalies in game 1 were starters and former Buck Michio Hashimoto for the Blades and national team goalie Naoya Kikuchi for the Bucks, backup goalies played in game 2 for both teams.

    Images from game 1 via Freeblades.jp

    006

    010

    012

    014

    More images and game report here.

    On another note, national team defenceman and former Seibu Prince Rabbit Ryuichi Kawai and his younger brother and first Japanese player to appear in the Memorial Cup Takuma Kawai are in a small town near Lethbridge, Alberta at staying at Kiyoshi Ryan Fujita’s house and training. Not sure what they’re aim is but maybe they’re looking for some tryouts in the North American minor leagues.

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

    Kazumasa Sasaki and the Japan U20 Team

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 November 30日 Sunday

    The JIHF announced their U20 team for the upcoming U20 Div II Group A tournament in Romania in mid-December against Korea, Serbia, Belgium, Lithuania, and hosts Romania.

    All but one of the players on the Japanese U20 team are first year university players. The lone exception is Kazumasa Sasaki who is an Asia League Oji Eagles player on a (probably) one year assignment in Swedish Division I with Östersund Hockey, and he is proving himself to be a useful player scoring 6+4=10 from the blueline in 16 games at the tender age of 18.

    Sasaki has yet to play a game for the strong Eagles side, but I expect him to be back with his Japanese team next season as this season in Sweden is probably all expenses paid training by Oji (similar situation to many Japanese players in the past, including Masahito Nishiwaki with the ECHL Dayton Bombers last season. Japanese players truly testing and developing their talents overseas at the pro level can sadly be counted on one hand… Yutaka Fukufuji and Kazuma Takahashi, both in the ECHL, and maybe CHL overager Takuma Kawai.) Only playing one season overseas almost seems like a waste of resources as the player just gets acclimatized to their new environment when they get called back to Japan, shame. But financial security of playing in Japan is just too comforting and secure to get more players to truly challenge themselves and develop overseas long term..

    kazumasa

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, International, JIHF, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Baseball and Hockey Blogalog

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 29日 Friday

    Deanna has another great interview, this time an insightful and long interview with the veteran (of NPB and other leagues) Fernando Seguinol. The Fighters in Sapporo Dome, Shinjo, playing in various countries, his travelling season so far, playing for Katsuya Nomura, different approaches at the plate playing for different organizations in different countries, learning the language, etc. all very interesting stuff.

    Update from the Seibu Prince Rabbits equipment manager about their Bavaria training camp. The team lost again, this time to a team in the second tier German league, but apparently the goalie Kikuchi is playing well and even received applause from the local fans. The defence must’ve been really porous giving up lots of shots. Anyways, there’s a funny anecdote (with pictures) about how him and another player went swimming in the cold lake after the team cycled up to the castle at Hussen. Most players are not strong swimmers because most Japanese hockey players are from Hokkaido where they don’t have swimming during phys ed. I’ll do a wrap on their Bavarian trip after their last game on the 31st. Japan NT and Seibu player Ryuichi Kawai has some pictures up from their Ingolstadt game, the atmosphere does look amazing, his brother Takuma is the first Japanese major junior player and is on Gatineau.

    One time LA King, and current ECHL Bakersfield Condors goalie, Yutaka Fukufuji visited Oji Eagle Kei Tonosaki in Tomakomai. They both entered Kokudo (which merged with Seibu) at age 18 and are now 26 year olds, how time flies. Fukufuji blanked a visiting Team Canada (Allan Cup winner, best amateur team in the country) in a warm up game in Tokyo before a Nagano Cup some years back, I guess that would be around 2000, when he was still a high schooler.

    Kazuma Takahashi explains his current situation, having to train alone because he’s not on any team yet, and how team building works differently between Japan/Europe and North America. In Japan and Europe the team is set during the off season, but in North America only the core of the team is set during the offseason, and the rest are based on tryouts during training camp, that’s how he ended up on the ECHL Utah Grizzlies (which was a step or two up from the previous season he spent in the SPHL.

    Good luck on the upcoming season to all the players!

    And, back to baseball, former Hanshin Tigers ace Kei Igawa has proven himself a true ace in America as well… in AAA. His numbers so far are 13-5, 3.55ERA, 6.92K/9, 2.64K/BB, 1.19WHIP. But got whipped around in his brief MLB stint again with 13.50ERA in 4IP in 2 appearances. Note to Japanese pitchers trying to break into the majors, you need something more than a decent fastball, mediocre location, and a good changeup.

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, baseball, culture, ECHL, hockey, information, MLB, NPB, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    2007-08 Japanese players in North America

    Posted by japanstats 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. 

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, ECHL, hockey, information, International, Japan, opinion, statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »