The late off-season is certainly not a time known for big moves in the NHL, but behind the scenes there are a number of players making very difficult decisions as the season draws near. Sometimes the summer has not turned out how they expected an a tough call must be made on a new direction. Other times a long-considered decision reaches a head and a player must make a leap. Whatever the situation, don’t miss out on minor yet notable moves still occuring as we approach the beginning of training camps and preseason action:
- Liam Kirk 2.0? As one Brit gets ready for his first pro season in North America, another is about to make the jump to the top of the junior ranks. The U.K. is a rare spot for hockey talent, which is why Kirk’s draft selection and upcoming campaign with the Arizona Coyotes has drawn so much attention. Now, Alex Graham is hoping to follow in his footsteps. Despite playing almost exclusively in England thus far in his young career, Graham drew the attention of at least one Canadian junior team as he was selected by the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs in the second round of the 2021 CHL Import Draft. Today Niagara announced that Graham has signed on with the team and will make his North American debut this season. While much is still unknown about Graham, the 18-year-old has produced in the U.K. and certainly has appealing size. There is still time for him to show what he can do and draw some NHL Draft interest over the next year or two.
- Blake Hillman will be back in the ECHL next season, signing a one-year deal with the Toledo Walleye. A cautionary tale for college players, Hillman left the University of Denver a year early to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2018. The defenseman even burned the first season of his two-year ELC that spring, playing in four games with Chicago. A disappointing AHL season later, Hillman was off an NHL contract and could not even contend for an AHL pact and seemingly remains in the same situation now. The two-way blue liner likely could have used that extra year of development in the NCAA before he was thrown into the flames of the pro game.
- Former AHL defenseman and long-time Swedish standout Sebastian Erixon has decided to call it a career at just 32. The talented but oft-injured defenseman has had an up-and-down career but excelled when healthy, both in the SHL and in a 2011-12 season spent with the Chicago Wolves. However, the injuries have become too much and forced the Farjestad captain into early retirement, the team announced. Erixon’s is a career with plenty of what-ifs, as he flashed NHL talent over a solid career in Sweden but could never string together enough top-notch, healthy seasons to make himself a legitimate contract candidate.