Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Is This Brother Bear?

If it seems like there are more bears around hockey rinks this spring, you'd be correct. Specifically, there have been a pile of Alberta Golden Bears who have gone off to sign professional contracts with teams, and there was another one who inked a deal today as defenceman Graeme Craig pulled a Brother Bear and now finds himself among the AHL's Manitoba Moose!

The Moose, who opted to leave Sami Niku off their playoff roster, weren't specifically looking to add another player to their roster at this time, but when the opportunity to sign a player who had previous pro hockey experience at both the AHL and ECHL levels it wasn't a hard decision for GM Craig Heisinger, signing the defender to a one-year deal. While he's not eligible to play with Manitoba in the playoffs, the Moose will get a chance to get him into a couple of games before the end of the season to see what they have with the solid defenceman.

"It is nice to see him get rewarded with an AHL contract for all his hard work. He has been a leader for our program both on and off the ice, as well as in the classroom," Golden Bears head coach Ian Herbers said to Connor Hood of Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics. "It was a pleasure coaching him for the past season, and am sure he will do well in the newest chapter of his career."

As coach Herbers alluded to, Craig was an alternate captain with the Golden Bears, and he helped the team to three Canada West championship banners and one U SPORTS National Championship banner in his three years at the Edmonton-based university. During his three university seasons, Craig played in 83 games while scoring 18 goals and adding 23 helpers. While he showed he can play a rugged style of game in his first two seasons with the Golden Bears, Craig responded to his coach's demand for discipline, cutting some 27 penalty minutes off his season total of 45 one year ago.

Prior to his stint at the University of Alberta, Craig played the 2014-15 season in the Edmonton Oilers' system where he logged six AHL games with the Oklahoma City Barons - no points in those six games - and nearly an entire season in the ECHL with the Bakersfield Condors where he had five goals, five assists, and 58 PIMs in 60 games.

His junior career was marked with moves as he spent three-plus seasons with the Swift Current Broncos before getting dealt to the Saskatoon Blades for parts of two seasons before finishing his career with the Prince Albert Raiders. In 330 WHL games, Craig totaled 11 goals, 60 assists, and 373 PIMs. He played in just six WHL playoffs in his career and a total of zero AHL and ECHL playoff games, so moving to the Golden Bears was likely a brand-new experience with all the playoff action he saw there.

Apparently, this move was so stealthy by the Moose that they didn't even bother announcing it via social media or listing it as an official transaction. How does something like that go missed? C'mon, Moose. You're better than that. Or at least I thought you were.

In any case, it's nice to see a solid defender like Graeme Craig added to the Moose roster for the next season. He won't be as flashy as Sami Niku or Tucker Poolman, but he'll be one of those guys who will clear the front of the net, make good outlet passes, and will keep things simple in the defensive zone. There's nothing wrong with adding a guy like him to any roster.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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