Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thoughts on Game 4 of the ADT Challenge - OHL vs. Russian Selects in St. Catharines

Monday night, the OHL all stars and the Russian selects took to the ice in St. Catharines for game 4 of the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. It was another exciting game that was incredibly hard hitting and saw the OHL remain unbeaten against the Russian selects in the history of the ADT Challenge. Team OHL took the game by a score of 3-2, however the game remained tied for over 2 and a half periods and was an immensely close battle.

Here are my exact thoughts on the OHL players who took to the ice:


Mike Murphy
- Belleville Bulls (Drafted in 2008 by Carolina/165th)

I think that it is safe to say that Murphy has made his name known to pretty much any fan of the OHL by now. After struggling during his original draft year in 2006-07, Murphy has emerged as arguably the best netminder in the OHL and one of the best in the CHL. He's absolutely electric on the ice and makes at least one highlight reel save every game. Tonight was no exception. After some great passing, the Russians got an open player the puck in the slot and he had all day to put it home. He tried to put it top corner, glove side, but Murphy made an unbelievable stop. He didn't catch it cleanly, knocking it up in the air and behind him. If it weren't for defenseman P.K. Subban clearing the puck out, it probably would have dribbled over the line, but the fact that Murphy was able to get glove on it at all was outstanding. The main knock I always hear about Murphy in the scouting community is that he's such an unconventional goaltender and that they fear some of his technique (or lack there of), will not carry over well to the NHL where the shooters are more accurate and quicker. But at the end of the day, I see a goalie who's probably the most athletic and agile I've ever see at the position from the OHL, and one who anticipates the play so well. So while his technique may not be by the book, and he may go down early, and he may flop, but the fact that he has these flaws and he's so good speaks volumes to his talent level. I really hope Murphy gets a crack at team Canada for the WJC's.

Trevor Cann - London Knights (Drafted in 2007 by Colorado/49th)

After a trade to London a few weeks back, Caan has been absolutely outstanding (if he wasn't before with Peterborough). In 7 games with London, Cann has yet to be beaten and has a GAA under 2. Cann is essentially the exact opposite of Mike Murphy. A relatively flawless technical, butterfly goaltender who challenges shooters, lets out few rebounds and plays the angles well. He was pretty solid tonight, just as Murphy was. I feel that because he's kind of toiled in Peterborough, his star has somewhat fallen in the NHL and common prospect community. In that sense, he's become a relatively unappreciated prospect. Cann is just a really solid overall goaltender who doesn't have a lot of flaws and IMO shouldn't have a lot of trouble transitioning to the next level.

Michael Del Zotto - Oshawa Generals (Drafted in 2008 by New York Rangers/20th)

I find Del Zotto frustrating to watch. He's a jekyl and hide for me. At times I find him to be a difference maker on the ice, and at others I find him to be a liability. For example, tonight he laid two gigantic hits along the boards. These hits completely took the Russian player out of the play and stopped the Russian cycle before it even started. But then in other instances tonight, he was incredibly passive along the boards and let the Russians walk all over him. He would play a step away from the boards and use his stick instead of his body to attempt to dislodge the puck. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which way is more effective. The question I ask is, why doesn't Del Zotto take the body consistently? He was a lot better with the puck tonight though, making better decisions and taking a few chances in joining/leading the rush. He's obviously a lock to make the tryout camp for team Canada, but I think he needs to show the coaching staff that he can be a more consistent player before he's considered a lock. I honestly think that he could be one of those "surprise" cuts that we always see every year, where the casual fan gets up in arms because of how high profile the player is. But the WJC is such a physical tournament, we need defenseman who are going to engage everytime along the boards and not play a passive game. And if we are taking a guy to play as the 7th defenseman and see only powerplay time, quite frankly I'd probably rather take Ryan Ellis. But if he can show the coaching staff that he will take the body consistently, and quite often we do see this as non physical players suddenly become physical due to the nature of the tournament, than I'd consider him closer to a lock to break camp. It's up in the air for me.

P.K. Subban - Belleville Bulls (Drafted in 2007 by Montreal/43rd)

Subban is of course a returning player from last years gold medal winning WJC team. I thought he played a great game tonight. He's really learned to use his strong skating ability to improve his defensive game. He closes off lanes and he's winning more battles in the corners due to increased strength. I find that he's taking better care of the puck and making less mistakes and careless passes. He's still prone to the odd bonehead blunder with the puck, but for the most part is starting to make the safe play and picking his spots better to pinch. He scored a nice goal on the powerplay with a great low one timer that found the back of the net. For my money, he was the best defenseman for the OHL tonight.

Ryan Ellis - Windsor Spitfires (NHL Draft eligible in 2009)

Maybe it was just me, but I found that Ellis didn't play a whole lot at even strength tonight, and if he did, I didn't really notice him. He did play a ton on the powerplay though, so perhaps team Canada brass is trying guage how he reacts to being that powerplay specialist. He still looks great running the powerplay and is definitely most comfortable then. He did see one shift of penalty killing time in the second, but it just so happened to be when the Russians scored a powerplay goal on Mike Murphy. And Ellis was partially to blame, as he looked kind of lost in defensive zone coverage and a man ended up wide open in the slot. He's got loads of offensive talent, and I wouldn't hesitate to draft him, even with his size concerns, but there is no denying that he needs to improve his defensive play off the puck and in coverage.

Shawn Lalonde - Belleville Bulls (Drafted in 2008 by Chicago/68th)

I thought Lalonde was just ok tonight. He's not in any way a flashy player and is the type of guy you don't really notice much on the ice. In a sense that is a compliment because it means he's not making any mistakes and is playing a safe game. On the powerplay, he made a great pass to Bulls teammate Subban for that aforementioned one time goal. He's very smart with the puck in general and has a good knack for finding his open teammates. Defensively, he was just ok tonight, looking a bit overwhelmed at times, especially in battles along the corners. In times I've seen him though, he's shown to be a much more capable defensive player who again makes the smart players and is great in using an active stick to get forwards off the puck.

Alex Pietrangelo - Niagara Ice Dogs (Drafted in 2008 by St. Louis/4th)

To be honest, I was a little bit unwhelmed by Petro tonight. It's not that he was bad, but maybe my expectations were a little bit too high. These high expectations were warranted because since his return from the NHL, Pietrangelo has been a man among boys with the Ice Dogs. He's got 3 goals and 6 assists in only 4 games and has been rushing the puck up the ice with ease. He pretty much does anything he wants on the ice because no one is able to stop him. And while he was effective in rushing the puck up the ice, I found that at times he tried to do too much with it and ended up turning it over once he breached the offensive zone. In OHL games he can get away with having the puck on his stick until someone gets open, but against higher competition, that won't work everytime. He did make a great play offensively on the Agozzino goal. He made a great pinch to force a turnover and immediately found Aggy in the slot for a slot that went just under the blocker of Gayduchenko. Defensively, he was solid, although you always want to see Alex take the body and using his size more. Like I said, Pietrangelo was good, but I expected him to be great. Perhaps just too high of expectations because of what I've been seing in his first four games back with the Ice Dogs.

Cameron Gaunce - Mississauga Majors (Drafted in 2008 by Colorado/50th)

Gaunce didn't see nearly the same amount of ice time that he did in the Guelph game. He didn't really do anything to stand out tonight, in a good or bad way. He was on the ice when Russia scored their first goal, and could be blamed along with Ellis for missing coverage. I said it previously, that I've found Gaunce can fall asleep at times in the defensive zone. But he's very smart with the puck and doesn't make mistakes with his passes. Just that defensively he needs to focus a little more.

Mark Katic - Sarnia Sting (Drafted in 2007 by the New York Islanders/62nd)

Katic has really grown on me as a prospect. I think the problem is that I always expected or wanted him to do more offensively than he did. But I'm not entirely sure that's his game. He doesn't take nearly as many chances as some of the other offensive blueliners in the OHL do, instead electing to be precise with the puck. The thing you notice right away about Katic is his skating ability, which is definitely at or near the top of the OHL among defenseman (along with the likes of Subban, Pietrangelo and the absent Drew Schiestel). He's much improved defensively and anticipates the play really well. He's disciplined because he doesn't put himself in position to get beat, and is instead able to use an active stick to break up the play. For such a great skater, I almost wish he would take more chances offensively on the rush, but to each is own. Even though he's put up some good offensive stats in the OHL, I'm not sure I expect him to become a big time scorer in the NHL. I see him taking on more of a role like Bret Hedican. Someone who can move the puck and who uses his skating to play solid at both ends, but is not someone who's going to put up a ton of points. For what it's worth, I thought he was the second best defenseman on the ice for the OHL behind Subban.


James Livingston - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Drafted in 2008 by St. Louis/70th)

Livingston was a super late addition to this game after Matt Duchene hurt his shoulder during weekend action. But I bet the OHL coaching staff is happy that he was there. Livingston was all over the ice tonight, playing great offensively on a line with John Tavares, and being incredibly physical and doing the dirty work in the corners. On the Tavares goal, he did a great job to come up with the puck, skate down the wing and get a great pass to Taylor Hall, who subsequently tapped it off to Tavares for the goal. For a big guy he makes good plays at full speed and has great hands. Livingston reminds me exactly of James Neal, who's found great success at the next level thus far. A great selection by the Blues who is only going to get better as he's able to find some consistency offensively.

Jamie Arniel - Sarnia Sting (Drafted in 2008 by Boston/97th)

Arniel is still working hard to improve his image after that rough fallout with Guelph. This no doubt played into him falling on draft day last year, all the way to the 4th round after being considered for the first round to start the season. But I think his hard work is starting to pay off. He's quietly having a strong season for Sarnia and is starting to put in a more consistent effort. He had a solid game tonight, playing in all situations for team OHL and showing some good speed in carrying the puck into the offensive zone, and on the penalty kill. He also worked the cycle well and looks to have improved his strength and conditioning from last season. Hopefully he continues to put everything back on track.

Zack Kassian - Peterborough Petes (NHL Draft eligible in 2009)

Kassian was also pretty good tonight for me. Big guy, physical, good puck skills, good speed. A real solid throwback to the power forward prospect of yesterday. He had a couple shots on net tonight and was great infront of the net trying to cause a distraction for Gayduchenko. I don't think he's at the level to make team Canada as of now, but he's the type of player who will be making that team in the future and playing a big role as he matures and learns to dominate using his size.

Andrew Agozzino - Niagara Ice Dogs (NHL Draft eligible in 2009)

I think Agozzino felt like he had a lot to prove tonight, after being left of the CSB's preliminary OHL draft list for the 2009 entry draft. He's undersized, but he's very quick and very elusive. He finds his way into scoring areas and loves to get dirty. He'll sacrifice himself to make a play, which is something I need to see if I'm drafting an undersized player. On top of all that, he's got an excellent wrister, that he needs very little room to get off. And on top of that, he's a quality two way player who makes an effort to back check, and who uses his speed to forecheck hard on the penalty kill. I really felt he should have been ranked by the CSB on their list, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't get ranked ahead of some of those guys on their end of the year list when he can make more of a lasting impression on them.

Cody Hodgson - Brampton Battalion (Drafted in 2008 by Vancouver/10th)

Hodgson wasn't as effective as he was in the first OHL/Russia game in Guelph, but he still played a relatively strong game. He was kind of invisible offensively in stretches, but he was always noticeable defensively as the first forward back and playing hard on the penalty kill. Even if he wasn't great offensively tonight, I'm pretty sure Hodgson impressed the team Canada brass enough at the Guelph game for him to be considered a virtual lock for a position on the WJC team.

Bryan Cameron - Belleville Bulls (Drafted in 2007 by Los Angeles/82nd)

For my money, Cameron is the most underrated player in the OHL. He's by no means flashy, but he manages to put up points. The main reason for this is that he's an incredibly smart hockey player who finds his way into open areas, anticipates the play and has great hands in close to the net. Just knows where to be to score goals. He finished in the top 10 last year in goals and currently leads the OHL in goals this season. Just one of the quiestest, yet most effective players. I think he's going to be a solid professional player to because of his strong all around game and his hockey IQ. I really hope he gets an invite to the training camp for team Canada because he deserves it, especially off his play in this game where he was all over the ice creating scoring chances and putting himself in position to get a shot on net.

Taylor Hall - Windsor Spitfires (NHL Draft eligible in 2010)

Now hear me out. Hall is a great player, and I've talked in length about this before. But right now, I'm just not sure if he's ready to play in the WJC's. Offensive skill by leaps and bounds, speed to burn and the knack to create offense off the rush. But against good competition tonight, he again had a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone as he tried to do to much in terms of carrying the puck. We've seen year after year, that 17 year olds do not generally fair well at this tournament. It's usually an 18 and 19 year old tournament. While Hall has the skill, I'm not sure he has the maturity in his game to be able to handle the tough rigors of that competition. Not to mention, he has a lot of work to do on his defensive game. I'm sure he'll get the invite, but I wouldn't be surprised if team Canada tells him to wait till next year.

Greg Nemisz - Windsor Spitfires (Drafted in 2008 by Calgary/25th)

I thought Nemisz was pretty invisible tonight. He wasn't nearly as effective in generating scoring opportunities off the forecheck, nor was he as physical. As I mentioned previously, I'd really like to see Nemisz taking the body more and being more aggressive considering his size. His skating deficiences were a little over blown last year before the draft, as I think he's a slightly awkward skater, but not necessarily an ineffective one. Was much better in the Guelph game for me.

Logan Couture - Ottawa 67's (Drafted in 2007 by San Jose/9th)

Couture was also pretty invisible for me tonight. I don't think he got a whole lot of ice time either. While he shows good speed and he's by no means a one dimensional player, I think at some point you have to figure out why he's not putting up more points on the board. I find myself repeating what I said last time. I'm just not sure his hockey sense is as high as it needs to be for someone who's going to be expected to score a lot of points. Logan is really starting to remind me of when Boyd Devereaux used to play for the Kitchener Rangers. Lots of speed, an ability to play both ways, but something was missing preventing him from really hitting the scoresheet on a consistent basis.

John Tavares - Oshawa Generals (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

I mean, what else can be said about Tavares that hasn't already been said. Guys a great talent, he's worked hard to become a more complete player, yet he finds himself falling in the rankings. The bottom line is he knows how to find the back of the net and he knows how to make his teammates better. I want to bring up two points, rather than ranting about his skill set. For one, a very encouraging sight to see was Tavares out at the end of the game protecting that 3-2 lead. It tells you that the coaching staff has confidence in Tavares' defensive ability, which is not something you could have said two years ago. And secondly, did anyone see Tavares' rush in the first period. Blueline to blueline, through two Russian players. Tell me this guys skating is a problem. He's got the skating ability, I think it's more that people confuse his will to slow the game down, with an inability to skate fast. He's not generally flashy and he's not generally the type of player who tries to generate offense off the rush. He likes to slow things down and set up in the offensive zone. Because people don't generally see him skating and carrying the puck at full speed, I think this misconception that he can't skate arose.

Eric O'Dell - Sudbury Wolves (Drafted in 2008 by Anaheim/38th)

I thought O'Dell played a very solid game. Offensively, he was a little snake bitten and missed out on a few chances as he had the puck roll off or bounce over his stick. But he has good hands, I think that maybe he was pressing to impress a little too much. Defensively, I thought he was great, especially on the penalty kill. He's got a really active stick and puts a lot of pressure on the puck carrier, especially as the lead forechecker into the offensive zone. I'm really pulling for this guy to make Team Canada in one of those slots generally reserved for the "shut down 3rd liners."

Stefan Della Rovere - Barrie Colts (Drafted in 2008 by Washington/204th)

And the player of the game for me goes to....Stefan Della Rovere. He didn't hit the scoresheet, but this guy was a force everytime he hit the ice. He worked down the opposing defenses all night because of his work on the cycle. He also put a lot of fear in the Russians because of the way he was throwing around his body. He had every Russian player playing with their head up and rushing plays to avoid the hit, everytime he was on the ice. He was a big difference maker. He's another guy I'm really pulling to make team Canada and I hope he opened some eyes tonight as he was another injury replacement, filling in for Nazem Kadri.

The official game report can be found here.

In the end, it was a great couple of games to watch between the OHL all stars and the Russian Selects. I'm incredibly happy that the Russians are starting to take this series a little more seriously and are sending better teams.

Stay tuned for a small right up on some of the Russian players I thought stood out in the series.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thoughts on Kingston from November 23

This afternoon, the Kingston Frontenacs came to Niagara to take on the Ice Dogs. It was the first meeting of the season for the two clubs. It was a very exciting game that went back and forth, but ended with a 6-5 Ice Dog victory in the shootout. It was the first shootout victory of the season for the Ice Dogs, whom had lost four prior to this contest.

Here are my thoughts...

Ethan Werek (NHL Draft Eligible 2009)

Looking at the stat lines of the season thus far, I think it's pretty safe to say that this was Werek's best game of the season. He was the best player on the ice tonight for either team. Werek showed an ability to play a really solid all around game. He showed some great speed, especially with the puck on his stick. Both of his goals were scored off wrist shots while he was driving towards the net. The first one was a tough pass that he almost fanned on, but got enough on it to get it past an out of position John Cullen. The second one was a relatively weak goal that was scored on a floating wrist shot as he cut across the blueline towards the net. Regardless of the fact that both of his goals could have likely been stopped, he looked good doing it and showed good hands. He also forechecked hard and his line really worked the cycle well, tiring out the Ice Dog defense all day. Defensively, he backchecked, and physically he was involved, laying a couple hits. Color me very impressed in my first viewing of Werek. However, I've heard that he has been quite the enigma this season and for every game he has like this, he's invisible the next. Even if that is the truth, he showed today that he at least has the skills and is worthy of the draft hype he is receiving.

Josh Brittain (Drafted in 2008 by Anaheim/71st)

I thought Josh Brittain had a good game. He had one goal which was a garbage goal that he banged home in a goal mouth scramble. But he was physical all night and was very effective on the forecheck. I thought that his skating definitely looked improved from last season, and he's driving to the net with more conviction. For such a big guy, he actually moves pretty well now. The rest of his line had trouble getting things going today, but I was pretty happy with Brittain's level of play. I think he's a really underrated prospect who should have been drafted higher than he was last June.

Matthew Kang (Overager and NHL free agent)

Outside of Werek, Kang was definitely the Fronts best player tonight. He was buzzing all over the ice, showcasing his solid stick handling ability. He carries the puck with ease and in the offensive zone, he does a great job of keeping the puck on his stick to make things happen. His goal was an absolute beauty. He intercepted a pass, drove past an Ice Dog defender and roofed it on the goalie glove side. He's got a lot of offensive skill and I've always wondered why he has never put up better offensive stats. He's not really all that undersized, and he's actually a great skater. He's not soft either and will go into the corners to win battles. I like him as a player, always have and I hope he gets a chance to earn a contact with an NHL team this offseason at a training camp.

Nathan Moon (Drafted in 2008 by Pittsburgh/120th)

In all honesty, I'm not his biggest fan. He has offensive skills, but I question his hockey sense. I find he tends to over handle the puck, rather than making the simple play. I also think that he's soft and an incredibly one dimensional player who has a tendency to float near the redline for passes. Over the course of his OHL career, he's grown into a little bit of a pest who gets under the nerves of opposing teams defenders. Today he injured Ice Dog goaltender John Cullen after falling on him in the crease. Ice Dog forward Chris Desousa gave him a little shove for slashing Cullen after he had covered the puck, but he appeared to embellish and flopped down on Cullen as if Zdeno Chara had just hit him. Earlier in the game, he drew a penalty on a huge dive in the corner on a similar play, when an Ice Dog defender pushed him off the puck and he flopped down as if he had been shot. There has been a lot of talk that he's on the trade market in the OHL and quite frankly I don't find it surprising. But maybe he could learn a little bit of something from new coach Doug Gilmour. I just don't think he's a future NHL calibre forward.

Taylor Doherty (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

Doherty probably played the best game I've ever seen him play tonight. He kept things simple in the defensive zone, electing to make the safe and smart pass. He had a couple really nice stretch passes that started the rush, one in particular on the aforementioned Werek floating wrist shot. He is actually starting to look a little more comfortable rushing the puck too, going from blueline to blueline impressively late in the game. The big attraction to Doherty is that for a 6'8 monster, he's a great skater with an effortless stride. Big, lanky guys like Doherty can often be choppy and awkward looking skaters. Defensively he was good and took the body hard, as he always does. He managed to refrain from taking any stupid penalties, except for one in overtime. He tripped up Alex Pietrangelo in the defensive zone, but actually the penalty stemmed not from him getting beat per say, but from an effort to stick check, rather than taking himself out of position on a hit, like I've seen him do before. He's a project, but he's got a lot of skills that NHL scouts look for, which is obviously why someone is going to take him with a relatively high draft selection in 2009.

Erik Gudbranson (NHL Draft Eligible in 2010)

It's pretty easy to see why this kid is projected to be a very high selection in the 2010 draft. He's got a lot of skill. At 6'3, he's likely to continue growing and is already a very strong skater with great closing speed. He ran the point on nearly every Kingston powerplay and looked very comfortable using his shot to create scoring opportunites. This is exactly what happened on the aforementioned Josh Brittain goal, which was a rebound off Gudbranson's shot from the slot. Defensively, he made a couple really nice plays, and a couple bonehead rookie mistakes. I'll start with the nice play. Andrew Agozzino broke into the Kingston with speed on a one on one situation with Gudbranson. He tried to get past Gudbranson, but he stood his ground and pushed him off the puck. However, on the first dogs goal, he was completely at fault. He lost his man in the defensive zone and appeared lost and confused, but his man was infront of the net for the easy tap in. Obviously for a rookie and such a young defenseman, you are going to get these type of mistakes. The important thing is that Gudbranson's talent level is quite high. Definitely a guy to watch in the future.

Just as a side note, Ice Dogs defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been absolutely amazing since his return from the OHL. He's playing like a man among boys. He's looking incredibly confident in rushing the puck and is making things happen offensively everytime he touches the puck. The guy has 3 goals and 6 assists in the 4 games since his return.

Thoughts on Sudbury from November 22, 2008

Last night, the Sudbury Wolves came to Niagara for the first time this season. It was an ol' fashioned shootout with Niagara coming out on top by a score of 5-4, thanks in part to three third period goals. It was also the first sellout of the year in Niagara, with the fans coming out to support the home ice return of Alex Pietrangelo.

Here are my thoughts on some of the Sudbury players...

Eric O'Dell (Drafted in 2008 by Anaheim/39th)

I thought O'Dell had an ok game. I expected a little bit more offensively from him, so I left slightly underwhelmed in that regard. He showed good speed entering the zone and worked the cycle pretty well with his linemates Lusnak and Staal. Even though he was a -3 on the night, I actually thought he was pretty solid defensively. For the most part, was always the first forward back into the zone, making one nice play to break up a 3 on 2. One thing I was a little perplexed with, was that O'Dell saw little to no penalty kill time. Instead, this was given to his linemmates Staal and Lusnak, whom are not as good or aware defensively as he is, IMO. Especially considering that at the Under 18's last year, O'Dell was a primary penalty killer for team Canada. If he's good enough to kill penalties for a gold medal winning Team Canada team, I would have assumed that he was good enough to do so for Sudbury. But then again, maybe that is why Sudbury's penalty kill is near the bottom of the league! I also thought that at times, O'Dell was floating offensively. Near the end of the game he turned on the extra gears and was forechecking hard, and was actually stopped on a breakway , but for the first two periods I felt the effort level wasn't quite as high. I still think he's got a shot at team Canada.

Marcus Foligno (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

Foligno was good in this game. He finished with a goal and an assist and his line was the most dangerous for Sudbury tonight. He's a real big boy, and he laid a couple of nice hits. He does kind of lumber around on the ice though, making him seem a little slower than he might actually be. Defensively, he was used a fair amount on the penalty kill and did a good job of gaining possession along the boards. The goal that he scored was actually a nifty little play, where Foligno shot the puck off the face off (as the centerman taking the draw), surprising Dogs goalie Mark Visentin and beating him five hole. Was a shot that should have been stopped, but none the less it was a creative and impressive play. Foligno is a smart player and it's easy to see why he's getting consideration for the first two rounds in 2009.

Jared Staal (Drafted in 2008 by Phoenix/49th)

I thought Staal looked absolutely terrible tonight. Although I would like to point out that I have seen him play a lot better. His -3 was deserved tonight as he was at times the last guy back to the defensive zone, lumbering his big frame into the play. At 6'3 and 200lbs, tonight he played like he was 5'6, 150. Worked little in the corners and spent most of the time circling the front of the net in hopes that one of his linemates could put a shot on net. You'd think that because of the small ice in Niagara, that his skating would not have been so obviously hindering, but it was. I felt like offensively, he was a step behind O'Dell and Lusnak all night. Tonight was just not his best game.

Peter Hermenegildo (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

Hermenegildo was so-so tonight. While he was one of the few players to finish the night on the plus side for Sudbury, he probably didn't deserve it. Proof on how useless that +/- stat actually is. He was caught up ice on two occasions, leading to odd man rushes and forcing either Eric O'Dell or Patrik Lusnak to come back and fill in for him. He also had an absolutely atrocious turnover. He was coming out with the puck infront of his net, but the Ice Dog forechecker met him, causing Hermenegildo to lose his balance. This left the Ice Dog player all alone in front of the net for a scoring opportunity, which he missed, followed by defensive partner Chris Van Laren taking a penalty to prevent a score on the rebound. But on the plus side, Hermenegildo did show a lot of poise in running the point on the powerplay, and making solid passes to lead the rush.

Patrik Lusnak (Overager and NHL free agent)

Lusnak did not impress me last night. I'd been hearing that he had improved greatly from last season. He's also the leading scorer for Sudbury and is actually tied for 6th in the OHL with 16 goals. And while he did show some good speed tonight, he also played somewhat selfishly. On a few occasions, he tried rushing the puck up ice and attempted to skate through the whole Dogs team, only to cough up the puck and prevent the offensive from setting up its attack. His passing ability also looked poor. In one particular occasion, a Sudbury player was wide open in front of the net, but Lusnak rushed the pass and put it behind him, ruining the scoring chance. Defensively, he was involved and he did play the PK. But after viewings last year, and tonight, I'm not sure I spend NHL money on him.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thoughts on Game 3 of the ADT Challenge - OHL vs. Russian Selects in Guelph

Last night in Guelph, the Ontario Hockey League all stars took on the Russian selects in game 3 of the ADT-Canada/Russia Challenge. It was a pretty exciting game that had a bit of everything. Lead changes, heavy hitting and some real quality goals. The OHL took the game 6-3, overcoming a 3-2 deficit more than half way through the second period. I thought a lot of the OHL players looked both good and bad at times, with some sloppy play which I'm hoping doesn't carry over to game 4 in Niagara.

Here are my exact thoughts on the OHL players who took to the ice last night:


Chris Carrozzi - Mississauga Majors (Drafted 2008 by Atlanta/154th)

Neither goalie was really tested all that much. Carrozzi faced 8 shots in his 30 minutes of ice time. However, he did let in all three of the goals against. Only one of those was completely unstoppable, a nice passing play on the Russian powerplay finished by Nikita Klyukin. The other two were shots that I felt a stronger goalie might have had. The Grachev goal was scored on a breakaway where Grachev deked Carrozzi to the side and slid the puck five hole. The other goal was scored as Evgeny Dadonov cut across the middle of the ice and put the puck between Carrozzi's five hole as he was moving side to side. I've seen these types of goals scored before on Carrozzi, as teams have had a tendency to exploit a weak five hole on him, especially while he is in motion. He needs to do a much better job of moving his stick with his body to cover up the area. And while he does a good job of making himself big to shooters, he can also tend to give up juicy rebounds. I think he can be a decent goalie at the next level, but only if he improves his mechanics, in particular his ability to make and read those reaction type saves.

Tyler Beskorowany - Owen Sound Attack (Drafted 2008 by Dallas/59th)

Was tested even less than Carrozzi was, despite seing the same amount of rubber in the same amount of minutes. But the majority of his 8 shots were from the perimeter and little challenge for him. In particular, I thought he made one nice save on a similar play as the Dadonov goal that Carrozzi let in. A Russian player cut across the middle and tried to sneak one low, but Beskorowany stuck out the leg and made a nice kick save that was a little more difficult than it looked. The thing I like about Beskorowany and was probably the main reason as to why he was such a high draft pick, is that while he's a big man, he moves very well in his crease. In the times that I've seen him (which is relatively little), he's shown to anticipate the play really well and control his rebounds. Because he plays in Owen Sound and he's not posting a great G.A.A., he's never going to get the hype that others in the league do. But he's a great goalie prospect, make no mistake about it.


Michael Del Zotto - Oshawa Generals (Drafted in 2008 by New York Rangers/20th)

I'll admit right now, I've never been the biggest fan of his play. The main problem I have is his transition ability to the NHL. I've always felt that his skating wasn't good or explosive enough to allow him to play a puck rushing game in the NHL. I still stand by this point. That's not to say that Del Zotto is a terrible skater, but if you look at the best puck rushing defenseman in the NHL, Dan Boyle, Jay Bouwmeester, Brent Burns, etc. They are all outstanding skaters with an explosive acceleration. I just don't see that level of skating ability in Del Zotto. In tonight's game, I thought he looked pretty poor, to be honest. I felt he made some poor decisions with the puck and he didn't look incredibly comfortable running the powerplay tonight. He never really took any chances with the puck either and wasn't very aggressive on the rush. I'm not sure whether he was trying to prove to the scouts in attendance that he can play the safe game, but in the end, that's not his game at all and it's not why the Rangers drafted him so high. He needs to take risks and jump into the play because if he's not hitting the scoresheet and stretching the neutral zone defense, he's not all that effective of a player.

Ryan Ellis - Windsor Spitfires (NHL Draft Eligible 2009)

Ellis showed a lot of skill tonight and he showed the casual fan why he's putting up so many points in Windsor. He also showed the casual fan as to why he's yet to be rated as high as he should be. Ellis takes chances, there is no doubt about it. And he can get caught up ice, leading to odd man rushes. But if he can help score 2 goals for every opposing goal he aids, he's going to attract a lot of attention. On the rush, he's got great wheels and an even better set of hands. He can stickhandle through a phonebooth and showcased this with one great rush early in the game. On the powerplay, he was effective and showed his ability to get his great shot through a crowd. Whenever he lets his shot go, it's almost as if it's magnetically attracted to the net. However, defensively he made a bad pinch and got caught up ice leading to an odd man rush. But in the defensive zone, I think he's made strides. His man coverage has improved, as has his play along the boards. He has to continue to show scouts that he can work on his defensive game and that he can overcome his size to become an NHL defenseman.

Nick Crawford - Saginaw Spirit (Drafted in 2008 by Buffalo/164th)

Crawford did not have a good game. Could definitely have been nerves. He made a few brutal passes in his own zone that lead to turnovers. He was also highly ineffective while running the point on the powerplay, failing to keep the puck inside the zone on numerous occasions. Defensively, he was outmuscled along the boards by some of the stronger Russian players and really looked over matched. Perhaps it was nerves because when I saw him earlier this year, he looked a lot better and way more composed with the puck. I wouldn't take this game as an indicator of his talent level.

Cameron Gaunce - Mississauga Majors (Drafted in 2008 by Colorado/50th)

Gaunce is a personal favourite of mine. He has some faults, but I think he's got definite NHL potential if he can tweak some things. For one, offensively he's incredibly smart. He plain and simple knows what to do with the puck in the offensive zone. He made one great play in particular when he kept the puck in offensive zone at the blueline and made a crisp pass to Casey Cizikas, who then dished to Dale Mitchell for a goal top shelf. But it was the fact that Gaunce made the decision to hit Cizikas while under pressure to keep the puck in at the blueline. While he isn't the world's greatest skater, the pusk rushing thing isn't necessarily his game. He's more effective once the zone sets up. Defensively, he can be a bit erratic. I've found that he has a tendency to float a bit and leave his man in coverage, but that's just a focus thing. I've also heard that he could stand to improve his conditioning, although has apparently improved it going into this season. Tonight, I thought he was the best defensive defenseman for the OHL. He made smart plays with the puck in his own zone leading to the breakout and he never turned the puck over despite some relentless forechecking by the Russians. I don't know if he's the type of guy who's going to make a huge impact in the NHL, but at the same time, I'd be surprised if he doesn't become that dependable NHL regular.

Mark Cundari - Windsor Spitfires (FA Signing by St. Louis)

Cundari signed with the Blues during the two week period after the draft during prospect camps, that allows undrafted, yet draft eligible players to sign NHL contracts (Barrie's Brian Lashoff also signed during this period). He's really come along way during his OHL career. He plays the game really hard and is a physically imposing player despite being somewhat undersized at 5'10. Offensively, he's gained a lot more confidence in his abilities, in particular with running the powerplay in Windsor with Ryan Ellis. We didn't really see any offense from Cundari tonight as he tried to make things simple. He did play a good defensive game though, and was very physical, in particular along the boards where he rarely lost battles for the puck in his own zone. What makes him an attractive NHL prospect is that he's a good skater, which allows him to play aggressive defensively in closing lanes. A real underrated prospect.

Tyler Cuma - Ottawa 67's (Drafted in 2008 by Minnesota/23rd)

Cuma hasn't really had a great start to the OHL season. His offensive stats are incredibly underwhelming. While I haven't seen him play yet this year (was not back from Minnesota yet when I saw Ottawa play twice), I've heard that he's been focusing a lot more on defense and playing a really safe game thus far, which would explain his lack of offense. However, I don't think he's ever going to be a big scorer. He's always going to be the type of guy who puts up way more assists than goals. He is however a great skater who can surprise you with a very nice rush up ice, like he did in this game. He exploded through the neutral zone and over the blueline, going through a few Russians to get a scoring chance. However, that's not something you will see a lot. Defensively, the only negative I've seen from him is that he can be taken out of position going for the big hit. This was seen in this game, as Cuma tried for a big hit, missed, leading to a two on one. But he also made a great play defensively to save a likely goal infront of the net by anticipating a pass and blocking it. He was physical all game, actually hitting on a couple of those big hits. Cuma is just a solid defensive prospect, the type of player who's team makes the playoffs.

T.J. Brodie - Saginaw Spirit (Drafted in 2008 by Calgary/114th)
Brodie is the type of player scouts love. He shows progression and improvement. Brodie was drafted last year after having a pretty successful rookie OHL season (after playing only 20 games the year before that). He's a two way blueliner who can do a little bit of everything. This was my first game seing Brodie this year after he sat out Saginaw's game vs. Niagara earlier this season. In my opinion, he didn't have a terrific game. While he was pretty good defensively and didn't make any glaring mistakes, I felt that he might have been trying to do to much offensively. On the powerplay, he did not look comfortable at all. Constantly fumbled the puck at the blueline and failed to keep possession. He made a few nice plays with passes off the boards to hit forwards on the rush and showed some poise in that regard. But in the end, I was hoping he would show a little more and give people the chance to remember his name.


Matt Duchene - Brampton Battalion (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

I felt that he got better as the game went along. In the first period, I thought he might have been trying too hard and was attempting to make the difficult/highlight reel play instead of making the safe one. But he got better and better every period and by the end of the game had become an offensive threat every time he touched the ice. He made one great pass at the end of the game on the powerplay to give teammate Cody Hodgson a tap in goal. Duchene is a talented player. He uses great speed to create scoring chances off the rush and has great on ice vision. He's been playing a lot of center lately, but I'm not sure he projects as a center in the NHL.

Casey Cizikas - Mississauga Majors (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

Cizikas has been getting a lot of flak lately for his play. Most recently in Redline report, a top scouting service, they called him out for his lack of effort at both ends of the ice and his lack of offensive creativity. In my previous viewings, I'd both agree and disagree. I've never seen Cizikas show a lack of effort defensively, however I do agree about concerns over his offensive potential. I thought he played a great game though. He was aggressive on the forecheck and made some very good plays defensively and on the penalty kill. He made a really nice pass on the previously mentioned Dale Mitchell goal. While he may be catching some criticism for his play, in the end I think teams know what they will be getting with Cizikas when they draft him. He can work hard and be the first forward in the offensive zone, he can play both ways, and he has good enough hands to make plays infront of the net. While he may not be a future first liner in the making, he's definitely an NHL draft pick.

Peter Holland - Guelph Storm (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

I thought Holland was pretty invisible tonight actually. He had a couple good shifts early in the game, where he was playing his game on the cycle and creating offensive opportunities. But as the Russians began to win battles in the corners, Holland became a lot less effective. As I've seen him play well and be an effective player in the offensive, I know what he's capable of. For the casual fan, don't judge him on his lack of impact tonight.

Anthony Nigro - Guelph Storm (Drafted in 2008 by St. Louis/155th)

This isn't really going to be the type of game where Nigro stands out. He's a good player and prospect though. He works very hard, is a beast in the corners and is one of the best defensive forwards in the Ontario Hockey league. Tonight, while he wasn't a factor offensively, he managed to play physical and did a good job working the cycle. Every year, the Canadian Junior team takes players like Nigro to play a role, much to the surprise of the common fan. But don't be surprised if this guy does find a place on that team someday.

Cody Hodgson - Brampton Battalion (Drafted in 2008 by Vancouver/10th)

Two goals and an assist goes a long way in proving team Canada brass that you belong on their team. Hodgson was all over the ice tonight. Even though his goals were more due to the good plays of others, Hodgson still showed that he can finish off scoring chances, but also create them for his linemates. He completely took over the game in the third period. Was deking through Russian defenders left and right, and creating scoring chances front and center. Hodgson has been incredible since returning to the OHL from an extended stay in Vancouver. Tonight I think he made a lot of Canucks fans happy.

Taylor Hall - Windsor Spitfires (NHL Draft Eligible in 2010)

Outside of one rediculous rush up the ice and a post hit, Hall was not very good in the game. On that rush, he showed great speed, beating a Russian defender to the outside, dragged and fired a wicked wrist shot that beat Russian goalie Alex Pechurski, but not the post. That rush completely brought the fans out of their seats and I started getting the feeling that the game was going to serve as the Taylor Hall show. But he kind of disappeared the rest of the game. Was ineffective in keeping possession in the offensive zone, and made a couple terrible plays on the breakout leading to turnovers due to careless passing. You'd have to think the kids nerves were a little wrecked. I'd expect him to come out much better in the Niagara game.

Greg Nemisz - Windsor Spitfires (Drafted in 2008 by Calgary/25th)

Nemisz was pretty good tonight. I thought that his skating looked a lot better than it did last season. He was effective on the forecheck and in the cycle along the boards and was often the first man in the offensive zone fighting for the puck. The only criticism I always seem to have about Nemisz's game is that for a big man, he doesn't really use his size all that much. While he can overpower along the boards, he doesn't drive to the net hard, nor does he become incredibly involved physically. I'd like to see him get his nose dirty and get more goals by banging in the crease.
Dale Mitchell - Windsor Spitfires (Drafted in 2007 by Toronto/74th)

Quite frankly, I was a little surprised when Mitchell was named to play in this game. I thought there could have been better choices. However, I felt he was one of the best forwards for the OHL tonight. He showed great speed and a willingness to get his nose dirty. He crashed the net hard and was overall quite the pest. On his goal off that nice feed from Cizikas, he absolutely roofed the puck top shelf on Pechurski. Was a real goal scorer's goal, waiting out the goaltender to go down and roofing it. Mitchell is a real solid player who's finding more consistency in his game since the trade to Windsor. He's looking like a good pick for Toronto and is likely a future fan favourite.

Logan Couture - Ottawa 67's (Drafted in 2007 by San Jose/9th)

As the highest NHL draft selection playing in the game for the OHL, you had to expect that Couture would have been an impact player. But that was not the case, nor has it been the case this season. Couture's numbers have been decreasing every year since his draft season, and I've even heard people say that he actually hasn't yet been as good as he was in his rookie OHL season. He's had some injury problems, as well as mono, but in the end these can not be excuses. He's got to work harder and he's got to start showing people why he was such a high draft pick. Yes he has good speed and he can be an effective two way player, but offensively he was completely invisible tonight. At what point do we begin criticizing Couture's offensive hockey sense and start to believe that he's never going to be an impact player at the next level?

John Tavares - Oshawa Generals (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

Ok so John Tavares had two goals and an assist. But am I the only one who thought he didn't have a great game. Yes he showed that his defensive game and his first step have improved. Yes, he put a great shot past Pechurski in the first. And yes, he crashed the net hard looking for loose pucks and showed great determination at the offensive end. However, I also thought he was incredibly selfish with the puck and quite often ruined good scoring chances by holding on to the puck and becoming too predictable. On one two on one, you could tell he was going to shoot it the whole way. The Russian defenseman didn't even play it that well, and eventually just slid infront of Tavares' shot to break up the play. I know that John has had a lot of pressure placed on him this season, and that he has to be feeling pretty crappy about the fact that a lot of scouting agencies now have him at number two behind Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman. And I do think that this influenced his game tonight. I think that perhaps John was trying to hard to show the scouts that he can play the flashy game and that he can be an electrifying offensive player. The one thing I always here about Tavares from people who see him for the first time is, "well I didn't really notice him that much, but he had 2 goals and 2 assists." It's because he kind of sneaks in there and tends to hit that scoresheet. He's not flashy, but productive. I think tonight he tried to misdirect that conception and I felt that he looked like a worse player and a worse teammate for it.

Josh Brittain - Kingston Frontenacs (Drafted in 2008 by Anaheim/71st)

I thought Brittain was very effective tonight. He showed good speed, especially in using his big frame to drive to the net. And he's actually a very smart offensive player who knows where to go on the ice to put himself in scoring positions. He's the type of player I wish Greg Nemisz would be. Playing on Kingston has kind of buried Brittain, but I think Killer should do wonders for his game. Anaheim got a real steal in 2008, and Brittain is a developing power forward whom I liken a lot to the way James Neal progressed in Plymouth.

Ryan O'Reilly - Erie Otters (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

I have some concerns with O'Reilly's game translating to the NHL. They are in fact the exact criticisms that Ryan's older brother Cal faced in his OHL days with Windsor. Just to show you how much the NHL draft philosophy has changed, Cal was a fifth round pick back in 2005, where as Ryan is being touted as a potential first round pick, despite being pretty much the same player. Ryan is a great playmaker, although he has a tendency to look pass first and is almost timid at times in shooting the puck. Ryan's biggest concern, and I think it was evident in this game, is that his skating and acceleration are average to below average. He's just not a very effective player in the transition game. He's much more effective offensively once the offense sets up. He also needs to be less of a perimeter player and learn to use that 6 ft, 200lbs frame to attack the net a little more. I think Ryan is a good player, and Cal has done great for himself in the AHL thus far, but as of this point I'm just not sure I see him as a first round talent considering his flaws.

That's all for now, I plan on reviewing the Russian Selects as a group after the Niagara game, which takes place Monday night. It'll be interesting to see how the Russian players react to the small ice in the Gatorade Garden City Complex.

BTW the official game report for the Guleph game can be found here.

Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds from November 7

Ryan Yessie returns with his thoughts from a game on November 7, between the Greyhounds and the Sarnia Sting. Sault Ste. Marie won the game 3-2 on a late third period goal by 2009 draft eligible Michael Fine.

Anthony Peluso (NHL: St. Louis 6th rd./160th Overall in 2007)
Report: Nov/7/08: Peluso looks like a completely different player, I didn’t have his number down as someone to watch, but I remembered #14, and eventually read Peluso. The reason why I remembered #14 is becaue he was skating with some very fluid speed. I’ve seen Peluso play atleast once a year, and I can certainly say his skating didn’t stand out before, but it did this time. He has gone from being an enforcer to a real hockey player and the potential to be a power forward one day. One of the reasons his skating was weak before would have been because he was a defenceman and only had to cover ¾ of the ice. Since being converted to forward he looks like he has committed himself to becoming a better player. He also looks like he has lost about 15 lbs. Peluso displayed a solid shot, as well as a player who still utilizes his strength along the boards, Peluso shows signs of having some decent hockey instincts. Don’t expect this guy to ever be a top 6, but he has an intriguing hockey future.

James Livingston (NHL: St. Louis 3rd Rd./70th Overall in 2008)
Report: Nov/7/08: Livingston looks like a very improved player in all aspects, he played well in the defensive zone, and skated much better than last year. He showed a willingness to use the body, and put a few very good shots on net. Livingston looks like he’s progressing into a legtimate NHL Power Forward and I will be having a close eye on him this year to see how he progresses. (Livingston had 1G)

Michael Quesnele (NHL: Eligible in 2009)
Report: Nov/7/08: Quesnele was definitely the tale of two defencemen. On one side he was very good positionally and did a great job of moving the puck as well as using the angles on the boards to place the puck to the rushing forward. On the other hand he was completely reckless with his stick, as well committing blatent meaningless, and selfish penalties for no real reason at all, he got nailed with one roughing penalty and two holding penalties, and it could have been another 3 or 4 atleast ontop of that if the referee’s would have caught him the other times, just appeared to have no reguard for the team concept but his positives alone could have been enough to warrant that of a borderline prospect, but his mind just doesn’t seem to be in the game enough for someone to want to take a shot at him.

Bryce O’Hagan (NHL: Eligible in 2010)
Report: Nov/7/08: Because of his late birthday O’Hagan won’t be drafted untill next year, but he looks like a raw yet legitimate prospect. His positioning was very good, he always was in position minus one or two times which didn’t really cost him, he made some huge saves to keep his team in the game and got in front of every shot on net and made sure it hit him. On the negative side O’Hagan may have stopped every shot at him, but unless it went into his glove, he gave out a huge rebound every time, if Sarnia had a stronger net presence they would have buried the goaltender. O’Hagan could turn into a solid NHL goaltender prospect, but before that happens he needs to learn how to control his rebounds better and if he can’t control them then clear them out from the front of the net better, his skill set is good, his only weakness is his rebound control, which happens to be a fairly glaring one, but it’s one that he can improve on over time. (O’Hagan stopped 32 of 34 shots)

Ryan is a great contributor to this blog and we should feel lucky enough to have him share his thoughts with us when he has the time to. Thanks Ryan!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Central Scouting Bureau's Ontario Hockey League Preliminary Rankings

Today, the Central Scouting Bureau released their preliminary draft rankings for the 2009 NHL entry draft. This is the first of three rankings by the CSB, and the only one divided by league.

Thus we have a top 25 skater list and a list of 7 goalies for the Ontario Hockey League.

Here is the list...


1. John Tavares
2. Matt Duchene
3. Nazem Kadri
4. Peter Holland
5. Calvin De Haan
6. Zack Kassian
7. Ryan Ellis
8. Ryan O'Reilly
9. Taylor Beck
10. Michael Fine
11. Michael Latta
12. Ethan Werek
13. Tyler Randell
14. Garrett Wilson
15. Bjorn Krupp
16. Marcus Foligno
17. Taylor Doherty
18. Casey Cizikas
19. Jesse Blacker
20. Phil Varone
21. Matthew Tipoff
22. Alex Hutchings
23. Matthew Clark
24. Ben Chiarot
25. Simon Gronvaldt


1. Edward Pasquale
2. Scott Stajcer
3. Chris Perugini
4. Alain Valiquette
5. Peter Di Salvo
6. Michael Zador
7. Brandon Foote

The full link at NHL.com to this list and to the other lists can be found here

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of this ranking. There are some things I like and agree with such as Tyler Randell as high as he is. Same with Calvin De Haan's high ranking. I also like seing Pasquale as the number one goalie available.

However I've got a few real gripes with the list.
  • At this point in the season, I just can't see how Ryan Ellis can be rated number 7. Yes he's slightly undersized, but the talent level is so high. If he's still top 3 in scoring by the end of the season, I'll eat my hat if he's the 7th OHL player taken in the draft.
  • Not sure what Bjorn Krupp has done thus far to earn that high of a ranking. You want to rank him near the bottom of the 25, I have no problem with this because he's got some potential. But he hasn't scored a point since his first game of the season and at this point has virtually little two way game to speak of. Because of this, I can't see how he's any higher than Jesse Blacker who's been just as good defensively, but has shown a more well rounded game.
  • The absence of Niagara Ice Dog forward Andrew Agozzino. I don't think I'm being a Dog homer in saying that Agozzino deserves to be somewhere on this list despite being undersized.
  • The goalie rankings are just incredibly odd. Stajcer has been decent in limited action this year, although looked shaky in the Niagara game. But my real problem with the goalie rankings is the placement of Alain Valiquette and Michael Zador. How they even made this list is beyond me. Both have save percentages in the .850 range. Valiquette is actually a late 1990 so he's even got an experience advantage over a lot of these players. How Valiquette managed to get rated ahead of Peter Di Salvo and Brandon Foote is beyond me. Ditto for Zador over Foote. While Foote has been an enigma thus far, he's shown flashes of being the best on this list and is actually currently the 4th rated goalie by the International Scouting Service (ISS) for the entire NHL draft. His ranking in particular is the most head scratching to me. And not to be an Ice Dog homer again, but John Cullen has the 2nd best save percentage of any eligible OHL goalie (behind Di Salvo), and he's nowhere to be found on this list. Heck maybe CSB didn't even bother to come visit Niagara so far this year!
BTW, my own preliminary top 30 for the draft can be found here

Zack Fenwick Cheap Shot

Last Sunday, November 16th, The Oshawa Generals took on the Kingston Frontenacs. Late into the third period, Frontenacs defenseman Zack Fenwick and Generals forward Conor Stokes began to tussle. However, Fenwick was clearly the only one who wanted to fight, leaving Stokes somewhat helpless behind the Kingston goal. Fenwick than unleashed a brutal cheap shot to the face of Stokes knocking him practically unconscious.

I'll let the video (minus the atrocious camera work from the Oshawa feed) do the rest of the talking.

Needless to say, Fenwick is going to be getting the book thrown at him. Attack forward Garrett Wilson got 15 games earlier this season for a slew foot on Rangers defenseman Dan Kelly that resulted in a broken ankle. This is way worse. Quite frankly, I would be surprised of Commissioner David Branch hands out anything less than 25 games, perhaps more.

The unfortunate thing about this all is that Generals forward Conor Stokes has a history of concussions and actually missed a chunk of time last season, while playing for Guelph, because of one. He is a draft eligible forward who could have a future ahead of him. We just have to hope he's ok and his concussion is not as serious as it looked in that video.

Just no place in the game for that.


Fenwick received a 15 game suspension

TSN link

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thoughts on Two Weekend Games

I was able to catch a couple games this weekend, but didn't have the time to post my thoughts on them until now. Thursday, the Ice Dogs took on Owen Sound, while on Friday they were in Kitchener taking on the Rangers. The two biggest names, in terms of NHL draft picks, did not participate in the games. Tyler Beskorowany (Dallas, 59th in 2008) got to rest on Thursday, as his back up Scott Stajcer played in the game for Owen Sound. And Rangers defenseman, and Penguins draft pick (78, 2007), Robert Bortuzzo is rehabbing from shoulder surgery he had in the offseason. Both games were still very entertaining and a few players stood out.

Owen Sound Attack vs. Niagara Ice Dogs - Thursday, November 13

Keevin Cutting (2011 NHL Draft Eligible)

Cutting was the Attack's 4th round draft pick in 2008 Priority selection. As a late September birthdate, he's also one of the youngest players currently playing in the OHL. As rare as it is to find a 4th round pick jump right into the OHL, it's also rare to see him playing so well. Cutting has been taking a regular shift on the blueline for the Attack this year and for his efforts, was recently named to Team Ontario for the Under 17 Hockey Challenge, along with teammate Steven Shipley. Cutting is very slight, but he skates and moves the puck very well. Defensively, he didn't make any obvious mistakes either and held his own in defensive zone coverage. Looks like the type of player who's only going to get better and better.

Michael D'Orazio (2009 NHL Draft Eligible, 1990 born)

There was a lot of excitement when D'Orazio entered the league two years ago as Owen Sound's first round pick in the 2006 draft. He had an excellent rookie season and was being considered as a potential top 60 NHL draft pick for the next year. But he had a disastrous second year in the league, playing for an Attack team that finished third from the bottom of the OHL standings. D'Orazio did not take the steps forward many were expecting to see in his offensive game. He scored only 1 goal after getting 3 in his rookie season, and finished the year at -27. Subsequently, he failed to get drafted in the 2008 entry draft. However, I was surprised slightly by this, only because D'Orazio was one of the youngest players eligble and I figured someone would roll the dice on him with a late pick, hoping he could turn it around. This season so far hasn't been a whole lot different. D'Orazio really appears to have stalled in his development. He takes the body hard and he can make a first pass out of the zone, but he still remains only an average skater with little offensive hockey sense. And for such a big guy, he's still not as dominant defensively as you'd like to see. Perhaps the best compliment I can give the big guy from this viewing was that he was completely invisible. At least that means he didn't make any mistakes. I wouldn't expect him to be getting drafted anytime soon.

Steven Shipley (2010 NHL Draft Eligible)

I thought Shipley was quite good in this game. The third overall selection from the 2008 draft was creating offense down the wing and did not look scared in driving hard to the net. He made one particular nice saucer pass to create an offensive chance in front of the net that forced Dogs goalie John Cullen to make one of his many big saves that night. He looks to have good speed and actually looks pretty big for a rookie, showing little signs of being overmatched in the offensive zone. Looks to need to work on his overall game, but what OHL rookie comes in with that ability? Was recently named to Team Ontario for the Under 17 Challenge, and it's easy to see why.

Joey Hishon (2010 NHL Draft Eligible)

I was expecting a lot more from Hishon in this game. He was relatively invisible, which I did not expect from the 2nd highest scoring 2010 player behind Taylor Hall. I'm not even sure Hishon got a shot on net, and was completely smuggled and over matched against the Dogs defense. He showed some good speed entering the zone, which is definitely something you want to see in an undersized player. He also wasn't afraid to enter danger zones and play rough, which is another thing you like to see in smaller players. I'm sure I just caught him on an off night. Would definitely need another viewing.

Mike Lomas (2009 NHL Draft Eligble, 1990 born)

Lomas is an interesting player. I highly expected him to get drafted in last years NHL draft, despite the fact that I was never very impressed by him. But he's a very good skater and was able to put up some decent offensive numbers for Brampton despite being one of the younger players available for the 2008 draft. A trade to Owen Sound this offseason looks to have done great things for him. He's still using his speed to create scoring chances, but he also looks to be more involved in other aspects of the game. I saw him forechecking and attempting to play defense for the first time tonight. He's also putting up good, but not great offensive numbers. If he can continue to work on his overall game and develop a niche as a good crashing winger, he's got a chance for a career at the next level. However, if he tries to fall back to being a finesse player, perimeter player, he doesn't have the offensive skills for that.

Niagara Ice Dogs vs. Kitchener Rangers - Friday, November 14

Ben Shutron (Drafted 2006 by Chicago/95th)

Shutron is quite the enigma. A somewhat undersized, yet physical offensive blueliner who has had quite an up and down career in the OHL. He was outstanding for Kingston for a couple years and managed to get himself drafted. But soon fell out of favor in Kingston and was traded to Kitchener half way into last season. But he had some injury problems and played very poorly during the regular season. But re-surfaced in the playoffs and Memorial Cup, as he was a very large part of the Rangers success that saw them make it to the Cup final. But Chicago did not sign him to a contract and he ended up going undrafted as a re-entry. He's now back playing with Kitchener as an overager and serving as their captain. He looked good in this game, as good as he did during that Memorial Cup run last season. He moves the puck well up the ice, he skates well, and he's very adept at running the point on the powerplay. He's just a very smart offensive player. His defensive game is pretty solid too, although I'm reluctant to say that he could be a good defensive player at the next level, at least in terms of man coverage. On the whole, I'm relatively surprised that Chicago didn't offer him a contract. I think he's got a pretty good chance of earning one this offseason from an NHL team, as he's got a chance to at least be a depth defenseman.

Jason Akeson (2009 NHL Draft Eligible, 1990 born)

Akeson is a very interesting case. He came to the Rangers late last season after coming over from Tier 2, Junior A Cumberland, giving up his NCAA eligibility. He decided to leave after linemate Eric O'Dell left Cumberland for Sudbury and began having some serious success. But Akeson was joining a very deep Kitchener team and saw very little ice time, although he did play in a vast majority of the Memorial Cup games. With some key departures, more was to be expected of Akeson this season. From what I've heard, he's been up and down. Invisible one game, very good the next. He was very good in this game against Niagara. He looked very comfortable creating offense once inside the offensive zone and ended up finishing the game with a goal and an assist. The assist was on a very nice play where he won possession behind the net and made a great pass to a teammate infront of the net for the goal. Looks to be a smart offensive player who can create offense. I'm interested to see how he finishes the year and whether he manages to get on any draft lists this year.

Brandon Mashinter (Overager, NHL free agent)

While I'm sure more was to be expected from Mashinter this season as an overager, I think that it's needless to say that he's gone beyond expectations thus far. His previous career high in goals and points was passed two weeks ago already. He's a very large guy who opposing defenses are having a hard time containing infront of the net. He appears to be playing the role that David Clarkson played so well for Kitchener a few years ago. Mashinter was outstanding against Niagara, playing in all situations. He made a few great plays on the PK to gain puck possession and he looked very comfortable banging home pucks in front of the net. He's not the world's best skater, but for such a big guy, he's not the worst either. Just a solid all around player who gives you heart and determination. I've seen less players get NHL contracts after strong overager seasons, so I'd be surprised if he doesn't get one.

Jeff Skinner (2010 NHL Draft eligible)

Despite only registering an assist, Skinner was the most impressive player on the ice for Kitchener tonight, in my opinion. He was all over the place creating scoring chances, and if it weren't for John Cullen, he and his linemates would have had much more impressive lines on the scoresheet. He looks to have very good speed and puck skills. He made a couple really nice plays to get by Niagara defenders to create odd man scoring rushes. He looked great in close to the net, making another Niagara defender fall down on a great move, only to be robbed by John Cullen with the glove. There are lots of reasons to see why he was also named to Team Ontario for the Under 17 Challenge.

One more thing that I'd like to point out about this weekend's games is how well Niagara Ice Dogs goalie John Cullen played. Cullen, as you may recall, was listed 30th on my top 30 eligible players for the 2009 Entry Draft. If he keeps on improving, he's going to be higher on the next one. He completely shut down Owen Sound posting a 34 save shutout. And made over 50 saves, many of them of highlight quality, against Kitchener the next night. This guy keeps getting better and better, as he becomes more confident in his rookie OHL season. He's now up to 7th in SV % in the OHL.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

News and Notes

A few things have happened this week that I want to catch you up on...

Firstly, some players have been added to the OHL roster for the upcoming ADT Challenge games. Chris Terry is going to miss the game in Guelph as he was recently diagnosed with mono.

The following players have been added to the roster for the Guelph game on November 20:

Nick Crawford - Saginaw
Josh Brittain - Kingston
Ryan O'Reilly - Erie

The following players have been added to the roster for the Niagara game on November 24:

Alex Pietrangelo - Niagara
Stefan Della Rovere - Barrie

The full rosters can be found on an earlier post here
Be sure to tune into these games on Roger's Sportsnet as they will be broadcast nationally.

Secondly, and related to the first point, the Russian roster for the ADT Challenge was recently named. The roster doesn't have a lot of recognizable names on it, so who knows what type of competition we're going to get. For the OHL games at least, Russian OHL'ers, Evgeny Grachev, Sergei Korostin, and Andrei Loktionov will play.

Egor Dubrovskiy
Sergey Plotnikov
Evgeny Dadonov
Anatoly Nikontsev
Nikita Klyukin
Dmitry Kagarlitsky
Vadim Ermolaev
Pavel Chernov
Alexey Potapov
Vitaly Menshikov
Alexander Komaristyy
Artem Yarchuk

Alexander Ostroukhov
Mikhail Pashnin
Vasily Tokranov
Dinar Khafizullin
Andrey Marygin
Igor Golovkov
Alexander Osipov
Andrey Konev

Sergey Gayduchenko
Alexander Pechurskiy

OHL Games Only:
Evgeny Grachev (Brampton Battalion)
Sergey Korostin (Peterborough Petes)
Andrei Loktionov (Windsor Spitfires)


Lastly, a major development from the whole Brandon Maxwell to Windsor development. USA Hockey has decided they will not release Maxwell from the NTDP, and as such will not be joining the Spitfires this season. Essentially, Warren Rychel and the Spitfires are incredibly angry and are looking to appeal. Personally, I think this looks pretty bad on USA hockey. I understand their willingness to want to keep good talent in their system, but why would you want someone on your team or program that doesn't want to be there?

More info on the whole situation can be found at

Friday, November 14, 2008

Team Ontario Announced for the Under 17 2009 World Hockey Challenge

Yesterday, Team Ontario was announced for the 2009 Under 17 World Hockey Challenge. This tournament is held over Christmas time, from December 28 to January 4. The team will be coached by Niagara Ice Dogs head coach Mario Cichillo, who served as an assistant on last year's gold medal winning squad.

All 22 players on the roster currently play in the OHL.

Mark Visentin - Niagara Ice Dogs
J.P. Anderson - Mississauga Majors

Erik Gudbranson - Kingston Frontenacs
Ryan O'Connor - Barrie Colts
Brock Beukeboom - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Nathan Chiarlitti - Sarnia Sting
Keevin Cutting - Owen Sound Attack
Stephen Silas - Belleville Bulls
Jeff Braithwaite - Peterborough Petes

Ryan Spooner - Peterborough Petes
Cody McNaughton - Guelph Storm
Christian Thomas - London Knights
Gregg Sutch - Sarnia Sting
Steven Shipley - Owen Sound Attack
Freddie Hamilton - Niagara Ice Dogs
Tyler Toffoli - Ottawa 67's
Devante Smith-Pelly - Mississauga Majors
John McFarland - Sudbury Wolves
Jeff Skinner - Kitchener Rangers
Tyler Seguin - Plymouth Whalers
Greg McKegg - Erie Otters
Sam Carrick - Brampton Battalion

Full roster details can be found here

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thoughts on Peterborough from November 8

Tonight the Peterborough Petes took on the Niagara Ice Dogs, a day after they traded star netminder Trevor Caan to the London Knights. The Petes defeated the Dogs 4-3 in overtime on Tony Romano's second goal of the game.

My Thoughts...

Tony Romano (Drafted 2006 by New Jersey/178th)

Romano looked very good tonight. His play is much improved from last season, looks like a totally different player. He uses his speed very well, especially in creating scoring chances and on the forecheck. He played in all situations tonight and was very effective on the penalty kill. Romano scored his first goal on the powerplay by getting himself in the right position to receive a pass cross crease, and put the puck away with authority. He also scored the game winner in overtime on a beauty where he managed to get by the Dogs defender with a nice move and roofed it top shelf. It's really night and day his play from last season with London, where I was never impressed with him in the times I saw him. Starting to develop into a solid prospect who likely could have a future as at the very least, an energy player in the NHL.

Zack Kassian (2009 NHL Draft Eligible)

Looked very good tonight. You can easily see why he's so highly touted. Wasn't as physical tonight as I've seen him previously, but was involved in all other aspects of the game. Had a couple assists, although none were primary. He played in all situations for the Petes and was tremendous on the penalty kill, using his size to gain possession at the top of the box. The most impressive thing that Kassian did tonight was gain and maintain a partial breakaway against Ice Dogs defenseman Drew Schiestel. As he got closer to the net, he used his body to shield Schiestel from the puck and managed to get a shot off on net. This really showed Kassian's skating ability, which is good for a big man. Schiestel is one of the best skating defenseman in the OHL and the fact that Schiestel wasn't able to gain much ground on him says to me he's really worked to improve his acceleration and overall skating ability.

Sergei Korostin (Drafted 2007 by Dallas/64th)

Korostin was an enigma tonight. In the first period he was great. Showed outstanding speed and puck carrying ability with a couple of near end to end rushes that resulted in scoring chances. He also was involved physically and defensively, making one nice play in particular by coming back to engage his man behind the net before he could get the pass to the open man infront of the net for a scoring chance. But he was completely and utterly invisible in the second and third periods. An endurance issue, or just consistency problems? Who knows. He's got potential though, just needs to put in a better effort from puck drop to game's end.

Jason Missiaen (Drafted 2008 by Montreal/116th)

The first thing anyone always says when they first see Missiaen is, "Holy **** he's big." The crazy thing is he's getting BIGGER. Last year he was listed as 6'6, now he's up to 6'8. On skates, he looks even bigger. Saw Missiaen twice last year. He was outstanding once and couldn't save a beach ball the other. He was outstanding tonight, likely trying to prove the Petes did the right thing in trading Trevor Caan. The Dogs outshot the Petes by a tremendous amount, but Missiaen stood tall, no pun intended. A couple of things that are very impressive about him. For one, he moves very well for a big man. He gets across the crease pretty quickly, making one great save in overtime by doing just that, robbing Chris DeSousa with the glove on a two on one. Secondly, he is aggressive in challenging shooters. When a 6'8 goaltender comes out to challenge the shooter, there isn't much net to shoot at. Generally with big goaltenders you can see them being passive, relying on their size to stop the puck, rather than sound mechanics. I can only say one negative thing about Missiaen. It's the same thing that I saw last year that lead him to be wildly inconsistent. He goes down to the butterfly way to early at times. In a sense, it's the probably the fact that he's trying to take away the lower part of the net, relying on his size to cover the top, but I've seen him get abused up high. All in all, looks to be progressing nicely and the Caan trade is only going to do wonders for him as he starts to see more action.

Ryan Spooner (2010 NHL Draft Eligible)

Spooner was pretty good tonight. He looks really tiny on the ice, but is elusive for the most part and manages to find himself in scoring positions. Although he did cut across the blueline with his head down and got absolutely hammered by Andrew Shaw. At his size, he's going to want to try to limit that from now on. But he scored the first Petes goal with a nice goal infront of the net where he deked out Mark Visentin, then put home his own rebound. He definitely seems to have offensive skills and hockey sense. At this point, even at his size, he's got to be considered one of the better 1992's playing in the OHL.

Chad Lowry (2009 NHL Draft Eligible)

Lowry is a 2009 eligible defenseman for the Petes that I was looking forward to seing tonight. He was alright. He was pretty good defensively and showed an ability to take the man and play well in one on one situations. Offensively, he was unimpressive. Failed to make the breakout pass on several attempts and didn't look incredibly comfortable with the puck on his stick.

Jamie Doornbosch (2009 NHL Draft Eligible, Born in 1990)

The best defenseman on the ice tonight for both sides. Doornbosch was passed over in last year's draft, but has started the 2008-09 season very well. He's got good size, showed a strong skating ability and took the body. He was excellent defensively, making one very nice play against an attacking Ice Dog forward, removing him from the puck with ease and crushing his momentum. Offensively he showed an ability to control play at the point on the powerplay and was able to get his shot through to create scoring chances. Really caught my eye tonight. If he keeps up his level of play, I can't imagine he goes undrafted again.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Here Comes Brandon Maxwell

A very large trade occurred today in the Ontario Hockey League, one I felt was worth noting on this blog. The Windsor Spitfires have acquired the rights to goaltender Brandon Maxwell from the Erie Otters in exchange for 2010 draft eligible forward Andrew Yogan and a 2nd round draft pick.

For those that don't recognize the name, Brandon Maxwell is one of the top goaltenders eligible for the 2009 NHL entry draft. He was originally a 2nd round draft pick of the Otters in the 2007 Priority draft, but was bent on going the NCAA route with a commitment to Boston College.

Maxwell was the starter for Team USA at last year's Under 18's, where they captured the bronze medal. He was outstanding in the tournament. Maxwell was also outstanding with the NTDP last season as a 16 year old. However, he and the entire NTDP have not played well so far this season. Perhaps he's figuring that he can really enhance his NHL draft stock by playing net for such a strong Windsor team.

For those curious, here is a player profile from a great site called "Elite Prospects."

That is of course, assuming that he is going to now leave the NTDP to play for Windsor. But considering the amount Windsor gave up and the timing of the trade, one would have to think the Spits have a deal in place with Maxwell to join the team, I'm assuming immediately.

The implications that this trade could have are huge. For one, this could potentially make Windsor an even stronger team. Brandon Maxwell has the potential to enter the league as one of the best goalies in the OHL. But also, Maxwell is a 2009 draft eligible player, so he's now someone we're going to have to follow closely on this site.

I shall keep you updated...

Edit: We now have an official link to the trade...


My Early Season Top 30 OHL Players for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft

I intend to do three of these lists. This is the first. Around the midpoint of the season, maybe slightly after, I will do the second. And after the playoffs have completed, I will compile the final list.

This list is meant to be the order in which if I were drafting for an NHL team, I would take these players. It is not meant to be a prognostication of where these players will go or should be ranked. This is my own personal opinion on seeing these guys play this year and last year.

Here is my early season top 30 of 2009 draft eligible OHL players.

1. John Tavares
F - Oshawa Generals - 6'0, 198lbs - DOB: 1990-09-20

The more games this guy plays in the OHL, the more he gets scrutinized at every turn. At different times over the past few years, we've heard: "his skating sucks," "he's forgot how to score," "he is terrible defensively," among others. Reminds me of when Jason Spezza was playing in the O. He was hyped as a top pick for so long that people began to pick apart his game. That's not saying that Tavares is the perfect hockey player, but in the times I've seen him this year so far, he definitely looked like he had worked on all three of those criticisms. His skating looked improved, in particular his first step. He'll never be a speedster, but he's no worse a skater than Spezza was in his junior days, and he has been fine in the NHL. Tavares looked more determined to score. Had a real fire in his eyes and was taking the puck to the net at every opportunity. And defensively, considerable improvement. He's been playing with Kory Nagy on the top penalty killing unit and he looked great covering the top of the box. John Tavares is a great talent and people need to realize this. Even if he doesn't go number 1, he's a damn good hockey player with an incredibly bright NHL future ahead of him. That being said, he has only one goal in his last 5 games, perhaps he's starting to get frustrated playing for one of the worst teams in the OHL this season. Personally, I think a trade to another team would do him wonders. He needs better talent to play with.


2. Ryan Ellis
D - Windsor Spitfires - 5'10, 173lbs - DOB: 1991-01-03

Hands up, honestly, if you thought Ryan Ellis would be leading the OHL in scoring 19 games into the season. Mine sure isn't up. Ellis is currently on pace (barring no injury or world junior appearance), to score 125 points. The last OHL defenseman to hit the 100 point plateau? Jamie Rivers for Sudbury in 1993-94, where he had 121. The last OHL defenseman to lead the league in scoring? The late Bryan Fogarty in 1988-89 for Niagara Falls, where he had 155 points. The difference between Ellis' and Fogarty and Rivers' seasons? Fogarty was playing in his 19 year old season, two years after being drafted, and Rivers was playing in his 18 year old season, one year after being drafted. Ryan Ellis is stepping on some unchartered territory as far as the history of the Ontario Hockey League is concerned. No first time draft eligible defenseman has ever lead the league in scoring, or come close for that matter. Ellis is a special talent. He has his shortcomings. He can make some bad pinches. He can make some bad reads defensively. He can put himself out of the play going for the big hit. But his offensive skills are so outstanding. He runs the point on the powerplay like it's art. He has a cannon of a shot and he can rush the puck up ice with ease. He also is physical and not afraid to get his hands dirty. His defense can be improved, as he has the intangibles to become a better defensive player with more experience. But his natural offensive ability from the backend just can't be taught.


3. Matt Duchene
F - Brampton Battalion - 5'11, 196lbs - DOB: 1991-01-16

Duchene is a very talented player. Every time I've seen him play, I've come away impressed by his abilities. He's just a solid all around player. He has good speed which he uses to fly down the wing and has the hockey sense to be able to create a scoring chance for him or his linemmates nearly every time he's on the ice. He's got a great wrist shot that he is not afraid to use in the slot, but he's also a very good playmaker. Duchene may not be a defensive stud, but he is also fairly good in his own end for a draft eligible forward. Just the total package.


4. Zack Kassian
F - Peterborough Petes - 6'3, 205lbs - DOB: 1991-01-24

True power forward prospects are definitely rare these days. And Kassian fits that bill to a tee. He's big, he loves to drop the mitts, he can burry the puck and work the cycle and he's not the world's best skater. Kassian actually doesn't get enough credit for how good of a playmaker he is too. Possesses a great hockey sense and knows where to be on the ice. Defensively he needs some work, and his skating is going to have to improve. But the size and skill combo is going to be pretty hard to pass up.


5. Nazem Kadri
F - London Knights - 6'0, 177lbs - DOB: 1990-10-06

I was tempted to put Kadri a little lower on my list simply because any time I've seen him play, I've never really come away impressed by him. However his offensive stats are hard to ignore. He definitely needs to bulk up, but the one criticism you can't levy at him is becoming more involved physically. Kadri isn't afraid to get under the skin of opponents and he'll work in the corners. The most impressive thing about Kadri is easily his hands and puck handling ability. In terms of OHL players, not many can match the offensive creativity that Kadri possesses. This alone makes him a potential top 15 selection in the NHL draft. That being said, he obviously needs to become a more consistent player. He's been relatively invisible in the games I've seen him play and was invisible in the game fellow contributor Ryan Yessie saw last week.


6. Peter Holland
F - Guelph Storm - 6'2, 190lbs - DOB: 1991-01-14

Holland is the guy I was very close to switching with Kadri. I'm a big fan. He's a solid all around centerman who plays both ways and puts in a lot of effort. He's great on the cycle, he's got a great hockey brain, he creates chances off the rush using his speed or from behind the net using his awareness, and he makes an attempt to get back defensively. As I said in an earlier post, he reminds me a lot of the way Cody Hodgson looked last year, and Hodgson ended up being a high NHL draft pick. Time will tell.


7. Calvin de Haan
D - Oshawa Generals - 6'0, 170lbs - DOB: 1991-05-09

De Haan definitely doesn't look like a guy who's playing his first season in the OHL. When I saw him play at the beginning of the season, he was very impressive. He moved the puck very well out of the zone, and was very smart with the puck at both ends. He showed good speed and acceleration while rushing the puck, but also a very calming presence on the powerplay. Defensively he got pushed around a few times, but he showed a willingess to compete and looks like the type of guy who's going to keep improving. The only thing going against him is that he plays for Oshawa who's goaltending and defense could use vast improvements. A bit of a raw selection, but I think he's got serious potential.


8. Taylor Doherty
D - Kingston Frontenacs - 6'8, 218lbs - DOB: 1991-03-02

The tower of power, Doherty just seems to keep on growing. Listed at 6'6 last year, Doherty is now up to 6'8 according to the OHL and Kingston websites. The biggest selling points on Doherty are that he's 6'8, but skates like he is 6'0, and that he's a big man who plays like a big man. Doherty is a very fluid skater who has the ability to join the rush (although rarely does) but also get back on defense. He is also a mean mother on defense who drops the gloves and pushes people around at will. Offensively he can make a good first pass, but his puck skills could still use some improvement. For such a big guy, I'd like to see him work on his shot more too, since he's likely to get a lot on it. Also, he needs to start using his stick more defensively. At 6'8, he's got the wingspan to really be an effective stick checker, yet he tends to go for the body everytime. He can also get frustrated and take some bad penalties. Definitely a project and work in progress, but Doherty has the intangibles NHL teams are looking from in their defenseman.


9. Marcus Foligno
F - Sudbury Wolves - 6'2, 202lbs - DOB: 1991-08-10

Yup another Foligno, and he plays a similar game to his brother Nick too. Marcus Foligno is definitely the hottest riser of any OHL draft eligible player. As one of the youngest players eligible for the 2009 draft, Foligno took a little time to get going this year, but he's gotten better every week. In fact, in his last three games he's got 4 goals and 2 assists. I think he's only going to get better as the season goes along. Foligno is a great forechecker who plays the game hard and is constantly looking to drive hard to the net. He's got a good set of hands and an average set of wheels. He's also very strong for his age and can look like a bull out there sometimes. I'm hoping he rides his hot streak into Niagara in a few weeks so I can see him at his best. If I had to label one player from this list to watch and to rise over the next few months, it would definitely by Foligno.


10. Alex Hutchings
F - Barrie Colts - 5'10, 179lbs - DOB: 1990-11-07

Hutchings is kind of a hard guy to get a read on. As a talented late 1990, I really expected him to become an offensive leader in the league this year. Especially since I expected Barrie to be a very solid team. However, neither has happened and one can't help but think if they are inter-related. Hutchings is definitely a talented offensive player. He's got great speed and he drives to the net. He has good puck skills and can work the cycle. He's a smart player with great on ice vision and playmaking skills. So how come he hasn't been lighting up the scoresheet as much. Perhaps it's a relfection of Barrie's struggles as a team, or maybe he's snake bitten. The talent is there, but I really would like to see him scoring more.


11. Ryan O'Reilly
F - Erie Otters - 6'0, 205lbs - DOB: 1991-02-07

O'Reilly has not had a great start to the year and subsequently has fallen a bit from where he would have been on a list at the end of last season. At 6'0, 205lbs, O'Reilly should really be using his size more to create offensive chances for himself. Instead he tends to stick to the perimeter at times and is definitely a pass first player. As good of a playmaker as he is, he needs to be more aggressive in shooting the puck. O'Reilly is also not the world's most blessed skater. He's not terrible, but being only average is a concern enough considering the type of game he plays. He needs to become better at working the cycle and becoming more dangerous inside the blueline because at the next level, his skating could hold him back from becoming an effective point producer if he remains a player who only creates off the rush. Hopefully he's able to turn it around, otherwise I'd have to consider dropping him even further on my list.


12. Michael Latta
F - Ottawa 67's - 5'11, 197lbs - DOB: 1991-05-25

Latta is one of the most complete players eligible from the OHL. He may not be the biggest or the fastest but every aspect of his game is solid. He drives to the net and has a really good hockey sense which allows him to be very involved offensively. He works the cycle well and despite being only 5'11, is an effective player in the corners and along the boards. He's also the first guy back defensively and will lay the body and be aggressive on the forecheck. Had a great start to the season but has cooled off of late. Hopefully he can pick his offensive game back up.


13. Taylor Beck
F - Guelph Storm - 6'1, 207lbs - DOB: 1991-05-13

I've only seen Beck once this season so far, and was not heavily impressed with his offensive abilities. But he was very aggressive on the forecheck, forcing a few turnovers, was physical and took the body, and was responsible defensively. But he's averaging a point per game so he has to be doing something right offensively. That being said, he definitely appears to be the type of player who's offensive production is directly related to his effort level and how hard he plays the game. Has had a great start to the season and Holland and Beck have been greatly responsible for the Storm's ranking in the CHL top 10. Despite the fact that his offensive ability underwhelmed me, it's hard to put him any lower.


14. Casey Cizikas
F - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors - 5'11, 184lbs - DOB: 1991-02-27

Another guy who has had a very underwhelming start to the OHL season. A lot more was expected of Cizikas coming into the season after a successful rookie season last year. Cizikas is a hard working forward who plays a pretty solid all around game. In the times I've seen him, he's not necessarily flashy but he knows where to be on the ice to put himself into scoring opportunities. He forechecks well and he'll come back defensively, however he needs to start finding the scoresheet more often. If he continues to underwhelm offensively, he could find himself even lower down on this list next time.


15. Ethan Werek
F - Kingston Frontenacs - 6'2, 195lbs - DOB: 1991-06-07

Werek is another guy who's been relatively underwhelming so far this season. While it is his rookie OHL season, a lot was expected of Werek after he decided to go the OHL route instead of attending Boston University. He's a bigger winger who can play an effective up and down game. He'll work hard in the corners and he'll head to the net. He's also not afraid to muck it up physically. But how much offensive skill does he truly have? In his latest report, one of our contributors believed that Werek might be slightly in over his head at this point in his OHL career. But no reason to give up on him yet, as he's still getting his feet wet in Kingston.


16. Andrew Agozzino
F - Niagara Ice Dogs - 5'9, 188lbs - DOB: 1991-01-05

Agozzino has taken a huge step forward offensively, after being thrust into a larger role in Niagara this year. Needless to say, if Agozzino was a little bigger, he'd be in consideration for the top 10 of this list, or even higher. But at 5'9, he still plays a lot bigger than he is. Firstly, he's an outstanding skater with great acceleration, especially coming down the wing. He's also not afraid to get physically involved and with sacrifice his body to make a play or get into scoring position. He's got an outstanding shot, as evidence by his 13 goals this year. He's also a very effective penalty killer and greta defensively. The only negative thing I can say about Agozzino's game is that he tends to overplay the puck at times. It's almost as if he doesn't know what to do with it, or tries to be too cute. He's at his best when he plays an up and down game and uses his speed to go hard to the net. At 5'9, I'm not sure hes a potential first rounder, but then again in today's NHL there is a place for players like Agozzino.


17. Edward Pasquale
G - Saginaw Spirit - 6'2, 216lbs - DOB: 1990-11-20

Pasquale is a big goalie who's having a very good start to the 2008-09 season. He's got the Spirit playing great hockey and they currently sit 4th in the conference. At 6'2, 216, Pasquale covers a lot of the net, especially when he's active in challenging shooters. At that size, he also moves effectively in his crease and does a good job with rebound control. I always find it difficult to rank goaltenders in a comprehensive list, but as of now, I don't get excited enough about him to place him any higher than 17th.


18. Michael Fine
F - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - 6'0, 191lbs - DOB: 1991-05-10

With the graduation of some the Soo's offensive stars from last year, Fine has come forward to fill the gap. He's already nearly passed his point totals from last year. Fine is a solid all around offensive player. I've yet to see him play so far this season, but from all accounts he's drving hard to the net and getting involved in all aspects of play. He's even dropped the mitts a few times this year and looked great doing so. Offensively, he keeps things simple and can both finish off scoring chances but create them for his linemates. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on as we could see him advancing higher on this list.


19. Peter Di Salvo
G - Barrie Colts - 6'0, 180lbs - DOB: 1990-11-14

Di Salvo has put up some very impressive numbers this year. He's currently 2nd in SV% and GAA behind all star Mike Murphy. I saw him play last night and he looked pretty good. Did a good job with rebound control, was calm and cool in the net and made the easy saves. He also looks quick in his net. The only concern I have is that he's a small goalie who can tend to play even smaller in his crease. I feel he needs to challenge shooters more, although he doesn't exactly appear to be your typical butterfly goalie either. Considering our other contributor Ryan Yessie was not incredibly impressed by him earlier this year, I have trouble putting him ahead of Pasquale. An interesting prospect whom I would need to see more to get a better handle on.


20. Jordan Szwarz
F - Saginaw Spirit - 5'11, 186lbs - DOB: 1991-05-14

Very quick forward who is elusive on the ice and finds his way into scoring lanes. He moves the puck well and appears to have a pretty good shot. However, he is a bit of an enigma. Invisible one shift, and creating chances the next. He also needs to become more involved physically. That doesn't mean he needs to start banging bodies left and right, but he needs to play in traffic more and enter danger areas to make a play. He also needs to put in a better effort defensively. But he definitely seems to have a nice combination of speed and skill.


21. Brandon Foote
G - Brampton Battalion - 5'11, 168lbs - DOB: 1991-04-26

Haven't seen Foote in action yet this year, so I can't comment on anything first hand. I can only go off of what I've heard. Foote is playing in his first OHL season and has practically stolen the starting job away from NHL draft pick Patrick Killeen. He's undersized but I've heard that he makes himself look bigger in net by being aggressive and challenging shooters. He's posted some solid numbers this season, however he appears to be wildly inconsistent. At this point, he's either bang on or he's way off. Foote needs to find that consistency in order to put himself at the same level as Pasquale and Di Salvo.


22. Garrett Wilson
F - Owen Sound Attack - 6'2, 199lbs - DOB: 1991-05-30

Wilson would very likely be higher on this list had he not been suspended for 15 games for a slewfoot on Rangers defenseman Dan Kelly that resulted in a broken ankle. He was off to a great start this season scoring in five of Owen Sound's first seven games. He's a big kid who drives hard to the net and can finish off plays. Again, he's a player I have yet to see play this season, but according to one of our contributor's, he uses his size to his advantage and can be a physical player. The main question I always have about bigger forwards is whether their skating is up to par. Because he's a bit of a mystery to me, I can't rank him any higher than this as of this moment. But perhaps next time he rises if he comes back strong from the suspension, which is almost completely served.


23. Matthew Tipoff
F - Belleville Bulls - 5'11, 180lbs - DOB: 1990-10-04

Tipoff is a late 1990 who has found a lot of success this year in Belleville after they lost some of their key forwards to the professional ranks. While he's cooled off a little bit lately, I was able to see him at the beginning of the season when he was hitting the scoresheet early and often. He looked like a really smart player who had the hockey sense to go to scoring areas and create chances for his linemates. He also worked the boards and played the penalty kill effectively. He seemed like a really solid all around player. That being said, he recently went 10 games without a goal, which tells me I may have caught him on a really good night. Would like to see him hit the scoresheet on a more consistent basis, especially as a late 1990 in his third OHL season.


24. Phil Varone
F - London Knights - 5'10, 187lbs - DOB: 1990-12-04

Varone had a real tough start to the season, registering only 2 assists in his first 6 games. Since then, he's been averaging over a point per game. Still, I think a lot of people expected more from him offensively this season, especially with the way he played after the trade from Kitchener. The main concerns I have with Varone lie in the fact that for his size, he's only an average skater, and that as a late 1990, I expect him to put up better numbers. Still, he's a solid little sparkplug who hustles every shift, can play the powerplay and the penalty kill, and will pay the price infront of the net to finish off a scoring opportunity. Maybe he really catches fire and can move himself up this list.


25. Peter Hermenegildo
D - Sudbury Wolves - 5'10, 196lbs - DOB: 1991-02-15

Hermenegildo is a stocky little defenseman that caught my eye last year. I haven't seen him play yet this year, but his stats look similar to what he was doing last season. While shorter and stocky, Hermenegildo isn't a pushover in the defensive end, and will battle you for position. He can run the powerplay and he can jump into the rush as a good skater. If he was 5'10 and skinny I'd be concerned, but at close to 200lbs, Hermenegildo can hold his own against some of the bigger boys in the OHL. I'll be seeing Sudbury in a few weeks, hopefully get a better read on his progression at that time.


26. Marc Zanetti
D - Ottawa 67's - 6'2, 200lbs - DOB: 1991-05-20

Zanetti is a big physical defenseman who loves to drop the mitts and take the body. Zanetti was able to lay some big hits when I saw him earlier this season. He's a fairly good skater for his size and does a good job in not letting forwards beat him one on one. Occasionally he puts himself out of position for a big hit, but that will come with the experience he will gain from his first full OHL season. Offensively, he's been improving as the season goes along, although he's never going to be known as a big point producer. But you can never under estimate the value of a big physical defenseman who can make a good first pass.


27. Tyler Randell
F - Belleville Bulls - 6'1, 195lbs - DOB: 1991-06-15

Randell is a good checking line forward who's been able to chip in offensively so far this season. He's actually a good fighter and can do a good job of getting under the skin of opposing players. While he forechecks hard and digs well in the corners, Randell has been able to score some goals this year too. For a hard nosed winger, he does need to improve his defensive play though, at least in my views he tended to float a bit. But similar to the need for big, physical defenseman, NHL teams are always going to be looking for bigger banging wingers who have good speed and can chip in offensively. This is Tyler Randell.


28. Chris Perugini
G - Ottawa 67's - 5'10, 147lbs - DOB: 1991-06-02

Following in the footsteps of his brother Andrew, Chris Perugini has developed into a very capable OHL netminder. He has taken the starting job away from NHL signee Adam Courchaine. I saw Perugini earlier this season and he stood on his head, at least for the first part of the game. He is an incredibly athletic goaltender who can make some highlight reel saves. His reaction time was also very impressive as he was able to read plays and make some big saves. Being such a small goaltender (he looks much smaller than 5'10 on the ice), he did a good job of challenging the shooters and trying to make himself look bigger. He also was able to prevent a lot of juicy rebounds. However, being so small, he also has the tendency to go down to early making the top of the net an easy target for opposing players. If he was a little bigger, I think he'd be receiving a lot more hype for the draft, but a lot of people, myself included, have a hard time seing such a small goaltender have success at the NHL level. That being said, it's not like he's Darren Pang small. If he can work on some technical things that can allow him to make a few easier saves to go with the highlight ones he makes, he'll be fine.


29. Daniel Maggio
D - Sudbury Wolves - 6'2, 197lbs - 1991-03-04

Maggio is a quality defenseman who's earning more and more icetime up in Sudbury this year. He's a solid two way defenseman with good size and good skating ability. He can be very physical at times and does a good job in his own end. He can also make a good first pass and has seen his offensive numbers increase with more offensive responsibility and powerplay time. Again, I haven't seen Sudbury yet this year, but Maggio was a guy I came away impressed with last season.


30. John Cullen
G - Niagara Ice Dogs - 5'11, 175lbs - DOB: 1991-04-20

Cullen is a guy I've seen a ton of so far this season. He's been inconsistent, but the fluctuation of his stat lines have more to do with the fact that the Dogs have been inconsistent as a team, especially defensively. He's very quick and agile and moves around his crease very well. He anticipates the play and is very vocal on the ice, which is great for such a young kid. He's made some improvements on his rebound control so far this season, as well as his ability to play the angles and challenge shooters. You can tell the goaltending coaches are really working with him. The only thing he's really struggled with thus far is shootouts. He's essentially been embarassed in the shootouts that he has participated in. He flops around and goes down way to early and gets caught out of position. Unfortunately, this area of his game can be exposed at times in regular gameplay as well. He has a tendency to hit the butterfly too early and teams have been going high on him. However, he is improving and I'm hoping becoming more consistent. At the end of the year, he's the type of guy whom I wouldn't be surprised if he was up near the top of OHL netminders available.


Honorable Mention (no particular order)
Mitch Lebar - Barrie
Bjorn Krupp - Belleville
Jordan Mayer - St. Mikes
Brett Flemming - St. Mikes
William Wallen - St. Mikes (would likely be on this list if it wasn't for a brain annuerism)
Matt Sisca - Niagara
Alex Friesen - Niagara
Chris DeSousa - Niagara
Jay Gilbert - Niagara
Taylor Carnevale - Oshawa
Robert Kousal - Oshawa
Chad Lowry - Peterborough
Vern Cooper - Plymouth
Beau Schmitz - Plymouth
Cody Sol - Saginaw
Miroslav Preisinger - Sarnia
Jesse Blacker - Windsor
Daniel Erlich - London