Friday, January 30, 2009

Thoughts on Erie from January 29

The Erie Otters came to Niagara last night and whacked the Ice Dogs 5-3. The Otters controlled the majority of the play thanks to a very sloppy game from the Dogs. They also showed off why their penalty kill is tops in the league, as Erie limited Niagara to one goal on ten chances and also scored two short handed goals. Erie improves its record to 4-1 against Niagara this season.

Some thoughts on the Otters...

Mitch Gaulton - Drafted by the New York Rangers in 2008/171st

Gaulton was playing in only his 4th game of the season following reconstructive elbow surgery done during the summer. In fact, his return last week marked the first time he had played since the beginning of January in 2008. The former 4th overall OHL Priority selection still has a lot of promise if he can finally stay healthy. He had a pretty good game for someone who has to be pretty rusty. He used great speed to join the rush and buried a pass from Luke Gazdic for his first goal of the season in the first period. Defensively, he showed great positioning and a willingness to battle in the corners. On the downside, he was pretty careless with the puck at times and made a few bad passes that got intercepted and turned into odd man scoring chances. However, I'll chalk that up to rust.

Ryan O'Reilly - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I've been a somewhat harsh critic on O'Reilly in the past, questioning his skating ability and his willingness to use his size, but he had one hell of a game. I'm pretty sure he was out there for every single penalty kill (all 10 of them) and had short handed scoring chances on half of them. He scored a shorthanded goal when he stripped Drew Schiestel of the puck as he tried to rush up the ice and roofed it back hand on Mark Visentin during the breakaway. He also was a monster on the cycle and created a bunch of scoring chances driving to the net, using his size. I think his skating is still not outstanding, but I'm less concerned that it is going to effect his ability to be an NHL player. Colour me very impressed after a very strong game at both ends of the ice.

Tyler Hostetter - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Hostetter played an ok game defensively tonight. He did show me some things as to why he's getting some attention from the Central Scouting Bureau. He showed great skating ability as he joined the rush for a scoring chance, and he showed great lateral and backward mobility as he kept up with Alex Pietrangelo on one of his rushes into the zone, forcing him to peel off behind the net. He also showed good heart, blocking a Petro shot with his face and returning to the game after some repairs. On the downside, he was directly responsible for two breakaways, one of which ended in a goal. On the goal, a puck was lofted into the zone and he swung and missed a few times, then let Chris DeSousa get by him as he was able to chorale the puck and head on net for the breakway goal. On the other chance that did not lead to a goal, he simply fell while skating backwards, tripping over his own feet. Two things that could probably happen to any defenseman, however they did leave a bit of a black mark on his game tonight.

Shawn Szydlowski - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009 (but 1990 born)

Szydlowski was passed over in last years NHL draft, despite being one of the youngest players available. This season, the big 6'0, 213lbs winger, is 3rd in goals for Erie with 18 and 5th in points. He had a very strong game as he was very effective on the penalty kill with Ryan O'Reilly and also scored at even strength. He uses his size very well and skates pretty good for a big man. He was physical and worked the cycle well with O'Reilly, using his big frame to support the puck. With his progression this season, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on an NHL team's list for 2009.

Zack Torquato - Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 2007/178th

A lot has been made about Torquato's lack of development over the past couple of years. His point per game average has been decreasing over the course of the last 2 seasons after a solid 2006-07 season. The former high profile, 3rd overal OHL priority selection, has been criticized for never taking that step forward and becoming the top notch offensive player many expected him to become. That being said, he's still a solid player. He plays both ends of the ice, he's not afraid to mix it up and play physical, he pays the price infront of the net, he's a good skater and he does have goal scoring instincts. He's also the captain for Erie this season and has the team playing very well compared to more recent seasons. He still leads Erie in goals with 20, which is no minor accomplishment. He may never become that elite offensive player many envisioned, but he has a chance to be a well rounded third line contributor at the NHL level.

Luke Gazdic - Drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2007/172nd

Gazdic is a physical force on the ice. He hits everything that moves and brings energy to the ice every time he steps on it. His skating isn't outstanding, but he works hard and uses his size to protect the puck in order to compensate for his inability to pull away from defenders. He actually showed great playmaking skill tonight on the Mitch Gaulton goal, as he feathered a beautiful pass from the boards through Drew Schiestel to Gaulton for the goal. He's never going to be a big time offensive contributor at the NHL level, but he does have a chance to be an energy player for Dallas in the future.

Jaroslav Janus - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009 (but 1989 born)

Janus was passed over in last year's NHL draft after putting up only mediocre stats as a late 1989. Obviously, his incredible performance for Slovakia at the recent WJC's helped to put him on the map again. He is an incredibly athletic goaltender who loves to challenge shooters. He's also vastly improved his rebound control, which was part of his problem last season. He still has a tendency to go down to early and flop around, allowing shooters to go high on him, but he has the raw athletic abilities you like to see in a goaltender. I would definitely be surprised if he went unselected again in 2009.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on Peterborough from January 23

Ryan Yessie was able to catch the Peterborough Petes in action against his Sarnia Sting this past Friday. Here is his report...

Sarnia scored early and often, and this game wasn't even close DiBenedetto got a hat trick, O'Quinn scored twice and has come from 4th line obscurity to putting up 13 points in his last 15 games. Jamie Arniel now has goals in 10 consecutive games beating John Tavares record. The Sting roll to a 7-3 victory over the Peterborough Petes

Adam Sedlak - YOB: 1991 - 6’2” - 190 lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Jan/23/09: Sedlak who will miss the 2009 draft by one week, may actually benefit from this. Sedlak showed great speed throughout the game, and was one of the quicker defencemen on the Petes. However his puck movement skills were not becoming of an OHL defenceman, he turned the puck over half a dozen times before the game was 20 minutes old, and two of his turnovers resulted in goals. Sedlak still has potential, he has great speed, and skating abilities and put up good numbers. (Sedlak had 1A)

Zach Tatrn - YOB: 1991 - 6’2” - 205 lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Jan/23/09: Tatrn didn’t look like anything significant out there tonight. He was getting top 6 minutes but was not very effective tonight. He scored his first OHL goal tonight but it was nothing special, puck rolled to him and there was a partial screen in front of the net. Not sure what to take from Tatrn considering he’s ranked so high, I suppose considering his size and his hype he might be worth a late round pick, but that’s about it from what I’ve seen out of him. (Tatrn had 1 G)

Zach Harnden - YOB: 1989 - 6’2” - 200 lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Jan/23/09: Harnden looked bigger than his 6’2” - 200lb. Frame in front of the net on the power play tonight. He could use some work on his skating ability. He looks like a longshot prospect, but at the same time his size, hitting ability, and his knowledge of positioning on the power play may be what it takes for him to make it as a role-player.

Jeff Brathwaite - YOB: 1992 - 6’0” - 175 lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Jan/23/09: Brathwaite played very well tonight, he stood out with a few solid hits, as well as showing off some decent speed. Bratwaite would be a prospect that should be watched over the next 18 months as early indications seem to be that he could become a very decent prospect.

Zach Kassian - YOB: 199 - 6’3” - 205 lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Jan/23/09: Kassian showed off great speed, especially for his size. Kassian protects the puck well and can move up the ice effectively carrying the puck. He also possesses a very decent shot as well. The biggest knock on Kassian that I saw tonight is that he continuously put himself out of position in order to make (or attempt) a big check, and needs to learn that the ongoing play and not creating a 3 on 2, or 2 on 1 for the other team is more important then the possibility laying a good hit on the opposition how good of a prospect he becomes will largely depend on if he can fix this as he gets to higher levels it will hurt his team more. Kassian also faught Matt Martin tonight. The fight was very even and didn’t last very long due to Martin’s helmet falling off early on. (Kassian had 1G, 1A, 5PIM)

Tony Romano - YOB: 1988 - 5’10” - 177 lbs. NHL: 6th Round - 178th Overall in 2006 (1G, 1A)
Report: Jan/23/09: Overager Romano looked like a very solid prospect out there tonight for Peterborough. Romano looked solid on the PK, as well displayed good speed, able to create turnovers and a great wrist shot with a quick release. Romano definitely does not look like a top 6 forward prospect, however looks like he could become one of the better 3rd liners out there that can play in penalty killing situations, and as well be a secondary contributor 5 on 5. It should be interesting to see where Romano goes from here, as he does have NHL potential. (Romano had 1G, 1A)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts on Mississauga from January 25

Sunday afternoon marked the 6th time the Niagara Ice Dogs and Mississauga St. Michael's Majors have met this season. The Majors came out on top, improving their record in the season series to 5-1. It was a hard fought and back and forth game which required 8 rounds of the shootout until Michael Pelech finally netted the extra time winner, going top shelf on Jeremy Smith.

Thoughts on a few Majors...

Brett Flemming - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Continues to impress me. I'm not sure how CSB has him ranked so low, unless it's a size concern (although he's not miniature at 5'11). He moves the puck up the ice really well and seems to make very smart decisions with it. At the point on the powerplay, he's just a very smart player who's able to read and react to situations and he has the ability to get the puck to the net. He's also not afraid to jump into the rush, but seems to pick his spots well and rarely gets caught up ice. Skating wise, he seems to move quite well. Defensively, I don't really notice him, which tells me that he's not doing anything wrong. He engages in the corners and at 5'11, doesn't seem to have too hard of a time handling the physical aspects of the game. Although he did make one bad read in the game and got stepped around by Alex Friesen after going for the puck and not the man. He was paired with Cameron Gaunce for the majority of the game so that tells me Dave Cameron has a lot of confidence in his ability to play too.

Casey Cizikas - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Had probably his worst game of the season that I've seen him play. Offensively, he was pretty invisible, which hasn't happened yet in his game against the Ice Dogs this season. However, there are some positives to take away. He still showed great speed entering the offensive zone and was aggressive on the forecheck. He also worked hard on the penalty kill and has a very active stick which he uses to create havoc for players trying to gain the zone. I like the kid and in my viewings of him this season, I'm really not sure where he gets this bad reputation from.

William Wallen - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

First game I've seen Wallen play this season, since he recently returned to action after suffering a brain aneurysm. He received a lot of ice time, including seeing time on the first powerplay unit, running the point opposite Cameron Gaunce. There were some things I liked, others I didn't. On the positive side, he has outstanding hands. On one occasion, he completely undressed Alex Pietrangelo and took the puck hard to the net, but as unable to score. Pretty impressive to undress Petro because he's not someone who's easy to get by with his long reach and solid positioning. He also did not back down from the physical side of things, which I like to see in my smaller forwards. He was also pretty solid defensively and saw some time on the penalty kill. On the negative side, his skating did not look very good. This is troubling for me because he's only 5'8. It's hard to tell whether he was actually slow, or whether he just looked really slow because of his akward and rigid skating style. But it looked like he was skating in mud, especially out of the gate where his acceleration definitely seems to be lacking. Also, whether it's just a strength thing, but his shot looked really weak. He was trying to get shots on the net, but just didn't appear to show the strength to get off a hard shot. The most glaring example of this was after he got by Petro and headed towards the net, the best he could do was put a low, weak shot at Jeremy Smith's pads. In the end, I want to see more as I liked the effort and I liked the puckhandling ability, however a 5'8 forward with skating issues may have a hard time attracting NHL scouting attention.

Cameron Gaunce - Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in 2008/50th

Everyone knows how highly I think of Gaunce. He's just a solid player who rarely makes mistakes and who knows how to use his teammates. He did make one terrible play tonight where he was soft on the puck and ended up giving it away after making a desperation pass. The turnover didn't lead to a goal though. On the positive side, he made an absolutely beautiful pass to Jordan Mayer for his goal. Faked the slapshot, then did a slap pass to Mayer infront of the net for the redirect. Showed great vision and that's the type of thing Avalanche fans can expect in the next few years.

Chris Carrozzi - Drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008/154th

I just can't help but not get excited everytime I see Carrozzi plays. He tends to win games, but he never steals them. He comes out to challenge shooters and he plays the angles well. He has generally pretty good rebound control. I guess in general you could say he's a pretty good technical goaltender. That being said, he doesn't seem to make any difficult stops. A top quality goaltender should be able to steal games for you and should be able to make some saves they have no business making. I've never really seen anything resembling flashy play for Carozzi. I guess you could say that if a goaltender is consistent and you know what you are getting from him, that you have to be pretty happy as a coach. However, if you look at some of the better goaltenders and prospects in the OHL like Mike Murphy, Thomas McCollum, Edward Pasquale, etc. These guys are able to make the big saves, and the unexpected saves. Carozzi, while dependable just doesn't seem to scream NHL goaltender to me.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thoughts on London from January 22 and 23

This past Thursday and Friday, the Niagara Ice Dogs had a home and home series with the London Knights. These two games would be the only time these teams would meet in the regular season. On Thursday, the Knights came to St. Catharines and were defeated 5-2 in a game largely dominated by the Dogs, who got solid goaltending from Jeremy Smith and a hat trick from import Marco Insam. On Friday, the Dogs traveled to London and again got the best of the Knights, taking the game 6-4. Friday's game was largely dominated by the Knights as they outshot the Dogs 52-21, however goaltending was the difference. The Knights got atrocious goaltending from rookie Torrin Lauziere, who was pulled to start the third period, while the Dogs got another solid performance from Jeremy Smith. John Tavares was a combined -7 in the two games and was completely shut down by Alex Pietrangelo, Drew Schiestel and the entire Niagara defense.

Since this was likely my only chance to see the Knights this season, here are my thoughts...

Michael Del Zotto - Drafted by the New York Rangers in 2008/20th

As you may have noted through my past observations, I'm not MDZ's biggest supporter. He was terrible in the first game, but fairly solid in the second game. In the first game, he made several questionable decisions with the puck, one a terrible breakout pass which was intercepted by Andrew Agozzino, and gave him a partial breakaway (although he did not score). He was terrible defenzively, leaving his partner John Carlson largely out to dry. In particular, he seemed to lose his man and was soft in board play and in play near the crease. He's not a big guy, so if he doesn't want to play physical, he's got to be more aware and use his positioning and stick to cover his zone. Yet at times, it seems like he gets overwhelmed. He even struggled with quarterbacking the powerplay and had trouble keeping the puck in the zone. In the second game, he was more composed with the puck and played a steadier defensive game. At times, engaging in the corners. In the end, I'll say the same thing I always say with MDZ. I have concerns over his longterm NHL potential. If you look at a guy like Bob Sanguinetti, he made great strides defensively over the course of his OHL career. Where as MDZ has yet to take that step forward.

John Carlson - Drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2008/27th

If I'm drafting 2008 over again, I definitely take this kid ahead of MDZ. He was outstanding in both games. He's aggressive at both ends of the ice. He's not afraid to take the puck hard to the net and join into the rush, however he picks his spots well. He shows great speed and closing ability, especially for a bigger guy. Carlson was very poised in running the point on the powerplay and showed the ability to read the defense and get shots off quickly. He's also incredibly strong on the puck and was able to win many battles along the boards. Defensively, he was great. Showed great positioning and engaged players physically, both in the corners and near the crease. This guy is the total package IMO, and for what it's worth, I think he might just be the best defenseman in the OHL.

Kevin Montgomery - Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in 2006/110th

Montgomery has returned for his overage season after the Avs decided he wasn't ready to play in Lake Erie (AHL) yet. He's a quiet player in that you don't really notice him, but he's smart with the puck and makes good decisions in the defensive zone. He only played in Friday's game, not sure why he was out Thursday. In the end, I'm just not sure where he fits in at the NHL level. While he's a slick skater and a capable puck mover, he doesn't have the raw offensive ability that would allow him to be a big time point producer at the next level. He's not going to be a shut down type of defenseman either. So he's a bit of tweener for me. To be honest, I don't see him being more than a 7th or depth defenseman on a good NHL team, similar to a guy like Danny Richmond (a former Knight).

John Tavares - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I'm not really going to go in depth about Tavares. We all know enough about him and it's clear that he did not have a very strong showing in these two games. Coming into the home and home series, he had 7 goals in 3 games with the Knights. He was mostly invisible through these two games and there appeared to be some serious gelling problems with him and his linemmates. I don't think him and Kadri fit well together on a line, because they are both guys who want the puck on their stick at all times. Two bad games don't change his draft standing.

Phil Varone - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Varone is an undersized, hard working forward. He's got great speed and he attacks the zone with authority. He's a solid two way player who's often the first forward back. While he didn't hit the scoresheet in either game, I thought he was impressive in generating some scoring chances by his aggressiveness in the offensive zone. At this point, because of his size and the fact that I'm not sure he's more than a 3rd liner in the NHL, I don't know where he ends up getting drafted. If I were a betting man, I'd probably put him near the back of the draft with a guy like Niagara's Andrew Agozzino, who is a pretty similar player.

Zac Rinaldo - Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008/178th

Rinaldo, recently acquired from the Majors, was probably both London's most effective forward and their least effective forward at the same time. First the good. He was buzzing around the ice in both games, hitting everything that moved. He laid out a couple huge hits in both games and really gets under the skin of his opponents. He also has the ability to drive to the net with the puck, as he's actually not a terrible puckhandler. Because of this, he also works the cycle well. These type of things bode well for his future in the NHL as at least an energy player. On the downside, he really hurt London with some undisciplined plays. He had 5 minor penalties over the course of the two games. While Niagara failed to capitalize on any of those powerplay opportunities, they still proved to stop the momentum London was building up. And while two of those penalties were very questionable, the other three were legit. He needs to play more controlled. I'm sure that Dale Hunter won't mind the odd charging or hit to the head penalty, but it's the hooks, trips, elbows, and other penalties taken out of frustration that must really anger his new coach.

Phil McRae - Drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2008/33rd

I like Phil McRae. Was impressed in the times I saw him last season. And he was fairly good in these two games. He skates hard, and skates well for a big man. Offensively, he seems to know where to be on the ice to finish off scoring chances and is very elusive. He can also drive to the net with the puck on his stick and does a great job protecting the puck with his body. It's clear that he's gotten a lot stronger this season, and thus this serves as an explanation as to why his offensive production has exploded and taken that next step. I do have one concern though, but it is more to do with Coach Dale Hunter's use of McRae. He didn't get nearly as much ice time as I figured he would and really appears to have been hurt by the Tavares' acquisition.

Nazem Kadri - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I'm sorry, but I'm still not impressed by him. Wasn't last season. Not this season. I know Ryan Yessie has been telling me about how unimpressed he's been with him this season too. Sure the guy has great hands. He dekes through a couple players every shift. However, it's all flash and no dash for me. He dekes through the first two guys, but nothing comes of it as he attempts to deke through the third, fails and turns the puck over. Part of the reason the Tavares/Kadri line really couldn't get anything going was on him, IMO. I can't count how many times that line failed to gain entry into the offenzive zone because Kadri tried to bring the puck over the blueline and failed. Defensively, he was terrible too, in the Thursday game especially. Two of the goals against London were directly his fault. On one play, he lost track of his man as he cut towards the front of the net. On the other play, he was simply lazy and his man beat him to the blueline where he was able to unload a slapper to the back of the net. And while the man I'm talking about was Marco Insam, who's much bigger than Kadri, it was the lack of effort that discouraged me.

Justin Taylor - Drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2007/180th

Taylor is a fairly decent player. He shows some good offensive instincts and despite his size, is fearless in his play. You'll often find him near the front of the crease and he does a good job working the corners. He's an average skater, however is definitely a more dangerous player once the offensive attack sets up shop. I like his attitude and his effort, however I'm just not sure where he fits in at the NHL level. He's another guy I see as a bit of a tweener. He's not a good enough offensive player to play a scoring line role, and he's not big enough, fast enough or strong enough to play a checking role.

Jared Knight - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Knight was alright in Thursday's game, and showed some horns by checking Drew Schiestel hard into the boards, leading to a quick tussle with Andrew Agozzino. He didn't get a lot of ice time though. On Friday, he was excellent, maybe the Knights best forward. He is undersized, but he's rather fearless and drives hard to the net and is willing to throw whatever weight he has around. He's almost like a miniature power forward, who wile undersized, does seem to like to play a bit of a power game. This guy is going to be a big player for London next season when the likes of Tavares, Taylor, and others leave.

Trevor Cann - Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in 2007/49th

Got badly outplayed by fellow 2007 2nd rounder Jeremy Smith. I know a lot of Knights fans have been rather unimpressed by Cann thus far. It's hard to imagine why his statline has gotten worse after the transfer from Peterborough to London. He really only played the Thursday game, however let 1 goal in on 2 shots on Friday after coming in to play the 3rd period. But something doesn't seem right, as he didn't look like the same goalie I saw play numerous times in Peterborough. He looks timid and isn't challenging shooters as much as he was, and he's going down to early and being beaten both low close to the post, and to the top of the net. His rebound control, which I once considered a strength, did not look very good on Thursday. Maybe it's a confidence thing or just a bad run as he has a .891 save % in January. I think he's still capable of being an NHL netminder, but he's going to take some time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

OHL All Stars Announced

Today, the rosters for the 2009 OHL All Star Game were announced. The game is to be played February 4 in Windsor.

The Windsor Spitfires, Belleville Bulls and London Knights lead the way with 5 players each, while the Brampton Battalion are sending 4.

From the OHL press release...(found here)

Eastern Conference All-Stars

Goaltenders (2):
Thomas McCollum – Brampton Battalion
Mike Murphy – Belleville Bulls

Defencemen (6):
Calvin de Haan – Oshawa Generals
Julian Demers – Ottawa 67’s
Cameron Gaunce – Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Shawn Lalonde – Belleville Bulls
Alex Pietrangelo – Niagara IceDogs
P.K Subban – Belleville Bulls

Forwards (12):
Bryan Cameron – Belleville Bulls
Logan Couture – Ottawa 67’s
Corey Cowick – Ottawa 67’s
Stefan Della Rovere – Barrie Colts
Matt Duchene – Brampton Battalion
Evgeny Grachev – Brampton Battalion
Cody Hodgson – Brampton Battalion
Alex Hutchings – Barrie Colts
Zack Kassian – Peterborough Petes
Eric O’Dell – Sudbury Wolves
Eric Tangradi – Belleville Bulls
Ethan Werek – Kingston Frontenacs

Western Conference All-Stars

Goaltenders (2):
Andrew Engelage – Windsor Spitfires
Edward Pasquale – Saginaw Spirit

Defencemen (6):
John Carlson – London Knights
Michael Del Zotto – London Knights
Ryan Ellis – Windsor Spitfires
Mark Katic – Sarnia Sting
Dan Kelly – Kitchener Rangers
Jacob Muzzin – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Forwards (12):
Chris Chappell – Saginaw Spirit
Justin DiBenedetto – Sarnia Sting
Taylor Hall – Windsor Spitfires
Joey Hishon – Owen Sound Attack
Peter Holland – Guelph Storm
Nazem Kadri – London Knights
Philip McRae – London Knights
Greg Nemisz – Windsor Spitfires
Ryan O’Reilly – Erie Otters
John Tavares – London Knights
Chris Terry – Plymouth Whalers
Scott Timmins – Windsor Spitfires

Monday, January 19, 2009

A "Major" Return

In case you missed it, Mississauga St. Michael's Majors forward William Wallen returned to action this weekend. Wallen has been out of the line up since early October after suffering a near fatal brain aneurysm. Wallen apparently was suffering from terrible headaches during a game against the Ice Dogs on October 3rd. Following the game, the Majors training staff sent him to the hospital after checking him out and he had to undergo emergency surgery to correct the aneurysm. It's outstanding to have such a strong training staff on hand, as they likely saved Wallen's life.

Wallen returned to Mississauga in early December and was skating with the team as early as the 8th of December, but had not gotten into game action until this past weekend against Oshawa and Ottawa. In case you were wondering, Wallen's return was a success as he potted a goal and an assist against Oshawa on Friday.

Also, check out Wallen's blog here, if you are curious as to what he's been going through the past few months.

Wallen's return to the Majors line up is a huge boost to a team that is already very deep and strong at the forward position. Wallen was finding great success with the Majors before the incident, and should be a major factor for the team through to the end of the season. Wallen, despite being undersized, is an incredibly talented offensive player who has performed just as well internationally as some of Sweden's more notable young and up and coming players. If he can finish the season strong, I'm sure he finds himself on a few teams draft lists.

Don't look now, but the Majors could be a huge player in the slightly more wide open, Eastern Conference as we head into the playoff drive.

ADD - Here is an outstanding article written by Gare Joyce on the incident

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Niagara Ice Dogs Mid-season Report

Much like Ryan, I get to see a lot of one OHL team in particular due to the fact that I live in the Niagara region and therefore the team I get to see the most is the Niagara Ice Dogs. Since it would be redundant for me to report on them each game, I tend not to focus on them. Instead, I wrote a report about 1/4 into the season on the Ice Dogs, and this can be found here.

The following is my midterm report on some of the more important prospects on the team...

Alex Friesen - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Friesen is one of several undersized draft eligible forwards on the team. He also has the lowest chance of getting drafted. While he's quick on his feet, is fearless in attacking the net, and can show some flashes of skill, he is ultimately not skilled enough to be a scoring forward at the professional level. Friesen's only hope is to improve his play defensively, and become more aggressive physically. Only then, in combination with his speed and work ethic, will he be able to find a measure of success at the next level. As mentioned, he does show some skill at times, however, he has trouble finishing off plays. I find that he gets outmuscled too, and perhaps rushes his scoring chances in fear of being taken off the puck. I think with added strength and confidence, he will one day be a quality OHL contributor, however, I don't see him being much of a pro prospect.

Andrew Agozzino - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Another undersized forward, Agozzino has been the Ice Dogs most consistent offensive performer this season. He's elusive and quick on his feet, and he's not afraid to go to the net, with or without the puck. He is a good stick handler and despite his size, does a pretty good job shielding the puck with his body as he goes hard to the net. He's got a great shot, that he gets off quickly, as evidenced by his team leading (tied with DeSousa) 23 goals. Aggy is also a solid two way player who's one of the Ice Dogs better penalty killers, notching 3 shorties this season. As for the negatives, I think Aggy needs to become a better all around offensive player. As of right now, he's strictly a north-south player who skates hard up and down the ice, creating chances off the rush. However, once the offense sets up, he can tend to disappear. He just needs to do better with the cycle and get himself into scoring positions more. Closely related, I find that at times he seems lost in the offensive zone when he doesn't have the puck on his stick, and when he does have the puck on his stick, he makes questionable decisions. I think Aggy would really benefit from having a top quality offensive player at center who can feed him the puck. Perhaps these negatives are what CSB believes is holding him back from cracking their mid term rankings, or maybe it's size. Either way, they don't see him as an NHL draft pick currently. Of course, I'd have to disagree as I think someone takes him, but I'd be surprised if it was anything higher than a 6-7 rounder.

Freddie Hamilton - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Hamilton, the Dogs first round selection in the 2008 Priority draft, has been a very useful player this season. He does all the little things right and is a very smart player for his age. He's a solid two way player who sees the ice well in setting up his teammates, and has played on nearly every line in every situation for the Dogs this season. He was also a member of the Gold medal winning Team Ontario team at the recent World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. Right now, a few things are preventing him from being more involved offensively. He needs to improve his strength for one, but what 16 year old doesn't. He gets muscled off the puck easily in the offensive zone and as of right now is purely an opportunist incapable of creating his own offensive chances. He also needs to improve his skating which is only adequate as of right now. I think next year, we'll see more out of him in his draft season.

Andrew Shaw - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Still a favourite of mine, Shaw has improved tremendously as the season has gone along. At the beginning of the season, he was in and out of the lineup and was having to rely on his fists to keep him in their consistently. However, he's improved his offensive production each month, and has slowly been earning more ice time, including some powerplay and shorthanded time, from coach Cheech. He's a fearless forechecker who's often the first forward into the offensive zone, and he hits hard, despite not being very strong yet. Let's not forget this is an OHL rookie here. Shaw is very skilled, and I'm confident that if he had more skilled linemates, he'd have more points. He sees the ice very well and is an excellent playmaker. He's also adequate defensively and makes an effort to come back to the defensive zone. Did I mention that this guy fights too and is not afraid to stick up for his teammates? He's quite a complete player. So what's holding him back? Easily strength. As of right now, for the type of game he plays, he's just not strong enough. Their is no coincidence that he has improved every month over the course of the season. The Ice Dogs have him on a strength program and as he gets stronger, he becomes more confident in playing the type of game he excels at. I think he breaks out big time next year with a summer of training. I think if he can continue to improve his offensive production through to the end of the season, he has a chance to get himself drafted.

Marco Insam - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009 (but DOB: 1989)

Insam is the Dogs import selection from this past year. He's a big Italian winger who lumbers up and down the ice with authority. He does have some skating issues, but most is due to a slow first few steps. Once he gets moving, his top speed isn't concerning for a man his size. But he bangs around and can lay out some monster hits. He's really improved offensively from the start of the season and actually has 6 goals in his last 9 games. He has one heck of a cannon of a shot, both his slapper and his wrister. However, he does need to improve on his ability to get it on net. One thing, I'd like to see Insam do more of is crash the net and be a big presence in the crease. He's quite the imposing figure, yet I find too often he stays to the perimeter hoping someone will hit him for the one timer. While getting himself into position to unload his weapon has to be a priority for him, with his size he also needs to crash the net and pick up some easier goals. He has been doing this a little more lately, but not enough IMO. As of this point, I think the Dogs have to be happy with their import selection, and he's likely a guy who comes back as an overager next season and has a big impact. As for being a pro prospect, I'd say not likely, unless he can improve on some areas.

Chris DeSousa - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

DeSousa might be the most legit NHL prospect of the mini quad (Aggy, DeSousa, Friesen, and Sisca). Like the others, he's fearless and drives hard to the net with and without the puck. However, unlike the others, he's a top notch body checker and a quality pest. He loves to get under the skin of opponents and is not afraid to drop the mitts. DeSousa's biggest asset is definitely his shot, which is NHL caliber. He gets it off very quickly, and it's very accurate. Actually, other than a slow start, DeSousa has been one of the best goal scorers in the OHL this season. If you were to take his scoring per game since November and adapt it to the whole season, he'd be 2nd in the OHL in goals. His speed is average, but he has great anticipation and reads the play well, setting himself up to get his shots off. I was more surprised that DeSousa was left off the CSB midterm ranking than Agozzino, but perhaps being a late 1990 and undersized went against him. That being said, I'd be very surprised and disappointed if he wasn't drafted in June, especially if he can continue to score goals while playing an aggresive in your face game.

Matthew Sisca - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Sisca is the fourth member of the mini quad. He's put up some good offensive stats this season and he thinks the game quite well. He reacts well to the play and does a good job of finding his teammates. Overall, he's just a solid offensive player who does most things well, but nothing exceptionally. I think that their are some things that hold him back from being considered a legitimate professional prospect. For one, he's small and he plays small. He doesn't drive to the net with the puck on his stick, is easily muscled off the puck, and easily pushed around in the slot. He's also only an adequate skater who doesn't have that top gear a lot of smaller offensive players need to survive at the next level. And while he's improved his defensive play since a benching from coach Cheech, he's still a rather one dimensional player who misses assignments on a regular basis. His offensive production has greatly cooled off of late too, after his hot start. I think he can be a quality OHL contributor in the future for what is likely a strong Niagara team (with all these quality 1990's and 1991's), but a serious professional prospect he is not.

Alex Pietrangelo - NHL Drafted in 2008 by St. Louis/4th

Petro has single handidly made the Ice Dogs a better team. He has changed the dynamic of the team and has brought stability to a defense which has largely been a mess this season due to injury and lack of experience. He's such a dynamic offensive player who anticipates the play so well, it's not fair. He joins the rush at will, and when he wants to, he can use his strong skating and stickhandling ability to gain the offensive zone. Speaking of his puck carrying ability, he consistently makes players miss and creates many chances off his strong rushes. He's also using his shot WAY more this season, and is not afraid to put the puck on net. On the downside, I don't think Petro's defensive game has made any strides this season. He's a smart player, but he'd much rather be leading the rush than staying behind. And while this is clearly what makes him a strong prospect, he needs to pick his spots better and he needs to make more of an effort defensively. Since he's returned from the World Juniors, he's done a much better job of this, which is promising because he does have the potential to be a strong defender both ways because of his skating ability. As of this point, the one thing everyone always brings up is his lack of physicality, despite his size. I think it's safe to say Petro will never be a physical player and people just need to move on. He's much more of a positional defender ala Jay Bouwmeester, and if that's what works for him, than so be it. A strong prospect with a very bright future.

Drew Schiestel - NHL Drafted in 2007 by Buffalo/59th

Schiestel has been kind of up and down this season. Offensively, he's great. He's one of the better skaters in the OHL and he moves around the ice effortlessly. He leads the rush with confidence and has no trouble gaining the offensive zone. However, one thing that I've always felt held Schiestel back, is what he does with the puck once he gains the zone. A guy like Petro rushes into the offensive zone with authority and drives hard to the net and isn't afraid to take it end to end. This often results in a strong scoring chance. Schiestel will rush the puck up the ice with ease, gain the zone, but then ease off and dump the puck in or pass it off, instead of taking it all the way to the net with momentum. He has the skills to do this, but he doesn't, so often these fancy rushes result in nothing. He also needs to work on his shot, in particular with his ability to get it through to the net. His shot drifts high on him a lot, and he needs to focus on keeping it low and on net. Defensively, he's up and down. Sometimes you'll find him making great plays and playing strong off the puck. Other times, he'll look disinterested and lose his man in coverage. He's also developed a bit of a habit of taking undisciplined penalties in his own zone, perhaps out of laziness or frustration. When he focuses, and when he engages physically, he's a quality defender. In the end with Schiestel, it's all about consistency and he needs to develop it.

Mark Visentin - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Visentin will be one of the youngest players available for the 2010 draft, so he's got a lot of maturing to do. It has been surprising enough that he has been able to earn a spot on the Ice Dogs roster this season after being the club's 3rd round pick in the 2008 Priority draft. It's been quite the year for Visentin, as he was actually the back up for the aforementioned gold medal winning Ontario squad at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. His play, well it's shown promise. He's solid positionally in that he anticipates the play well, and he moves well in his crease. He just needs to work on some of the things that come with more experience. He needs to challenge shooters more by coming out and reading the angles. He needs to control rebounds better. And he needs to improve his five hole and his glove hand. But, very rarely do 16 year old goaltenders look great in the OHL, or CHL for that matter. He's got a lot to learn, but he's got a solid foundation to work with. With Jeremy Smith in Niagara now, he's also got a good teacher for the rest of the season.

Jeremy Smith - NHL Drafted in 2007 by Nashville/54th

Smith has been a revelation since coming over to Niagara at the trade deadline. He's 4-1 and the Ice Dogs are playing their best hockey of the season in front of them. I'm not sure how he was struggling so much in Plymouth, but he has to be glad to have been given a second life. Smith's two best assets are his positioning and his rebound control. He comes out to challenge shooters, but also reacts well by having quick feet. He rarely coughs up a big rebound and does a great job of directing shots to the corners. I think, like any butterfly goaltender, he has some problems with the top of the net, and as the season goes along, it'll be interesting to see how much that may get abused. But you can't argue with results, and Smith has brought a calming presence to the Dogs, and with him in net, they may be a legit playoff threat.

Ryan Yessie's Sarnia Sting Mid-season Report

Ryan took the time to give his mid-season report on Sarnia. He generally doesn't report on them as he focuses on the other team, so for the significant players on the Sting, here is his take on them.

Greg Sutch - YOB: 1992 - 6’2” - 190 lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Sutch started out slow this year, he looked snake bitten but after about 15 games his skill started to show, and he was able to reach his top speed which is extremely impressive. He looks a lot bigger than his 6’2 - 190 lb. Frame and has a great deal of speed. He looks a lot like a poor man’s Bobby Ryan because he skates like few teenagers his size can, he has very good hands around the net, and drives to the net very well. He has great size and strength and imposes it whenever possible. He doesn’t have the natural scoring instincts Bobby Ryan had, but he does look a lot like him during his rookie season. Sutch will need to work on his defensive play alittle, as well he will need to grow into his body alittle more as the coordination seems slightly off almost like the skill and the size is there, but like some players that grow too fast he almost has to grow into his body. Sutch will also have to overcome a significant hearing impairment but is able to play at the level he does because of his incredible hockey sense. Sutch has a shot at being a 1st round pick between 10-25 next year if a team is willing to overlook his disability. (Sutch has 2G, 8A, 10PTS, +0, 36 PIM in 41 GP)

Nathan Chiarlitti - YOB: 1992 - 6’0” - 185 lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Chiarlitti is not too noticeable on the ice, he showed at the U-17 tournament that he certainly has some skill to become a two-way defenceman, but for now while he’s behind the top 4 this year, there’s the potential he will become a top 4 defenceman next year regardless of who comes back, so this is a good learning process for him, as he is beginning to earn shifts with #1 defenceman Mark Katic. Chiarlitti shows poise unbecoming of a rookie, and something you’d expect to see out of a 19 year old defenceman in the OHL and not a 16 year old. He always seems very calm and makes the right decisions when moving the puck. He’s steady defensively and wasn’t expected to make the team this year. He shows solid positioning and quietly could become a very decent player going into the 2009 draft. (Chiarlitti has 1G, 0A, 1PT, +2, 6 PIM in 31 GP)

Justin DiBenedetto - YOB: 1988 - 6’0” - 195 lbs.
NHL: 6th Round - 175th Overall by NY Islanders in 2008
Report: DiBenedetto leads the OHL in goals mid-way through the season. He has great scoring instincts and generally seems to know the right time when to pass and when to shoot. He looks very good cycling the puck out there, and as far as the offensive zone he’s as good as they come. He drives to the net more frequently and plays with an edge he never had before. His skating is decent and he has a quick release on his shot. What will hurt DiBenedetto is his tendency for not taking enough responsibility in the defensive zone, I’ve seen him a few times coasting back instead of skating hard, he isn’t very effective on his own side of the red line and that will definitely need to improve if he’s going to reach his potential. (DiBenedetto has 29G, 31A, 60PTS, +5, 64 PIM in 40 GP)

Jamie Arniel - YOB: 1989 - 6’0” - 190 lbs.
NHL: 4th Round - 97th Overall by Boston in 2008
Report: The start of the 08-09 season was tough for Arniel. He was one of the first players sent back from Bruins camp, and couldn’t get his game together in Sarnia after an unfortunate drinking and driving incident raised questions about his commitment to the Sarnia Sting, the OHL and his hockey career. With everything going on around him it took him about 6 games to get it going, but once he got it going he started to put points up. Unfortunately he was still tagged as a very soft player after a few incidences where he skated away with his head down instead of defending his teammates and not being willing to hit. Arniel now looks like he’s playing the best hockey possibly of his career. He has some solid speed and can move up and down the ice fairly well. He’s not great defensively but not horrible either. He has one of the quickest releases and most accurate shots in the league, he’s a natural goal scorer. Recently he has been throwing the body around a lot more, and he’s been very willing to engage physically. Also Arniel is a very disciplined player. The only real knock on Arniel at this point is that he shoots from ridiculous angles instead of passing to the open man, same with 2 on 1’s goaltenders seem to be cheating alittle playing the shot and Arniel will shoot right into the goaltender cutting off the angle rather than attempting a pass which; if successful would result in the other player having an open net to shoot into. Remarkably Arniel is on a 7 game goal scoring streak at the moment and is only 5 goals behind DiBenedetto for the league lead in goals. (Arniel has 24G, 21A, 45PTS, +2, 22PIM in 40GP)

Matt Martin - YOB: 1989 - 6’3” - 200 lbs.
NHL: 5th Round - 148th Overall by NY Islanders in 2008
Report: Matt Martin was a walk on Jr. C hockey player who was brought in to fight. No one would have thought that within 36 months he would be an NHL draft pick, the Captain of the team, and challenging for the OHL scoring lead. Martin is only 6 goals behind DiBenedetto, and is much more than a goal scorer. He has great leadership skills and has really been the voice of the Sting in the dressing room and on the ice. He has always played with a huge edge, and has thrown some massive hits on guys bigger than him. He’s shown a willingness to fight whenever called upon but has kept it to a minimum lately since he is one of the top players for Sarnia. Martin is decent defensively, and drives to the net well. He doesn’t have that natural talent and has worked extremely hard for everything he’s accomplished. He will likely have a future in the NHL, if not as a power forward then as a role player that could chip in the odd goal. Martin’s biggest obstacle will be his skating, as it is really the only thing that could stop him entering pro hockey, and may be what keeps him in the OHL for a final year. (Martin has 23G, 19A, 42PTS, +4, 78 PIM in 40GP)

Michael Neal - YOB: 1989 - 6’3” - 205 lbs.
NHL: 5th Round - 149th Overall by Dallas in 2007
Report: Michael Neal is the younger brother of James Neal. He has the size, and the willingness to hit, and the same decent defensive presence, and ability to cycle. Unfortunately Michael Neal doesn’t have his older brother’s fighting ability, or his hands. Neal should be an intriguing prospect, as he can hit, and hit very hard, he can help create turnovers he is difficult to move when doing the cycle game. However Neal seems to either get nervous or just doesn’t have very much goal scoring instincts. He scored a very nice goal his second game in Sarnia, but since then has had a very difficult time just hitting the net, let alone putting it in the net. Also Neal could add another strong element to his game if he showed a willingness to fight more often, and was an effective fighter, however his scraps are few and far between. (Neal has 5G, 10A, 15PTS, -1, 30 PIM in 43GP)

Ben O’Quinn - YOB: 1991 - 6’1” - 185 lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: I’ve been interested with him all year, at the start of the year he walked off the team and it just seemed like a 4th liner was quitting the team. The team was able to bring him back after a few days, and he received good ice time for a few games then went back to 5 mins per game. Over time he earned a little more time over every game untill he eventually got a place on the DiBenedetto line about two weeks ago. O’Quinn displays some very impressive speed, and has some decent hands but likely will never be a big goal scorer even at the junior level let alone pro. His future lies in his effort that he puts in every shift, as well as his ability to win face offs when called upon. He is also a very good penalty killer and could end up being a 6th or 7th round pick in this year’s draft as a defensive specialist with some speed and a bit of raw talent. (O’Quinn has 6G, 10A, 16PTS, +5, 18 PIM in 42 GP)

Jesse Stoughton - YOB: 1991 - 5’9” - 160 lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Stoughton is another guy who could go in the final two rounds and surprise some people. Stoughton is just starting to show his goal scoring ability, as he’s put in 3 goals and 5 points in his last 3 games. But ontop of that is the great defensive skill Stoughton posesses. Despite being a rookie Stoughton has mainly been one of Sarnia’s top penalty killers and has continued to get better throughout the year. Stoughton has produced fairly well this year considering the majority of games he was receiving 4th line minutes. Stoughton is fairly undersized which might affect his attempts to go pro, but he’s a strong skater and very fast so it should be very interesting to see how this player develops over the next 24 months. (Stoughton has 5G, 8A, 13PTS, +1, 18 PIM in 42 GP)

Mark Katic - YOB: 1989 - 5’11” - 185 lbs.
NHL: 3rd Round - 62nd Overall in 2007
Report: Katic has continued to improve from last year, he remains arguably the fastest skater under 20 in the world, and still distributes the puck well, his defensive play is still very strong highlighted by his ability to play defenders effectively in one on one situations. He has clearly improved his point shot, as he already has 7 goals this year, 2 more than his personal record. He is also hitting more, but has been a lot better at avoiding contact himself which has prevented him from sustaining any injuries this year. Katic has been playing great and is finally starting to somewhat live up to the expectations that he would be a key offensive contributor. Katic is 50/50 on whether or not he’ll return next year, as the Islanders would not be smart to rush him too fast giving his history with injuries and his size. (Katic has 7G, 23A, 30PTS, +4, 26 PIM in 40 GP)

Joe Rogalski - YOB: 1991 - 6’2” - 185 lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Rogalski has quietly been one of the most dependable players on the Sting. Rogalski displays great acceleration and very impressive speed, Rogalski has actually rushed the puck up a few times more recently which is unusual for him as he’s been staying back his first year and a half in Sarnia, but he rushed the puck with great skating ability. He handles the puck well, makes the right first pass, and has always been very reliable defensively. If he can add 20 lbs. Within the next 2 years he could slowly become a dominant defenceman in the OHL. He needs to play more physical and that is really the only flaw in his game. He doesn’t put up big numbers, but he contributes more offensively than his numbers would suggest. Rogalski is a steady defenceman and should challenge to go late in the 1st round at next years draft. (Rogalski has 1G, 8A, 9PTS, -7, 28 PIM in 45 GP)

Dan Spence - YOB: 1988 - 6’0” - 185 lbs.
NHL: Free Agent
Report: Spence has been a saviour in net for the Sting this year, and has single handedly won a few games for the team, and has always kept them in every game. Spence has great reflexes and has an incredibly fast glove hand. He plays with an unorthodox style somewhat like Mike Murphy’s style, but like Murphy it has been working very effectively for him. Spence could easily challenge for the GAA lead if the Sting had a stronger defense core. His GAA is 4th in the league behind only Murphy, McCollum and Spitfire net minder Engelade. His save percentage is 3rd behind only Murphy and McCollum. Spence will likely see a pro contract the free agent route when his season completes in Sarnia. (Spence is 17-11-2, 2 SO, 2.53 GAA, .920 SV%)

Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on Owen Sound from January 16

Ryan Yessie returns with his first report of the New Year, and was able to take in the Sarnia - Owen Sound game this past Friday. All 5 goals are scored before the game reached the midway point. Huge saves were made early by Dan Spence en route to the Sarnia Sting defeating Owen Sound 4-1.

Steven Shipley - YOB: 1992 - 6’2” - 200 lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Jan/17/09: This guy is a player. No question of this guy’s skill. I didn’t hear much about him going into this game but he’s certainly going to have an impression on me for the next 18 months leading up to his draft. He has some dynamic offensive skills and if not for two massive saves by Dan Spence Shipley could have single handedly kept his team in the game. He skates with great speed which is very impressive considering he has NHL size and is only 16 years old. Shipley has good stick handling moves and shows great agility and has big potential to be a game breaker at every level he plays at. Very impressed with his puck control and his overall offensive awareness. This looks like something Owen Sound saw come in about 5 years ago, except his name was Bobby Ryan. I’ve only seen two guys skate and handle the puck with the size that Bobby Ryan had , and Shipley is definitely the better of the two I’ve seen so far. I really don’t see any flaws in his game, his defensive play wasn’t noticeable so I guess that can’t be considered positive or negative. (Shipley had 1G)

Joey Hishon - YOB: 1991 - 5’10” - 166 lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Jan/17/09: Hishon is a late birth date so he’ll have to wait till next year. Hopefully that gives him time to add to his size because he desperately needs to add about 15-20 lbs in the next 18 months. Hishon was another guy I was very impressed with, I was surprised Sarnia kept Owen Sound to only one goal with these two skating around the ice. Hishon displayed great speed, a quick release, good awareness in the offensive zone, and distributes the puck very well. What I was really surprised about is how good of a penalty killer Hishon is. His positioning is as good as it comes, and he always had a stick in the passing lane. A complete player and could certainly push into the top 15 of the draft next year, and the only flaw I could see in his game is his 5’10” - 166lb frame that desperately needs a little more muscle added to it, if he does that he could be a dangerous prospect.

Garrett Wilson - YOB: 1991 - 6’2” - 199 lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Jan/17/09: Wilson had his good sides and bad. The good is that he has a fairly quick release on his shot, and it comes off with some force, he’s a good physical player and is not afraid to hit. His best asset is his net presence, he looked like Holmstrom out there on the power play he was an unmovable object when he was in front of the net which could be useful to an NHL team looking for a mid-late round pick. On the bad side his skating could use some help, and he does seem to get very over aggressive at the wrong times and winds up taking bad penalties. Not someone I was considering untill I saw what he was able to do in front of the net, so certainly someone to keep an eye on. (Wilson had 1A, 2PIM)

Michael Lomas - YOB: 1990 - 5’11” - 198 lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Jan/17/09: I know some out there are wondering about this guy, he was rated last year but didn’t get picked, he has good numbers so I was curious myself. I was very disappointed in Lomas’ play. He turned the puck over at some bad times for his team, and a few were just lazy turnovers not moving his feet, or paying enough attention to the play. I have no clue how this guy has 19 goals so far this year, because he missed the net wildly 3 times. He was within 20ft. Of the net and missed by atleast 5 ft. every time, his stats must be padded at least a little from playing with Shipley and/or Hishon. The one bright spot I saw in his game was his defensive play, he was out there on the PK a couple times and played fairly well during that time. (Lomas had 2 PIM)

Michael D’Orazio - YOB: 1990 - 6’1” - 211 lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Jan/17/09: I was impressed a bit with this guy last year so I was curious as to how he was playing this year. D’Orazio was a good stay at home presence, he was throwing hits every chance he had and he threw some big ones, he looks like he’s built like a tank when he hits, definitely looks taller than 6’1”. Doesn’t look like there is much offensive potential to speak of, but a solid player that I could see getting late round consideration.

Tyler Beskorowany - YOB: 1990 - 6’5” - 199 lbs.
NHL: 2nd Round - 59th Overall by Dallas in 2008
Report: Jan/17/09: Beskorowany was starting for Owen Sound tonight and I wasn’t very impressed with him. He let in two very soft goals which between that and if Shipley didn’t get robbed this could have been a very different game. He does have great positioning; he faced 48 shots and he was in position for probably 47 of them. His biggest issue is the amount of rebounds he gave up, if it was possible to give a rebound on a shot he gave it, and they were big rebounds. He also doesn’t seem to cut down the angle enough when players are coming in down the wing even if they’re by themselves and gave them a lot of net to look at. (Beskorowany stopped 44 of 48 shots)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thoughts on Mississauga from January 15

Tonight, the battle of the QEW continued, as the Niagara Ice Dogs and Mississauga St. Mike's Majors clashed for the 5th time this season. The Majors had won the previous 4 decisions, but the Dogs finally came out on top tonight, with a 2-1 victory. Niagara got great goaltending from the newly acquired Jeremy Smith, and the game winner from overager Patrick Lee.

Here are my thoughts on a few Majors from tonights game...

Casey Cizikas - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

No doubt that Cizikas has to be disappointed with his low ranking (132) in the recently released midterm rankings of the NHL's CSB. And I would be to if I was him. I don't think he belongs that low. But then again, I'm a fan of the kid. He played well tonight. He shows good speed driving toward the net, he works hard in the corners and on the penalty kill, and at times he even shows some creativity with the puck in creating chances for his teammates. I'd be really, really surprised if at the end of the season, he ends up going that low in the NHL draft.

Kaspars Daugavins - Drafted by Ottawa in 2006/91
It was refreshing to see Daugavins playing with a high effort level tonight. He was recently demoted by the Senators after starting the season with their AHL affiliate in Binghampton. It would have been easy for Kaspars to be incredibly upset by the demotion and for it to show in his game, but he looked determined to show everyone his heart is with this team. He was the Majors best forward, buzzing around the ice and creating scoring opportunities nearly everytime he was on the ice. He was happy to have the puck on his stick, but he wasn't selfish and picked his spots well in putting the puck on net versus setting up his linemates. He hasn't really put up a lot of points since his demotion, but I think it is more to due with the fact that Dave Cameron is still looking for the right linemates for Kaspars. Or at least that is how I'd explain why he was being used as a winger for nearly every line tonight. He's a good player, and he needs to continue to get his confidence back. I think eventually he'll be a fine pro hockey player.

Corey Bureau - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Bureau looks to be a hard working, up and down winger. He showed a lot of effort and was a factor at both ends of the ice. He worked hard on the forecheck and did a good job coming away with the puck from the corners. He's increased his offensive output the last two months, with 11 points in his last 12 games. He's someone to watch in the second half of the season, as he gains more confidence in his offensive game, in this his first full season in the OHL.

Cameron Gaunce - Drafted in 2008 by Colorado/50th

Gaunce is just a solid all around defender. He runs the point on the powerplay and brings a calming presence to the ice. He makes the right decisions with the puck (although did get his pocket picked on a rare occasion tonight), and he isn't afraid to take the body. I think his skating has improved this season and it's been one of the main reasons his offensive numbers have increased as he's more comfortable in joining the rush. I think he's going to make a solid pro defenseman, and could get a serious look for Team Canada at next year's WJC's.

J.P. Anderson - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Fresh off of backstopping Team Ontario to gold at the Under 17 World Hockey Challenge, Anderson was solid tonight. He's not a big goalie, but he challenges shooters and has the speed and agility to make acrobatic saves. He needs to work on a few fundamental things, such as rebound control, but for a 1992 born goaltender, he's been quite the success this season. He definitely has a bright future ahead of him.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Central Scouting Bureau's Midterm Rankings

The NHL's Central Scouting Bureau released their midterm rankings for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft today. In case you don't remember, the CSB released their preliminary rankings in mid November of 2008, and they can be found here. This list, differing from the preliminary one, is no longer divided by developmental league, but instead is one entire list for players currently playing in North America.

The following is a breakdown of the placement of all Ontario Hockey League listees...

1. John Tavares - London
2. Matt Duchene - Brampton
9. Peter Holland - Guelph
11. Nazem Kadri - London
15. Ryan Ellis - Windsor
24. Zack Kassian - Peterborough
35. Ryan O'Reilly - Erie
38. Calvin de Haan - Oshawa
42. Michael Latta - Guelph
43. Ethan Werek - Kingston
48. Alex Hutchings - Barrie
50. Taylor Beck - Guelph
53. Jordan Szwarz - Saginaw
58. Matthew Clark - Brampton
62. Jesse Blacker - Windsor
66. Garrett Wilson - Owen Sound
71. Taylor Doherty - Kingston
86. Zach Tatrn - Peterborough
88. Bjorn Krupp - Belleville
90. Phil Varone - London
95. Tyler Randell - Kitchener
96. Michael Fine - Sault Ste. Marie
98. Marcus Foligno - Sudbury
100. Ben Chiarot - Guelph
103. Simon Gronvaldt - Kitchener
114. Paul Bezzo - Owen Sound
131. Jordan Mayer - Mississauga
132. Casey Cizikas - Mississauga
133. Luke Judson - Belleville
134. Darren Archibald - Barrie
139. Marc Zanetti - Ottawa
143. Adam Payerl - Barrie
144. Brett Flemming - Mississauga
150. Matthew Tipoff - Belleville
175. Tyler Hostetter - Erie
177. Kyle Clifford - Barrie
201. Andy Andreoff - Oshawa

1. Edward Pasquale - Saginaw
2. Scott Stajcer - Owen Sound
8. Matthew Hackett - Plymouth
10. Michael Zador - Oshawa
13. Peter Di Salvo - Barrie
16. Chris Perugini - Ottawa
18. Jaroslav Janus - Erie
22. Alain Valinquette - Sudbury
30. Brandon Foote - Guelph

The full lists can be found here.

My Comments:
  • Some of you may be asking yourselves, who on earth is Zach Tatrn? Oddly enough, I found myself asking the same question. In all the times I've seen Peterborough play, I've never noticed him. Mind you, he's only played 10 games this year, and wasn't in the line up any of the times the Dogs and Petes clashed. However, I saw Peterborough a lot last season and can't say I ever remember noticing him for good or for bad. He's pointless in 10 games this season, so you have to ask yourself. What is it that CSB sees in Tatrn?
  • I'm pretty surprised by the absence of four guys on the list. Those being Andrew Agozzino, Peter Hermenegildo, Beau Schmitz, and Taylor Carnevale. Agozzino, Hermenegildo, and Schmitz were all ranked inside my midseason OHL top 30, while Carnevale was the top guy on my Honorable Mentions list. I can't say I agree with their absence. In Agozzino's case, it's somewhat baffling to me how Phil Varone can be ranked 90th, yet Aggy is not ranked. I think they are pretty damn similar players with similar drawbacks, the only difference being that Agozzino is a 1991,while Varone is a late 1990.
  • In terms of the goalies, I'd say it's pretty accurate. I'm a little surprised by Matt Hackett being so high as a draft re-entry, but he's had a good season in Plymouth and is worthy of being on that list somewhere.
  • While I'm not surprised by Casey Cizikas' ranking, I can't say I agree. While I have admitted previously that the kid seems to play his best games when I get to watch him, at the same time, he's obviously got talent. He has some consistency issues, but he had a much better December, and is continuing it into January thus far. But I suppose the CSB folks saw him play when he was not a factor.
  • I still can't agree with Bjorn Krupp being ranked so high. Bloodlines, schmoodlines. The guy just isn't a factor in the game, and I can't see how he still gets ranked as highly as he does (although his ranking does seem to be slowly decreasing).
  • Finally, it's good to see Jordan Szwarz finally getting some credit. Ryan Yessie and myself, have both come away very impressed with him in our viewings this season.
For comparison's sake, my Midterm OHL rankings can be found here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thoughts on Barrie from January 8

Happy New Year everyone. I'm back with my first game report of 2009 and was able to take in a very hard fought game between the Ice Dogs and Barrie Colts. It wasn't really a great game to evaluate offensive talent, since a lot of the game was played in the neutral zone and it was quite the back and forth defensive affair. The Dogs came out on top 1-0, thanks to a late third period goal by Chris DeSousa. Newly acquired netminder Jeremy Smith was solid in his first game, earning the shutout.

Here are my thoughts on some Barrie players...

Alex Hutchings - NHL Draft Eligible 2009

Hutchings was the best forward for Barrie tonight. He uses good speed to drive the puck to the net, and despite being undersized is often able to circle the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. He's just a really smart player too, who makes an effort to backcheck and who will go into the corners to win puck battles. As a late 1990, I've heard some criticisms or concerns over the fact that as an undersized offensive pivot, he's not putting up incredibly dominating offensive numbers. But he's a smart player, who has seen his production increase, and his overall game take that next step. He's a good bet to be a top 100 NHL draft pick.

Stefan Della Rovere - Drafted in 2008 by Washington/204th

Della Rovere was pretty quiet tonight. Definitely understandable as the guy must be exhausted after the show that is the WJC's. He did start to turn it on in the 3rd period and was beginning to take the body and drive to the net. In one instance he drove to the net, taking out goaltender Jeremy Smith and causing a minor circus. I'm not sure a lot more needs to be said about Della Rovere, who has obviously taken great steps forward this season in becoming a potential NHL player.

Josh Brittain - Drafted in 2008 by Anaheim/71st

Brittain has been somewhat underwhelming offensively since coming over from Kingston. He's got only 3 goals in 12 games, none in his last 8. At 6'4 and over 200lbs, he's a very good skater who loves to have the puck on his stick, and he drives hard to the net. He also works well in the corners, especially in the cycle. However, I'd like to see him improve upon a few things. For one, for such a big guy, he doesn't throw his weight around nearly as much as he should. Nor does he use his body to protect the puck. Also, he needs to stop being so cute with the puck. Just get the thing on net and go hard to the crease looking for some garbage. With his speed and the skill he does have, if he could develop more of a mean streak, and more of a desire, he could be a top end power forward. Apparently, this is what got him out of favor in Kingston with Coach Killer, the fact that offensively he was being to much of a finesse player and not enough of a 6'4 power forward.

Darren Archibald - 2009 NHL Draft Eligible (1990 born)

Rookie OHL winger who played last season in Stouffville with Ethan Werek and Corey Trivino, on a very solid team. He's been getting better and better as the season has gone along. At 6'3, 200lbs, he skates fairly well and is aggressive on the forecheck and along the boards. He uses his size well and goes hard to the net, looking for rebounds. He didn't show a lot of offensive ability tonight, but he did show a good effort level. As a 1990 born, playing in his first OHL season, I'd say he has a chance to get drafted as an entry overager this season, if he's caught a few scouts eyes.

Taylor Carnevale - 2009 NHL Draft Eligible

Since a trade from Oshawa, Carnevale has been great for Barrie with 13 points in 15 games. He's supplied the Colts with some secondary offensive production that they lacked. He's somewhat undersized, but he looks to skate well and he isn't afraid to get his nose dirty. He went to the net and he played in the corners. He also showed some good playmaking ability, with a couple nifty passes, although none ended up creating serious scoring chances. He played hard, and he looks to be fairly skilled. Could definitely be an NHL draft pick if he continues to put points up in Barrie.

Michael Hutchinson - Drafted in 2008 by Boston/77th

Hutchinson was very good tonight. He does a great job of challenging shooters when he needs to, and at 6'3 he can still make himself look big while staying back in his net. He moves well and has good overall mobility, and he also anticipates the play very well. His rebound control was excellent tonight, as many of the Dogs 42 shots came from the perimeter. He did a good job to make sure none of these softer shots ended up as rebounds in the scoring area. Going back to his size, Hutchinson is one of those goalies who seems to get a piece of absolutely everything. Because he's so big, when he does come out to challenge, especially on point shots, it's hard to find space. The only goal that beat him was an outstanding shot by Chris DeSousa, top shelf, blocker side, on a 3 on 1. No goalie would have saved that one. He's had a bit of tough luck recently, as despite a SV% over .940, and a GAA right around 2, he's only 4-4 in his last 8 games.

And a quick thought on an Ice Dog player...

Jeremy Smith - Drafted in 2007 by Nashville/54th

Smith has had a terrible season, and no doubt relishes the opportunity to start over in Niagara. He was outstanding in his first game with the Dogs, stopping all 33 shots for the shutout victory. And while none of his saves were incredible, he was a solid and calming presence in net, who gave up very few rebounds, and directed pucks away from high traffic areas. He was once considered an elite goaltender in this league, but hasn't been the same since a disastrous WJC tournament with team USA last year. There has to be some mental/confidence issue which is causing his poor play this season, as he has the skill and technical ability to be a good goaltender. Here's hoping he can continue to play well in Niagara and show Nashville that he's still got more left in the tank.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Team Ontario Repeats as Winner of the Under 17 World Hockey Challenge

Yesterday afternoon, Team Ontario defeated Team Pacific to capture its second straight gold medal at the Under 17 World Hockey Challenge. The roster was made up of entirely OHL players and yet again provided an accurate and promising snapshot of the talent emerging out of Ontario.

The team was led by John McFarland, the former first overall selection in the 2008 priority draft, and current member of the Sudbury Wolves. McFarland finished the tournament as the leading scorer, with 8 goals and 4 assists in 12 games. He also managed to tally a point in every game of the tourney. Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers finished second in tournament scoring with 11 points. Stephen Silas of the Belleville Bulls finished tied for first in defenceman scoring, with 1 goal and 6 assists. Goaltender J.P Anderson of the Mississauga Majors finished the tourney with the best save percentage (.935) and the second best G.A.A. (2.31) among starters.

A big congrats to the team, which was coached by Niagara Ice Dogs bench boss Mario Cicchillo.

A link to the final stats for Team Ontario can be found here.