Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thoughts on Belleville from February 19

Tonight the Belleville Bulls took on the Niagara Ice Dogs with the game being broadcast provincially on Sportsnet. The Dogs hung in there with the game tied at 1 through two periods, but the stronger Bulls came out on top thanks to three unanswered third period goals. The score would have been a lot higher than 4-1 had it not been for Dogs goaltender Jeremy Smith who was sensational in turning aside 44 of 47 shots.

Thoughts on some Belleville players...

Cory Tanaka - Overager and NHL free agent

Tanaka has to be one of the hardest working forwards in the league, and soon will become the OHL's all time leader in games played. Tanaka is such a good penalty killer, and was the main reason the Dogs were 0 for 4 on the powerplay. He anticipates the play so well and uses his speed to defend and knock away loose pucks. He scored a beauty shorthanded goal on a great breakaway pass from Eric Tangradi, with Tanaka finishing it off with a deke to the back hand. 5 on 5, he works hard, cycles the puck, drives to the net, hits open lanes. Just a solid overall player. That being said, I think that his hard work and hockey sense allow him to put up better numbers than his skill set would allow. He's such a good penalty killer that I'd be surprised if an NHL team didn't sign him this offseason, with hopes he turns into an energy line player.

Shawn Lalonde - Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008/68th

Lalonde is a solid player, no question. I've seen him play quite a few games over his OHL career. Today was not his best. He had a lot of trouble handling the puck and had a few near costly giveaways. He was just not a factor tonight. Clearly an anomaly.

Luke Judson - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Judson continues to impress me this season. He doesn't get a lot of ice time, but makes the most of what he does get. He works hard and is very aggressive on the forecheck. He plays a lot bigger than he looks and drives hard to the net, showing good strength with the puck. I think that he has the potential to be a good player in this league. I also think an NHL team would be smart to draft him with a late pick, as he'll look to make a bigger impact for Belleville next season with the departure of Tangradi, Cameron, Tanaka, Palmieri, and Mashinter.

Nick Palmieri - Drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 2007/79th

Palmieri was actually quite invisible for the first two periods. He wasn't as involved physically as he normally is. However, he made a great turnaround in the 3rd period and was a constant threat. He's so strong away from the puck, he comes away with the puck on his stick after nearly every scrum. In one instance, he knocked Dogs defenseman Reggie Traccitto through the air as they converged for a lose puck in Niagara's end. He's also got a great shot and does a good job getting into the scoring lanes. The only thing Palmieri needs to do is become more consistent. I've found in the past that he can tend to disappear for stretches, which shouldn't be happening because of the physical intangibles he brings to the game.

Bryan Cameron - Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 2007/82nd

Cameron is a beast. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. This guy is the most underrated player in the OHL. Over 40 goals last season, on pace for 40 over again this season and yet you never hear his name in discussion for the best goal scorers in the league. He's undersized, but it doesn't hurt him. He has great lower body strength and he's hard to knock off the puck, similar to former Barrie Colt star and current NHL'er Bryan Little. He attacks the crease with conviction and he works the cycle with Eric Tangradi like a work of art. Have I mentioned his wrist shot, which he gets off quickly and accurately. This guy is an NHL player, and you can take that to the bank.

Eric Tangradi - Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in 2007/42nd

I'm not really sure what to say about Tangradi, that adds to what everyone already knows about him. He was absolutely dominant at both ends of the ice tonight. He works the cycle so well and he uses his size to his advantage. He has an NHL caliber shot and his skating has vastly improved over the course of his OHL career. I think the one thing that not a lot of people realize about Tangradi, is how good of a penalty killer he has become. Much like Tanaka, he anticipates the play so well and because he's so strong, he's able to win those loose puck battles and clear the zone. The guy is a stud.

Philipp Grubauer - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Grubauer got a start in place of Mike Murphy tonight, giving the all star a night off. Grubauer was quite good tonight. He wasn't tested a lot, but he made some really key saves in times that could have swung the momentum of the game. When his team needed him, he made the save. One in particular against Chris DeSousa was outstanding, where he did the splits on his arse to stop a redirected puck aimed at the bottom far side. He shows great lateral quickness and his rebound control has improved since the start of the season. I know Coach George Burnett thinks very highly of this German import and I think he's going to climb pretty high on draft lists next season as he takes the reigns from Murphy.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thoughts on Kingston from February 15

This afternoon the Kingston Frontenacs visited the Gatorade Garden City Complex here in St. Catharines, to take on the Niagara Ice Dogs. Despite the shot total being 41-31 in favor of the Fronts, the game was completely one sided in favor of the Ice Dogs. Niagara completely dominated last place Kingston en route to a 4-1 victory. Niagara got goals from Andrew Agozzino, Chris DeSousa, Marco Insam, and Thomas Middup, as well as sensational goaltending from Jeremy Smith.

Here are my thoughts on a few of the Frontenacs...

Taylor Doherty - NHL Draft eligible in 2009

Doherty did not have a good game, probably the worst I've seen him play in the past two seasons. He was a complete non factor. On the first Ice Dog goal by Middup, he failed to tie up his man going to the net, and Middup was able to bang home a juicy rebound. I don't think he attempted to rush the puck up ice once this game and looked tentative and scared with it on his stick. Early in the third period, he took a lazy hooking penalty in his own zone and I don't think he saw the ice again in the game. This was also the first game I've noticed his skating being a potential issue. I've heard a lot of people say they felt it was, however I always disagreed. And I still disagree to a point, as I think his straight away speed and skating is fine and allows him to bring the puck out of his zone (should he choose to). But today, I noticed that his backward mobility could be an issue, as a few times I noticed him getting caught flat footed, as players were close to blowing by him. I hope there weren't any scouts in attendance today seeing Doherty for the first time.

Erik Gudbranson - NHL Draft eligible in 2010

This kid is going to be good. At 6'3 already, his skating is excellent, as is his defensive play. Also impressive is the fact that at just turning 17 and an OHL rookie, he's currently wearing an "A." That shows the type of character and faith the coaching staff has in his ability. He actually showed more of a physical edge than I had seen before from him and he appears to be becoming more confident in using his size to his advantage. The one thing I was disappointed about was not seeing him on the powerplay. In my previous viewings of Kingston this season, he was playing on the first powerplay unit. However, today I don't think I saw him out there once, with Zack Fenwick taking his spot with Brian Lashoff on the point of the first unit. He has great puck skills and a big shot, so it's disappointing to me that Coach Killer doesn't have him out there gaining experience on the PP.

Colt Kennedy - NHL Draft eligible in 2009

Colt had a very solid game playing on a line with Ethan Werek. He brought a lot of energy and was consistently attacking on the forecheck. He worked the corners and he was very physical and aggressive. He also showed some good speed as he entered the zone and on the aforementioned forecheck. I'm not sure how much offensive ability he really has, but he's a good energy guy. He's a former first rounder in the OHL priority draft, but he's already on his third OHL team. Read into that what you like. I've heard he is getting some minor attention for the 2009 draft though and could end up as a late pick with the hopes that he develops an offensive game (ala Washington late rounder Stefan Della Rovere).

Nathan Moon - Drafted by Pittsburgh in 2008/120th

Fresh off his mugging at the hands of James DeLory, Moon did not have a good game. Overall Moon is just one guy who consistently underwhelms me. I see the flashes of skill, but I don't see the effort level. The Fronts went down 4-0 at the beginning of the 2nd period, and he appeared to just give up. He stopped battling for loose pucks, and began to float. If I wasn't watching for number 10, I probably wouldn't have even noticed him playing. For a guy who brings little to the table except offense and perhaps a slightly pesky playing personality, the fact that his offensive numbers are down this season has to be somewhat alarming.

Brian Lashoff - Signed as a free agent by Detroit

Lashoff has gotten better everytime I've seen him this season. He played probably half the game for Kingston and is clearly their work horse on the backend. He's also their captain, which is an impressive feat for a player who joined the team mid season and I think it speaks volumes of his character. On the ice, his skating and puck rushing ability is top notch. He enters the offensive zone effortlessly, and does a good job running the point on the powerplay, although I'd like to see him move around a little more as I found him to be a little stiff at the point. He does a good job of getting his shot through though. At 6'3 and with his skating ability, it is a wonder as to how he went undrafted last season. Another good find by the Red Wings scouting staff after they invited him to training camp and immediately signed him. There are a ton of similarities between Brian and his brother Matt (former Boston Bruins first rounder), and I think Brian is only going to continue to get better.

Ethan Werek - NHL Draft eligible in 2009

The best player on the ice for Kingston, no question. Werek was just about the only player generating real offensive chances for the Fronts. He was absolutely robbed by Smith on one occasion as he brought the puck from his skate to his stick while on the rush and rifled a wrist shot top corner, only to have Smith snag it. He scored the lone Kingston goal on a similar play as he came down the wing and ripped a wrist shot, this time blocker side, to beat Smith. His skating is solid, he wins battles along the boards, and he plays both ends of the ice. I think this guy is a big NHL draft riser as he continues to get better and better.


On another note, the highlight of the game for me was Chris DeSousa's hit on Taylor Doherty in the opening shift of the game. I think it really set the pace of the game in favor of Niagara. Just for the record, DeSousa is nearly a foot smaller than Doherty, yet he sent him flying to his rear, as he came down on the forecheck. The hit was similar to the one the equally small statured Nathan Gerbe (Buffalo Sabres) threw on Brian Lee (Ottawa Senators) last week, in case anyone saw it. DeSousa also scored a wicked goal off the face off. I just don't understand how this guy can be left off the CSB. Makes me wonder if they've even see Niagara play.

Friday, February 13, 2009

James DeLory Suspended for 12 Games

Oshawa Generals defenseman turned forward James DeLory was suspended for 12 games today, after a vicious attack on Kingston forward Nathan Moon.

In case you haven't seen it yet, here is the incident...

DeLory was drafted as a defenseman by San Jose in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He went unsigned, however was picked up by the Florida Panthers in the offseason. DeLory failed to make the AHL, so the Panthers opted to send him back to Oshawa for his overage season. They also opted to convert him to forward.

Nathan Moon is currently the leading scorer for Kingston and a Pittsburgh 4th rounder from the 2008 Entry Draft.

Quite frankly, I'm very surprised by the shortness of the suspension. Zach Fenwick received a 15 game suspension earlier in the season for sucker punching Generals forward Conor Stokes. Attack forward Garrett Wilson also received a 15 game suspension for slew footing Rangers defenseman Dan Kelly. The DeLory offense was IMO significantly worse than either, because of the use of stick and because of the general malicious intent. I'm pretty sure Wilson's intent on his slew foot on Kelly, was not to break his ankle. Where as I think that it's pretty clear from the clip, that DeLory's intention was to severely hurt Moon.

If I was the Frontenacs, I would be quite unpleased by this, especially considering their guy (Fenwick) got 3 games more earlier in the season. I think DeLory should have been suspended for the remainder of the season, or for at the very least the 15 games that have been used as somewhat of a precedent this season.

Here is the official OHL press release.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on Niagara and Guelph from February 6 & 7

This past weekend, Ryan was able to take in two games at the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre. These were the February 6 game against the Niagara Ice Dogs, and the February 7 game against the Guelph Storm.

The following are his reports...

February 6 - Thoughts on the Niagara Ice Dogs

Alex Friesen - LC - YOB: 1991 - 5’9” - 183lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Feb/6/09: Friesen showed off some good bursts of speed at times tonight in Sarnia he had a quick release and Friesen flew up the ice. It was hard to notice too much as both teams seemed to be playing a shutdown style of hockey. Friesen played with a bit of an edge which was a little unexpected from a smallish player.

Andrew Agozzino - LW - YOB: 1991 - 5’9” - 188lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Feb/6/09: I’m very surprised Agozzino isn’t rated by CSB this kid may be small but he’s got a lot of speed, and has a laser of a shot with quick release. It was hard to really gauge how good this guy really is offensively in a 1-0 win but he definitely looks like a player who could be of interest in a team come draft day. (Agozzino had 2 PIM)

Alex Pietrangelo - RD - YOB: 1990 - 6’4” - 210lbs. NHL: 1st Round - 4th Overall by St. Louis in 2008
Report: Feb/6/09: What can I really say about Pietrangelo that hasn’t already been said. He looked like a man among boys. He knew when to pinch and when to play back, his positioning in general was amazing, although he didn’t play the 45 mins. I saw him last time he definitely logged about 25-30 which is impressive considering they played the night before. Pietrangelo moved the puck very well and at one point passed the puck blue line to blue line and across the rink past one sting player and through the legs of another player to hit the tape on a streaking forward, it was ridiculous witnessing that kind of passing. If he was on about 2/3rds of the other NHL teams he never would have been sent back to the OHL. (Pietrangelo had 2 PIM)

Jeremy Smith - G - YOB: 1989 - 6’0” - 170lbs. NHL: 2nd Round - 54th Overall by Nashville in 2007
Report: Feb/6/09: Jeremy Smith going to Niagara may have been the best thing for him. He’s the undisputed starter and last night looked very impressive tonight he had outstanding recovery, and his reflexes were great. Smith looks like he’s recovered from a disappointing first half in Plymouth. (Smith stopped 27 of 28 shots)

February 7 - Thoughts on the Guelph Storm

In the most exciting game all season at the SSEC Jamie Arniel lit up his former team when it counted late in the third then again in overtime to get a critical two points from the Guelph Storm. The game was a fierce and extremely physical back and forth battle with a playoff feel to it. It was also full of current and soon to be NHL prospects.

Peter Holland - LC - YOB: 1991 - 6’2” - 190lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Feb/7/09: This is a guy I spent a lot of time watching. He never really stood out, but at the same time he appeared to play 23-25 mins. Of mistake free hockey so that may in it’s own stand out for Holland. He only took one shot, it just missed top corner and it was an absolute laser with a quick release, I was also impressed with his composure with the puck. He actually appears to be able to protect the puck surprisingly well, he didn’t look like a big man on the ice, but when he needed to protect the puck in the cycle he certainly acted like one. Holland seemed to make some decent tape to tape passes, and his never quit attitude helped him earn a few assists tonight. Holland’s positioning on the ice was exceptional. He also displayed good patience and maturity well beyond that of most 17 year old players. He didn’t take the game over, or make any dynamic plays but you could tell from the action tonight his hockey sense is extremely impressive. His speed was decent but not great, hopefully he can add 10lbs. To his frame and not affect his speed. (Holland had 2A, 2 PIM)

Taylor Beck - LW - YOB: 1991 - 6’1” - 207lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Feb/7/09: Taylor Beck has greatly improved his skating. I have heard that his skating has been his one key weakness, but tonight he looked slightly above average for someone his size, and considering he’s 17 years old. Beck’s positional play was very good, if he wasn’t in the right position during the play, he quickly put himself there. Beck was willing to throw his weight around, but could still stand to play a little more physical as he would be best suited as a power forward. Beck had a decent shot with a good release. The biggest knock on Beck tonight would have been that he took a bad penalty and didn’t play with quite enough intensity edge that you’d expect out of a player his size and skill. He looks like he could be a decent early-mid second rounder. (Beck had 2 PIM)

Michael Latta - RC - YOB: 1991 - 5’11” - 197lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Feb/7/09: Latta was the least impressive of Guelph’s big 4 forwards (Holland, Beck, Latta, Buck). Latta showed some decent skating, but certainly could use some work for a player under 6ft. Latta played well defensively, but didn’t put out much offensively which might have been part of the reason why he wasn’t very noticeable. I have heard Latta plays with an edge but I really didn’t see it tonight. Latta left the game late in the 3rd period and didn’t return for the rest of regulation or overtime as Miroslav Preisinger caught him with his head down and absolutely hit Latta clean, but like a truck in the open ice putting him down for a few minutes before leaving the ice with a little assistance. The hit actually caused enforcer Ryan Baldwin to attack both Miroslav Preisinger and Jordan Hill which landed Baldwin an instigating penalty that resulted in a late tying goal for Sarnia. Latta is a player I would not remove from the top 50 as CSB has indicated him (42nd) but he isn’t someone I’m completely sold on either. Hopefully I will see him later on in the season and get a bit better result. (Latta had 2 PIM)

Brandon Buck - LW - YOB: 1988 - 6’1” - 191lbs. NHL: Free Agent
Report: Feb/7/09: Buck was extremely impressive and arguably Guelph’s best player on the ice. He plays on a line with Holland and Kennedy which has really helped him get that extra space to show off his skills, which include impressive skating ability, and absolutely roofed a laser of a shot to give Guelph the 3-2 lead, then banged home another to give his team another 4-3 lead, both goals would have been clutch if Guelph walked out with a win tonight. Buck may be someone to watch after the Storm’s season is over as he may earn himself a pro tryout contract. Buck has recorded atleast a point in his last 7 of 8 games, for a total of 11 points over those 8 games. (Buck had 2G)

Corey Syvret - LD - YOB: 1989 - 6’3” - 205lbs. NHL: 6th Round - 181st Overall by Florida in 2007
Report: Feb/7/09: Syvret played a strong physical game, however was fortunate to have lenient referee’s as he was continuously clutching and grabbing as well as playing hard physically. If this was 2004 Syvret may be a lot more valuable but since wrapping your arms around your opponent whenever they move past you is no longer a play you can get away with most games, he will likely see himself getting called for several minor penalties if the Panthers choose to give him an entry level contract and he plays in a faster league such as AHL/ECHL. His positioning wasn’t bad at all, but he didn’t show any offensive potential. All in all this is the first time I’ve seen him actually look like a NHL level prospect, and he has gotten noticeably stronger, but he needs to be more disciplined and was very fortunate not to get several holding calls if he ever wants a shot at being a reserve defenceman in the NHL.

Tim Campbell - LD - YOB: 1991 - 6’0” - 185lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Feb/7/09: Campbell looked like a pretty decent player out there. Campbell got 3rd pairing minutes, but he played with the puck a lot during the first half of the game. His passes were always tape to tape and didn’t make a mistake out there, and was also willing to engage physically. His offensive potential doesn’t look high, but he is a player to watch as he may get grabbed up very late this year if scouts notice him. He could also be drafted as an 18 year old when players like Syvret, Martine and Priamo leave, because as it stands he could very easily earn the #2 defensive spot with Chiarot next season and get a chance to prove himself. Campbell; a rookie, is leading the Storm in +/- with a +13 rating this season.

Ben Chiarot - LD - YOB: 1991 - 6’3” - 214lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Feb/7/09: Chiarot was a big physically intimidating force out there. He can hit very hard, however will put himself out of position to do so. Chiarot was surprisingly willing to carry the puck up ice and had decent skating for a player his size and age. Chiarot is still finding himself in the OHL but has put up 8 of his 10 points in the last 20 games played (and 2 in his first 31). Scored his 2nd career goal in an intelligent play to pinch up from the point and put the puck past Spence for the first goal of the game. However there is also the bad, poise and patience may be a big concern as Chiarot panicked in overtime when he received the puck looking to clear the zone, he launched it into the stands with practically zero pressure and had the room to carry the puck out of the zone. The delay of game penalty resulted in an Overtime/Power Play goal that ended the game. Chiarot looks like a project at this point with some boom or bust potential. He’ll pegged as Guelph’s #1 defenceman next year and should have his trial by fire on whether or not he is a legitimate NHL prospect. He has his good and bad, but a few more viewings may make his potential more clear, but he already has NHL ready size as a 17 year old. (Chiarot had 1G, 2 PIM)

Denis Hollenstein - LW - YOB: 1989 - 6’0” - 167lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Feb/7/09: Hollenstein is a very streaky player in his second OHL season. He’s unlikely to be drafted but if he can continue to improve he may give himself an outside shot at a pro contract at the end of next season. He showed tremendous patience with the puck and scored a nice goal due to his poise. (Hollenstien had 1G)

Joe Rogalski - RD - YOB: 1991 - 6’2” - 185lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Feb/7/09: I usually don’t comment on Sting players outside mid-season and final report, but Rogalski deserves an exception of this rule with the way he has played lately. The jury was still out on Rogalski mid-way through the season but recently he’s been playing with a confidence he’s never had before. Getting more and more shifts with Katic has seemed to spark his creativity. He must have been given the green light by coach MacQueen because he’s been rushing the puck up ice, and occasionally has looked similar to Katic when doing so. Rogalski has extremely deceptive speed for a 6’2” defenceman who looks bigger than his listing. He is easily Sarnia’s second fastest defenceman, and his puck moving skills are becoming more evident every game. Proof of this came in last night’s only goal as he hit Matt Martin with a tape to tape pass through 3 defenders, the pass came from his own goal line and hit Martin who scored the winning goal on a breakaway. Rogalski also played solid tonight vs. Guelph. As the game picked up physically Rogalski showed that he’s not just a tall puck carrying defenceman that he can also throw the body as well. Rogalski set up Jamie Arniel late in the 3rd period with a perfect tape to tape pass once again through a couple defenders that was clutch for Sarnia. The only knock on Rogalski might be that he doesn’t contribute as much as he could offensively, and that if he could add 20lbs. To his frame without losing much speed could really raise his stock. Rogalski is already arguably the best North American defenceman in the 2010 draft, and his recent play is reinforcing that possibility. (Rogalski had 2A in 2GP this weekend)


Ryan will be in Windsor Thursday to check out the brand new WFCU Center, and to see the Sarnia Sting take on the Windsor Spitfires.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sean Keogh's Thoughts on Brampton from February 6

Sean returns with his second game report, as he was able to take in the massive Eastern Conference clash between the Battalion and 67's...

The Brampton Battalion came to Ottawa tonight to play the 67s, trying to extend their winning streak to twelve. Thanks to four goals in the second period, Brampton was able to come out on top 5-2. Simply put the better team won as well. Brampton out shot the 67s 48-33 and never allowed their opponents to get into a groove offensively. It was a perfectly executed road game by a very efficient and disciplined Battalion team. If they can play like that in the OHL playoffs, they will be a very tough team to beat, particularly for the 67s if they run into each other. Coach Stan Butler has three strong lines at his disposal, as well as an effective blueline and obviously a top-notch goaltender in Thomas McCollum.

Of note for the 67s, Thomas Nesbitt had both goals for the 67s and as usual played well in all zones. Logan Couture again played well, creating many chances, playing very well in his own zone and showing much more physical play than in previous seasons. On the negative side, Tyler Cuma dressed for his first game since suffering a knee injury at the World Junior Camp. After taking several shifts in the first period and early second, he awkwardly threw a big hit along the boards and seemed to limp off. He took one more shift and then moved to the end of the bench. Cuma did not return for the third, so at best the Minnesota first rounder is not back to 100% yet it appears. Considering how poorly the 67s blueliners played last night, the top pairing of Julien Demers and Travis Gibbons aside, it would be very unfortunate if Ottawa brought back Cuma too early and he re-injured himself.

Cody Hodgson – YOB 1990: Vancouver 1st round pick, 2008.

Although he was the game’s first star and collected two assists on the night, Hodgson had a quieter game than I expected after his tour de force performance at the World Juniors where I thought he was the best player on Team Canada. Even with an average performance, Hodgson is undoubtedly an outstanding player and a great prospect. He is so intelligent, constantly aware and consistent in all zones, much like former 67 Alyn McCauley. In this game he showed off his good vision, quick hands and strong defensive play as usual. While Hodgson may not be a speedster, he is a good skater with strong lower body strength which he utilizes well on the cycle and when driving to the net. I would be surprised if he was back in the OHL next year, because there’s no reason he could not play a two-way role in Vancouver.

Matt Duchene – YOB 1991: Draft Eligible 2009.

This was my first live look at Duchene, who of course is projected to be a top five pick in this summer’s entry draft. Playing center, with Evgeny Grachev on one of his wings, Duchene had a good but unspectacular game. He scored Brampton’s fifth goal on a weak shot from the sideboards on the powerplay. Otherwise he was usually involved offensively, mixing it up with some nice passes, quick cuts to the middle to let his shot go and a couple of attempts to drive wide with speed. Duchene looks like a complete offensive player, and I was impressed with his hockey sense, particularly in how he anticipates contact and defenders. For all the hype his skating gets though, and he is a good all-round skater, I kept expecting him to create a bit more with it. Duchene is not quite as explosive or capable of blowing by players as last year’s first round pick Mikkel Boedker or comparable 2009 prospect Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi. I would like to see him on the wing though to see how he utilizes his speed there.

Evgeny Grachev – YOB 1990: New York 3rd round pick, 2008.

Probably the flashiest of the big three forwards on Brampton last night was Grachev. His listed height is certainly not exaggerated, as he looks every bit of 6’3”, although he still has some filling out to do. Grachev is remarkably smooth and fluid for a player his size, and displays impressive offensive skills. He notched one goal when he caught 67s goaltender Adam Courchaine reacting slowly, but was probably the most dangerous forward in the first half of the game for Brampton. Although Grachev could use his body more, he does use it to protect the puck and battle along the boards already, which is a good sign. He also played the point on the powerplay, which for a forward is always a vote of confidence from the coach. Overall, I would say the Rangers have themselves a first round caliber talent in this player.

Thomas McCollum – YOB 1989: Detroit 1st round pick, 2008.

McCollum has had an up and down couple of months. He was terrible at the World Juniors for the U.S, although he was not the only disappointment on that squad. A trade to Brampton seems to have worked out very well for him though and again tonight he played well. The former OHL goalie of the year stopped 31 of 33 shots faced and was not really to fault for either of them. That being said, the 67s did not challenge him as much as they needed to. Overall it was a solid performance by McCollum.

Anthony Peluso – YOB 1989: St. Louis 6th round pick, 2007.

Skating on the wing on the first line with Hodgson, Peluso was surprisingly impressive. He picked up two assists and had several nice offensive plays, as well as establishing a presence in front of the net on the powerplay. At 6’4” and 235lbs, Peluso really is absolutely huge and he looks it. For a player that size though he moves very well and demonstrated some nice hands and offensive ability. Although he is a good skater with a smooth stride, he will need to work on his balance. At one point he got around a defender and was in alone but somehow lost his balance and quite embarrassingly fell without even getting a shot off. There were a couple instances as well that his focus seemed to lapse, as he let the puck roll off his stick for no good reason. Nonetheless Peluso is an intriguing package with outstanding size and I would be quite surprised if St. Louis did not sign him. I am not sure how high his offensive ceiling is, but at a minimum he has the ability to be a Ben Eager kind of player it appears.

Matt Clark – YOB 1990: Draft Eligible 2009.

Going into this game, Clark was a player I knew virtually nothing about, but it quickly became clear he is a legitimate prospect for this year’s draft. A late birthday and also an OHL rookie, Clark had a solid game for Brampton, picking up an assist and playing a fair bit of minutes for the Battalion. At 6’3” and 215lbs, he definitely has perfect size for a defenceman, but I was surprised by his mobility. Although fluidity and agility is not perfect and he could smoothen out his stride, he does move quite well for a player his size and can contribute some offensively as well. Moreover, he showed some physical enthusiasm and solid defensive ability. I wish I had seen him earlier in the year to get a sense of his progression over the season, but he definitely looked like an NHL prospect worthy of at least a mid round pick this summer.

Kyle Pereira – YOB 1991: Draft Eligible 2009

Pereira is another rookie blueliner for Brampton who is up for this year’s draft. The highlight of his performance last night was a spirited but short fight with the 67s Jon Carnevale. Otherwise he received less ice time than Clark and did little to stand out overall. Pereira demonstrated some decent offensive abilities but was not as good a skater as I expected. Moreover, he looks like he needs to put on some weight in order to be more effective. Based on this viewing, I am not convinced he is a draft-worthy prospect.

Matthew Kang – YOB 1988: Undrafted Free Agent.

I have always liked Kang for the energy and speed that he brings, and he has some nice offensive abilities as well. He potted a goal and was involved all night. As an overager, this is his last shot to earn a contract and a good playoff run for Brampton would help his chances. At the end of the day though, I expected him to get a contract or be selected in the draft before and I am just not sure he is more than a classic undrafted overage player. If you compare him to 67s overager Thomas Kiriakou, he is fairly similar, with a bit more flash offensively and a bit less grit and heart. I like Kiriakou a lot as well, but both are likely CIS-bound next year.

Josh Day – YOB 1988: Undrafted Free Agent.

Another overage player that was brought in at the deadline, Day was essentially utilized as the #1 blueliner by Coach Stan Butler. He was the only blueliner to play on the first powerplay unit, with Grachev manning the other point, and he notched two assists from there. With Day, there are some nice things there, including decent size, reliable defensive play and the ability to contribute offensively. However, he has been passed over a few times and I think it is because he is simply a classic good OHL player with not quite enough to offer as an NHL prospect. He is not quite dynamic enough offensively, dominant enough defensively or imposing enough physically to intrigue teams I think. That being said, I would say he might be more likely to get a contract than Kang.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thoughts on Sault Ste. Marie from February 5

Last night, the Niagara Ice Dogs battled the underachieving Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and defeated them by a score of 5-3. The Dogs controlled the majority of the game, outshooting the Hounds 55-30. Not only was it the 22nd time this season that the Soo have given up 5 goals or more, but it was the 4th game in a row giving up 5+ and it stretched the club's losing streak to 9 games. It's tough seeing the Hounds struggling so much, since the team has been to the playoffs each of the last four seasons, winning their division in two of those.

Here are my thoughts on a few Greyhounds...

Jacob Muzzin - Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007/141st

Muzzin is a big, physically imposing defenseman. He was good tonight. While many might point to the team's second worst -22 rating and assume Muzzin is struggling, I believe it to be more a reflection of the team's performance. Not to mention Muzzin plays against the opposing team's top line. He made a few really solid plays with his stick breaking up passes, and he was aggressive in playing the man infront of the net. His skating looked alright, especially for a big man. Often times, big and physical junior aged defenseman can have trouble with their mobility, but I don't see it being a big issue for him. In fact, offensively he lead the rush up ice several times and actually joined for a two on one at one point, showing good speed to get back to the defensive zone afterwards. The Pens have to make a decision about signing him, but I would be surprised if they didn't. He has the potential to be a bottom pairing NHL defenseman.

Matthew Lyall - NHL Free Agent (Overager)

Lyall was the best player on the Greyhounds last night. Despite being somewhat undersized, he was all over the ice and showed little hesitation in standing in the slot or charging the net. The first goal of two he scored was a beauty. Fired home a pass in the slot top shelf on Jeremy Smith. The offensive instincts look really solid, as he was often in the right place for a scoring chance. I'm not sure he attracts attention from NHL scouts, but I wouldn't be surprised if he at least got a chance at the AHL next season.

James Livingston - Drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2008/70th

Livingston had a really solid game for the Greyhounds last night. He got better as the game went on and ended up with a goal and an assist. The goal was a beauty as he stole the puck off Alex Pietrangelo and went in on a breakaway. To score he deked out Jeremy Smith, and roofed it on the backhand. He had numerous other scoring chances in the game, but they were turned away by Smith. Physically, he was good, showing good strength along the boards to win battles, and he crunched Alex Pietrangelo pretty good behind the net. He also saw time on the penalty kill and did an admirable job winning battles and getting the puck out. At times, I felt he was somewhat behind the play, whether that's a skating or effort issue, I'm not sure. Last season his skating was a bit of an issue, so perhaps he hasn't improved upon it much. The one thing I'd like to see more from him is being aggressive on the forecheck. As a big guy who has the strength to win battles, the fact that he was the follower on many rushes is disappointing. He should look to pattern his game after a guy like James Neal who was a similar OHL player, but was also an absolute beast on the forecheck. I think a lot of people have looked at Livingston and assumed he had regressed and was having a terrible season. I would say his declining numbers are more a reflection of the Soo's struggles. He's not really a guy who's going to create chances for himself, so if the team isstruggling offensively, he's going to as well. I still think he has the chance to be a good pro hockey player. Next OHL season is the bigger one for him, as he'll need to be the offensive leader for the Greyhounds as they try to get back to the playoffs.

Kyle De Coste - Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008/147th

Was De Coste even playing last night? The game sheet says so, but I sure as hell didn't notice him. De Coste was drafted much to my surprise last season, and was traded at the deadline from Brampton to the Soo. He's suppposed to be an energy player who generates chances from the rush and the cycle, but he did neither tonight. Perhaps an off game, or perhaps a reflection on his poor status as an NHL prospect. Either way, doesn't look like he's taken much of a step forward this season. I won't make any more generalizations since I seriously didn't notice him play last night.

Brock Beukeboom - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Beukeboom had a solid game. He looks to be poised at both ends of the ice. He has good size and he skates well, leading the rush at times. He made smart decisions with the puck and he spent some time at point on the powerplay. Defensively, I didn't feel he was overwhelmed, and did a good job positionally. I think that you'll see his offensive stats really jump next season as he makes a push for the top 3 rounds of the 2010 NHL draft. He's certainly got the bloodlines on his side, with his father being former NHL defenseman Jeff Beukeboom.

Bryce O'Hagan - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

O'Hagan had a good game despite giving up 5 goals. He's had a bit of a rough season, with a GAA close to 4, and a save percentage below .890. But he sees a ton of rubber and it's not easy being the goalie on a struggling team. He's still got time to turn things around, because as a late 1991, he's not eligible for the NHL draft until 2010. He does have good potential to improve. He showed good mobility, squared up the shooter, kept rebounds to a minimum and made the saves he had to. For young goaltenders on struggling teams, it's all about mental toughness. If he can stay confident, he'll end up being better for seeing so many pucks this season.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A New Contributor and His Thoughts on Ottawa/London from February 1

First I would like to introduce you to Sean Keogh. He will be joining Ryan and I to bring you even more coverage of OHL prospects. Sean is a former writer for HockeysFuture and an avid CHL, not just OHL, follower. He currently lives in Ottawa so the game reports he will supply us with will come from watching the 67's take on opponents at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

Below is his report...

The London Knights are probably the most hyped junior team in the country yet again, and for good reason considering all the talent they have. In today’s game the 67s neutralized their skill for the most part and outworked them en route to a huge 4-3 victory. The star of the game was Logan Couture who was dominant in every aspect of the game, and the biggest disappointment was arguably John Tavares. Below are my thoughts on selected players for both teams.

John Tavares – YOB: 1990 - Draft Eligible 2009

Obviously Tavares needs no introduction or talent analysis because he’s a known commodity. In this game however, he was unimpressive, if not poor. Although he scored a goal to tie it up in the third period, he struggled the rest of the game. He tried several cutesy moves that were easily stopped, was routinely stifled one-on-one by Julien Demers and displayed a measure of frustration as the game wore on. As a result he started yapping at opponents and got involved in some skirmishes. His goal showed again that with some time and space he can and will score, but more was expected. His skating has improved but he will need to upgrade his balance and lower body strength as a professional. Although he had a goal and an assist, it was an underwhelming performance from JT.

Nazem Kadri – YOB: 1990 – Draft Eligible 2009

Was probably London’s most impressive player in the first half of the game, then got a diving call and a ten minute misconduct and was a bit off his game afterwards. His skating, particularly his acceleration, is good, and he’s fairly elusive with the puck. Although I have seen his slick stickhandling on display before, it was not too evident in this game. Also, Kadri displayed nice energy and his usual willingness to play physical hockey. The questions about his hockey sense and finishing ability again came up in my mind. Kadri is very good at breaking out and coming through the neutral zone, but little comes of it. At worst he’s a third line center though, but that’s not what you want in a top ten pick, as he is projected to be.

Phil Varone – YOB: 1990 – Draft Eligible 2009

For the second half of the game, Varone was probably London’s most impressive forward. He had several nice bursts, and is willing to drive to the net when he gets a step on a blueliner wide. It was he, not Tavares or Kadri, who was arguably the catalyst for the Knights’ third period surge. He had a goal and an assist, but also took a late hitting from behind penalty, ending London’s hopes of tying it up. I would want to see him again from a different perspective in the rink to get a grasp of just how high I would take him.

Phil McRae – YOB: 1990 – St. Louis 2nd round pick, 2008.

It seems as though Tavares’ arrival has resulted in less ice-time and responsibility for McRae. While he was generally uninvolved and had little impact on the game, McRae still demonstrates the tools that he has. Along with good size and solid all-round skating ability, he ripped a couple of nice shots. I could see why St. Louis took him so high last year, but he did not appear to be a core player for London.

Zac Rinaldo – YOB: 1990 – Philadelphia 6th round pick, 2008

Rinaldo’s performance was not exactly what I expected from him. He had one big hit but was not a pest or a shift disturber in the Stefan Della Rovere or Patrick Kaleta way. On the powerplay he played the front of the net and got a goal, albeit a weak one, as a result. Overall he played reasonably well as a complimentary player on a scoring line.

Daniel Erlich – YOB: 1991 – Draft Eligible 2009

It’s impossible to be invisible when you are as small as Erlich is. Even his listed 5’6” might be exaggerated. He was fairly involved in the play and showed good offensive ability. Thanks to having to survive in spite of his size, he always has his head up and sees the ice well. The decision to play him on the point of the powerplay is questionable though, as he is far too small and weak to defend at all and it almost cost the Knights a couple of goals. Unfortunately for Erlich, he is half a foot too small, and at least 40 pounds too light, to be a legitimate prospect.

Justin Taylor – YOB: 1989 – Washington 6th round pick, 2007

Of all the notable forwards on London, Taylor was the least visible. Perhaps I was just focusing on too many other players to notice him, but he certainly did not stand out in any way.

John Carlson – YOB: 1990 – Washington 1st round pick, 2008

I had high expectations going in, but Carlson was only mediocre. It was evident that he has all of the tools, great size, good skating ability, overall offensive tools and a willingness to play the body. However he never asserted himself or made a huge impact on the game, and he was a underwhelming when playing in his own zone. In the neutral zone he intercepted passes nicely, but was beaten to loose pucks and made some bad reads defensively, including on the winning goal. Part of that is definitely acceleration, but it displayed either or both a lack of effort and questionable in-zone awareness.

Michael Del Zotto – YOB: 1990 – New York Rangers 1st round pick, 2008

For such a gifted offensive player, Del Zotto was fairly quiet tonight. He had an assist but did little on the goal. His break-out passing was only average and he is certainly not gifted defensively, but he was neither dynamic offensively nor adventuresome defensively in this game.

Trevor Cann – YOB: 1989 – Colorado Avalanche 2nd round pick, 2007

Although the 67s outshot the Knights, Cann faced far fewer quality chances than his counterpart Adam Courchaine. Aside from perhaps the winning goal, none were his fault although he did not make any game saving stops from what I could see. It was an average performance.

From the 67s…

Logan Couture – YOB: 1989 – San Jose 1st round pick, 2007

Quite simply Couture was the best player on the ice by a country mile. Moreover, it was perhaps the best game I have ever seen him play. He was in on all four goals, sniping two and directly creating and setting up the two others. Neither of his linemates, Cowick or Nigro, were as dynamic or creative as Couture. What was most impressive about his game, however, was that for a player much-maligned for his effort, he was a force in all zones. He was outstanding on the penalty kill, threw several big hits including almost destroying Tavares, and showed impressive puck control along the boards. Particularly notable is the fact that he got better as the game went along, and all three times London scored in the third period, Couture led his line out there to respond soon after. If Couture had played like this he would have made the World Junior team as well, and I can only hope for his sake that it’s the beginning of a great finish to the season for him. He was the first star of the game and for extremely good reason.

Anthony Nigro – YOB: 1990 – St. Louis 6th round pick, 2008

Without a doubt the Michael Latta trade with Guelph has worked out very well for Ottawa. Nigro has been very good since arriving, first on the second line and now as a winger on Couture’s line. He has supplanted Cowick as the trigger man on that line, and shows good finish, hands, shot and cycling ability. I’m not sure he’s more than a good junior player at this point, because he’s not likely to have NHL scoring line upside and in Ottawa is not showing the all-round game that I expected. It was definitely a strong game from Nigro though, getting in on all three goals in the third and being named third star.

Corey Cowick – YOB: 1989 – Draft Eligible 2009.

For the game Cowick had no points, but he played very well. Although known for his goal scoring ability, Cowick’s best work this game was defensively and on the penalty kill. His defensive game has improved a lot and he has good awareness. His skating is fine for a player his size, but he lacks explosiveness. Pittsburgh considered signing him after he was invited to their camp in the fall, and Cowick could definitely be drafted this summer in the late rounds if a team sees third line potential in him.

Thomas Nesbitt – YOB: 1990 – Draft Eligible 2009

Nesbitt had a very strong game, despite not putting up any points. He played with great energy and work ethic, won a lot of races and battles, and generated a few chances as well. After being passed over last year, it is possible he gets picked up this year but I doubt it. He is not a gifted offensive winger but he’s a classic Kilrea-style player.

Julien Demers – YOB: 1990 – San Jose 5th round pick, 2008.

Essentially Ottawa’s #1 blueliner with Tyler Cuma still out, Demers and his partner Travis Gibbons, must have played over thirty minutes in this game. Overall, Demers had an up and down game. On the plus side, he was matched-up against Tavares and was outstanding in playing him one-on-one and frustrating him at every turn. He plays the man very well and uses his size, strength and lateral mobility to his advantage very nicely. Offensively, he had a good game, notching three assists and getting some nice shots off. On the down side, he took a couple of penalties and it was his mistake that led to Tavares’ goal. He still needs work on his first-step quickness but he’s a very good defenceman at this level and has definite NHL potential in my opinion.

Adam Courchaine – YOB: 1989 - Signed by Boston

Courchaine had a strong game, particularly in the first two periods. Although he did not face a ton of shots, most of them were of the difficult variety. Courchaine has great size and moves well for a big man at 6’3”. He has a bit of trouble in close though and has certainly been inconsistent this year. I will be interested to see how he does if he plays in for the AHL’s Providence Bruins next year.