Wednesday, October 28, 2009

School Your Pool

My latest article for School Your Pool is up. You can find it HERE.

I did a lot of research for this article as I examined the likelihood of being a drafted by an NHL team after being originally passed over.

After reading the article, I ask for your opinion on two of the articles main themes...

Is being highly touted for the NHL draft and then going unselected the kiss of death for a prospect? What are the reasons for so many overage players being selected in the NHL draft?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

OHL Announces Rosters for the 2009 Subway Super Series


Team OHL Roster – Barrie, ON – November 19, 2009

*Players competing in both games

Peter Di Salvo, Barrie Colts
Michael Hutchinson, London Knights*

Shawn Lalonde, Belleville Bulls*
Stephen Silas, Belleville Bulls
Matt Clark, Brampton Battalion
Erik Gudbranson, Kingston Frontenacs*
Calvin de Haan, Oshawa Generals*
Tyler Cuma, Ottawa 67’s
Mark Cundari, Windsor Spitfires
Ryan Ellis, Windsor Spitfires*

Stefan Della Rovere, Barrie Colts*
Peter Holland, Guelph Storm
Michael Latta, Guelph Storm
Ethan Werek, Kingston Frontenacs
Jeff Skinner, Kitchener Rangers
Nazem Kadri, London Knights*
Christian Thomas, Oshawa Generals
Tyler Toffoli, Ottawa 67’s*
Steven Shipley, Owen Sound Attack
Taylor Hall, Windsor Spitfires*
Adam Henrique, Windsor Spitfires*
Greg Nemisz, Windsor Spitfires*

Dave Cameron, Coach (Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors)
Steve Spott, Coach (Kitchener Rangers)
Marty Williamson, Assistant Coach (Barrie Colts)
Richard Rotenberg, Head Athletic Therapist (Barrie Colts)
Kevin Emo, Equipment Manager (Barrie Colts)

Team OHL Roster – Windsor, ON – November 23, 2009

Michael Hutchinson, London Knights*
Matt Hackett, Plymouth Whalers

Shawn Lalonde, Belleville Bulls*
Erik Gudbranson, Kingston Frontenacs*
Cameron Gaunce, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Calvin de Haan, Oshawa Generals*
T.J Brodie, Saginaw Spirit
Nick Crawford, Saginaw Spirit
Ryan Ellis, Windsor Spitfires*

Stefan Della Rovere, Barrie Colts*
Jason Akeson, Kitchener Rangers
Nazem Kadri, London Knights*
Zac Rinaldo, London Knights
Tyler Toffoli, Ottawa 67’s*
Zack Kassian, Peterborough Petes
Josh Brittain, Plymouth Whalers
Tyler Seguin, Plymouth Whalers
John McFarland, Sudbury Wolves
Eric O’Dell, Sudbury Wolves
Taylor Hall, Windsor Spitfires*
Adam Henrique, Windsor Spitfires*
Greg Nemisz, Windsor Spitfires*

Dave Cameron, Coach (Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors)
Steve Spott, Coach (Kitchener Rangers)
Bob Boughner, Assistant Coach (Windsor Spitfires)
Joey Garland, Trainer (Windsor Spitfires)
Tyson Tatomir, Equipment Manager (Windsor Spitfires)


Any notable omissions or interesting inclusions for you?

For me...I'm slightly baffled by the inclusion of Peter Di Salvo in net. He's been pretty rocky for Barrie this year and is nowhere near the caliber of goaltender that guys like Beskorowany, O'Hagan, Anderson, and a handful of other guys.

Outside of that, I think they did a good job and I think cases can be made for the inclusion of all the others, even if I may have tinkered a bit.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thoughts on Saginaw and Peterborough from October 22

First time watching both of these teams this season, and since there were quite a few guys I wanted to catch a glimpse of on both sides, it was almost overwhelming to keep up. It was actually a very entertaining game that saw a lot of good scoring chances at both ends of the ice. The Petes looked good as they managed to snap a four game losing streak (in which they'd given up 23 goals in those four games). Jason Missiaen had a really solid game as he looks to get back on track after a string of really poor starts. The Spirit got a lot of opportunities but just couldn't bury them, while some sloppy defense cost them the game despite outshooting the Petes 42-11 in periods 2 and 3.

Some thoughts on some of the players on both sides...

Saginaw Spirit

Nick Crawford (BUF)
I thought he played a really strong defensive game. He's only moderately sized (6'1), and he's not a physical defender, but he does a very strong job as a positional defender. The Petes forwards had a tough time getting by him on the way to the net and did a good job in picking up his man in coverage, tying him up and not allowing a scoring opportunity. I was also impressed by the way he won battles in the corners, just by out maneuvering Pete players and using his stick to get the puck out. Offensively, I thought he struggled a bit though. Made a few questionable decisions with the puck early on and had a few giveaways. Settled down as the game went on and made a couple nice plays later in the game to keep the puck in the offensive zone. But overall I was somewhat underwhelmed by his offensive abilities. As a quietly effective defender, perhaps I was looking for more flash and dash to his game than I should have been. He finished with an assist.

Garret Ross (2010)
I actually really liked what I saw from Ross, as he played on the Spirits' top line with Jordan Skellett and Josh Shalla. Not a big winger, but he brings a lot of energy to the ice. I thought he looked more impressive than his two linemates. He took the puck to the net hard on a couple occasions and created scoring chances off rebounds. Looked like a really solid skater because of these rushes and his work on the forecheck. Had a couple good offensive opportunities in the slot too, but couldn't beat Missiaen. Not sure how long he stays on that first line, but if he does, his energy will no doubt lead to some offensive production and he could be a guy to watch for June's draft.

Jordan Szwarz (PHX)
Has been underwhelming on the stat sheet so far this season (as it was expected he'd be an offensive leader for the Spirit this season). But I thought he played a really good game and was probably Saginaw's best forward with Ivan Telegin. I was a big fan of his for the draft last year and admit he's a bit of an enigma. When he's he was tonight...his speed and energy in the offensive zone leads to offensive opportunities. Not a big guy, but he's elusive on the ice and seems to find the scoring areas really well. As an example, scored a side of the net goal on a beautiful slap pass from T.J. Brodie. He got himself in good position and was wide open for the redirect/tap in. Like any developing energy player, he needs to remember that in order for him produce offensively, he's got to play his game every shift. He finished with a goal and an assist.

Tyler Murovich (Overage Free Agent)
I really like Murovich and I'm pulling for him to earn a professional contract this year. From what I've been told, he was close in Columbus/Syracuse this offseason. Just to give you an idea of the type of player Murovich is, on one shift, he blocked a hard point shot from the point with his shin, dropped to the ground in pain. He proceeded to get up, re-enter play and no more than 10 seconds later he forced a turnover by the Saginaw bench by throwing a big hit on a Petes player trying to get the puck back into the offensive zone. All heart. He's one of the better two way forwards in the league and I think he has an underrated offensive game. His goal was a weak one five hold that Missiaen would like to have back, but he had a few other offensive opportunities tonight that just missed. He'll never be a scoring line player in the NHL, but many teams need the type of heart and character he brings to the ice.

Jordan Skellett (Overage Free Agent)
Finally exploding offensively in the league this season, I thought Skellett was disappointing. He had a couple nice shifts, and showed some good things with the puck, but overall his performance was underwhelming. He is definitely an excellent playmaker and that's his bread and butter. Made a very nice pass to a streaking Ivan Telegin for the Spirit's opening goal. Made a couple other nice passes too, especially from behind the net where he tries to control play. On the downside, I felt like he overhandled the puck on several occasions that led to turnovers and just looked like he was trying to force the play. I think he's a good junior hockey player, but I can't see him having an extended professional hockey career.

Ivan Telegin (2010)
Our friend Alessandro Seren Rosso will be happy to hear that Telegin looked very strong in tonight's game. Been looking forward to seeing him play. Scored a beautiful goal on a pass from Jordan Skellet, as he was hit streaking towards the net. He took the puck on his stick, kept skating, made a nice deke around Missiaen and slid it home on his forehand. Later in the game he had a breakaway opportunity but was obviously hooked by Jamie Doornbosch and couldn't get a shot off (of which no penalty was called and it sent Spirit coach Todd Watson into an extreme fit of rage). On a few other players he showed good speed, especially acceleration for a big man. He shifted back and forth between center and wing and saw a good amount of time on special teams. On the powerplay he was being used as a screen in front of the net and did a good job to hold his place. Seems to be the model of consistency so far this season, being held pointless in only 2 games.

Josh Shalla (2010)
Truthfully, he was invisible for most of the game. Towards the end, he had a couple nice passes and showed a willingness to go to the net for a rebound. But I don't have much to offer on him. After the first period, I actually had to check to see if he was playing because I noticed him that little. He finished a team low -3. I'll need to see him again.

Cody Sol (ATL)
I thought Sol was pretty brutal tonight. Definitely didn't look like an NHL draft pick. On the positive, he was physical and threw a couple really good hits, unfortunately a few of those took him out of defensive position. With the puck in his own zone, he was terrible. Gave it away several times as he tried to throw the puck up the middle of the ice. However he did look somewhat comfortable playing the point in the offensive zone and he really has a hard shot (which you'd have to expect considering his size) that he actually gets through to the net well. But for a guy who's bread and butter is supposed to be as a strong physical stay at home defenseman, he needs to tighten some things up.

T.J. Brodie (CGY)
Brodie was absolutely electric offensively tonight. He got better and better as the game went on too. His skating ability is so good from the back end, just an explosive player. On one occasion he picked the puck up at the blueline and went by three Petes players to the net in what seemed like a split second. It was a loose puck that he picked up near the boards and then accelerated to the front of the net, but only got a weak shot off. Had a few other nice rushes tonight too. His assist to Jordan Szwarz was a thing of beauty; a slap pass right to Jordan Szwarz at the side of the net for the easy tap in. Completely fooled the Petes defense and Jason Missiaen. On the downside, he was careless with the puck on a few occasions. Made poor reads in trying to rush up ice and skated into traffic giving the puck up. He definitely needs to pick his spots better. He also looked lazy at times in the defensive zone. While he can be a solid positional defender, he looked really lazy on Adrian Robertson's second period goal. He failed to tie up Robertson as he went hard to the net, leaving him with a redirect on a cross ice pass. If he fails to tie up forwards like that in the NHL, he'll be eaten alive. A ton of talent here though and I think a serious candidate for the Canadian WJC team.

Edward Pasquale (ATL)
Not sure if Pasquale's poor start statistically has been as a result of poor play in front of him, or poor play by him. But he wasn't incredibly sharp tonight. He looked really slow in his net, especially in terms of reacting to offensive plays. On David Quesnele's goal to open the game, he got himself so far out of position on the flop that he had no chance to stop Quesnele's shot. He had trouble with another shot late in the game as Matt Puempel tried to bank it off him and into the net. He was still on his knees after an original shot and failed to get back up to cover the post. Luckily enough the puck hit the post. The other four goals were tricky ones for Pasquale to stop, but good goalies put themselves in position to at least make a few big saves and Pasquale made none of those tonight. Perhaps all the trade rumours surrounding him have effected his play. He made 24 of 29 saves and took the loss.

Peterborough Petes

Matt Puempel (2011)
The Petes recent first rounder looked very good tonight. Was all over the ice and did a good job of working puck possession with Ryan Spooner and Pat Daley. Was effective off the rush and scored a really nice goal off a feed from Pat Daley from behind the net. Daley hit Puempel with a pass after he beat his defender to the net and put it home high blocker side. His other goal was a beautiful tip in off a Chris Buonomo point shot. Showed great hands and coordination on both goals. Recently returning from a concussion, it doesn't look like he's missed a step. Finished with 2 goals.

Chris Buonomo (2010)
I liked Buonomo's game tonight. He seems to be one of those under heralded draft eligible defenseman the OHL has to offer this season (Petgrave, Levi, Chiarlitti, etc), and one has to wonder if he can separate himself from the pack. He's not that big, but he plays with an edge and appears to have a lot of mobility from the back end. Defensively he was solid too, and I didn't notice any real mistakes. Showed an ability to get his point shot to the net on the powerplay, like he did on Matt Puempel's redirect. He did have some turnovers with the puck in his own zone as he tried to force passes up ice. In this case, he needs to either get confidence in bringing the puck up himself, or make smarter, less rushed passes.

David Quesnele (2010)
Had an absolutely fantastic game. I really liked the way he was around the puck all night. Was good in the corners, showed no fear in going hard to the net, was active on the forecheck. Just all over the ice. On his first goal he did a good job of finding the puck in a crowd and putting it to the back of the net. On his second goal, he went hard to the net and took a pass from Joey West from behind the net; one timing it past Pasquale. Made a tremendous pass to Adrian Robertson for his late second period goal, going cross ice to hit the streaking defenseman through T.J. Brodie. I thought he was the best Petes player on the ice tonight, finishing with 2 goals and an assist.

Ryan Spooner (2010)
Throughout the first two periods, Spooner was the best player on the ice. His speed and tenacity without the puck is refreshing to see. On one occasion he took the puck hard to the net, got a shot away, kept skating behind the net, came out and stole the rebound away from T.J. Brodie by lifting his stick and then got another shot away, drawing a penalty from Edward Pasquale after on a frustrated slash. Drew two secondary assists thanks to hard work along the boards in keeping the puck moving to his teammates. He did disappear in the third period though, but did enough in the first two to make a serious impression.

Adam Sedlak (2010)
I thought Sedlak played a very strong defensive game. Nothing flashy, but just a solid defensive presence. Stays with his man well and shows good mobility. Also showed a willingness to play a quiet physical game, tying up his man and clearing the front of the net. Didn't really see a lot offensively, but with solid size, mobility and defense, he's likely to attract NHL draft attention.

Jamie Doornbosch (2010, 1990 born)
Not the best game I've seen Doornbosch play. Looked a little lethargic defensively tonight. Got caught standing still a few times, in particular against Ivan Telegin on his goal and his breakaway attempt. But he moves the puck up ice well and has good offensive instincts. I wonder if he'll get NHL attention at the draft this year if his strong offensive season continues.

Barron Smith (TOR)
I thought he played a pretty good defensive game tonight. Like the Spirit's Cody Sol, he can take himself out of the play going for the big hit, as he did a few times, but he also clears the front of the net well and seems to excel in the defensive zone. His partner Chad Lowry really struggled tonight and got exposed a few times off the rush, to which Smith had to bail him out. He's definitely never going to put up the offensive stats his father did in the NHL, but he could have a future as a 5-7 guy at the next level.

Jason Missiaen (MTL)
Still a hot and cold goaltender, Missiaen needs to find a way to perform consistently. He's either a sieve or a wall and nothing in between. Tonight he was a wall, after struggling in his past few games. Obviously his size is his biggest strength, but he actually moves well in his net for a big man (at least in my opinion). Takes away the bottom of the net really well with his pads, which seemingly can stretch from post to post. If only he could strengthen his five hole, which he gave up a weak goal to Tyler Murovich on, then he'd be unbeatable down low. I like how he still challenges the shooter too, which really takes away the top of the net too. Sometimes with bigger goalies, they're content to stay back in their crease. On the downside, Missiaen definitely needs to work on controlling his rebounds. I think close to half the shots he faced tonight were off rebounds he gave up. Your classic 2nd and 3rd chance opportunities. Luckily enough he was up to the task in stopping them, but the Spirit were also unable to get those chances up over his pads. I really think there is potential there if a team is willing to be patient with him. Made 45 of 48 saves tonight and got the win.

As always I welcome your comments and questions and would love to hear from those who've seen the Spirit or Petes more than I have.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thoughts on Kingston and Mississauga from October 21

Originally I was only going to check out the beginning of this game just to see the "Don Cherry jerseys" the Frontenacs would be sporting, but it ended up being a good game and as such I watched the entire thing.

In case you didn't know, tonight the Kingston Frontenacs wore jerseys specialized designed by Don Cherry. They were quite interesting (one of Don's famous red plaid suits camouflaged as a hockey jersey). The jerseys are part of a promotion for the Canadian Armed Forces (more information), and more specifically the "Soldier On" program. Here's some information about the program...

Soldier On fund works to optimize the functional independence of ill or injured Canadian Forces personnel or former personnel by delivering programs and services and facilitating and integrating opportunities that support their full and active participation in physical fitness, heath promotion and sport. The Canadian Forces is committed to ill and injured personal and their loved ones, through programs ranging from excellent medical care, to vocational assistance to social support and counseling

The game worn jerseys will be signed by Cherry himself and then auctioned off on Ebay, with all the proceeds going to "Soldier On." Check the Frontenacs website for more information and as soon as I see the auctions go up, I'll be sure to include a link here too (after all it's a great cause). The auctions will run until the end of the month. EDIT - Here is the link for the bidding.

As for the game itself, it had a great pace. The Majors, coming in on a 3 game winning streak, largely dominated play for the first two periods and got themselves out to a 4-1 lead. The Frontenacs, losers of 3 of their last 4 coming in, managed to get a late second period goal and carried that energy over to the third period. It was in the final frame where the Fronts increased their energy level and really took it to the Majors, coming oh so close to sending this one to overtime. Ethan Werek appeared to score a goal with about two minutes left on a nice one timer in the slot, but it was waived off. Admittedly, Cogeco never showed a great replay of it, but it did appear to cross the line. Would have loved to see an overhead shot, or perhaps the whistle was blown too early as the puck squeezed under Carrozzi. Anyway you slice it, the Fronts did come up short at the end of the night and lost 4-3.

The Majors are playing really good hockey right now and are now on a 4 game winning streak. Best goals against average in the league right now, and it's easy to see why (well considering I've seen them play a lot lately). The whole team plays solid defense and rarely misses an assignment. All the forwards come back to help tie up their man and Cameron has really installed a great defensive concept on the ice. As good as they are defensively, they are so dangerous on the forecheck and do such a good job of controlling play in the offensive zone, which limits the time they actually have to play defense in the first place. I think they'll continue to get better and better and while the Colts are a great team, the Majors are the cream of the Eastern Conference crop for me.

The Frontenacs, like any team hovering around the .500 mark, are struggling to be consistent. It showed tonight too, as they're level of effort in the first period did not equal their effort in the third. If they can play teams as hard as they did in tonight's third period, they'll be fine. After a bit of a tough stretch recently, maybe some Fronts fans are panicking and worrying that the team is going to revert back to it's miserable place at the bottom of the East. Don't worry that won't happen. This is a good hockey team, and one that's suffering some injury problems right now (Gudbranson gone for 4 weeks, Werek missed two games this weekend with a charlie horse). It's early in the season and inconsistencies can often be attributed to the search for a team identity. One thing I did notice tonight though, and perhaps it serves as an explanation to why this team has struggled of late, is there appears to be a disconnect between the forwards and defense on the breakout. The Fronts had a really tough time getting the puck out of their own zone and a lot of that was to do with the lack of puck support from their forwards for their defenseman. Fronts defenseman also had a tough time connecting with Frontenacs forwards with the breakout pass, which lead to turnovers, icings, and offsides more than it lead to a break into the offensive zone. When the Fronts defenseman did rush the puck up ice (Lashoff and Doherty mostly), nothing came of it because it seemed the forwards were lagging behind the play, and again did nothing to help them create off their rushes. On one occasion, Brian Lashoff made a nice rush up the ice, but Ethan Werek and Michael Farrell were well ahead of the play offside, negating the rush. Obviously a lack of communication and read of the play, and Werek was obviously frustrated as he threw his hands up in the air after the whistle as if to say "what the heck is going on?" Being able to break out of your offensive zone is obviously a critical component to winning a hockey game and it separated the winning team from the losing one tonight. Frontenacs fans, is this something that has been occurring all season long?

Some individual player reports, mostly on the Fronts as I've beaten the Majors to death lately!

Kingston Frontenacs

Taylor Doherty (SJ)
I can see where Fronts fans frustrations are coming from. Doherty is still an enigma on the ice. When I saw him earlier in the season, he was one of the best players on the ice. Tonight, well there were some cases of frustration. The reason you can get frustrated watching him is that he obviously is incredibly talented and capable of so much more. He has these flashes of brilliance. For instance tonight he had a couple really nice rushes where he used his size (and relatively strong straight ahead speed) to go end to end and drive to the net. I also think he does a good job of getting his shot through to the net and had a view flashes of defensive solidity. On loose puck battles, I like his ability to use his size to get players out of position in order to come away with the puck. But with those flashes of a player who could be a dominant defender in the league, you get plays that make you scratch your head. Like when he took the puck from behind the net and tried to rush it up the ice by cutting out directly in front of his net (obviously a big no no). Two forecheckers were right on him and he's fortunate he managed to get out of the situation alive. Later, he got exposed defensively on a Casey Cizikas rush that generated William Wallen's 3rd goal (and the game winner). Cizikas took the puck wide on him and beat him to the net. It makes you question his hockey sense to an extent, because you see a player with a lot of innate qualities, but you wonder if he's got the head to use them.

Alan Quine (2011)
Second time I've seen Quine this year and both times he's been relatively noticeable (although more so tonight than before). He seems to be getting better and better from what I'm hearing and is easily one of the most noticeable 1993 born players in the league. He seems to have a real nose for the net and was buzzing around it all night. I also like his fearlessness, as he goes into the corners, forces turnovers and goes to the net. I think he's got a real strong goal scoring potential in the league and he seems like one of those players who can make things happen in close. He finished with an assist.

Nathan Moon (PIT)
I understand he had a really great weekend of games recently, which is great to hear after he struggled to start the season. He didn't have a good game tonight though, at least in my opinion. As much as Doherty's frustrating to watch, Moon is more so. I'm glad I'm not the only one noticing this either, as the Fronts announcers mentioned their frustration with his "selfish" on ice play. He really needs to start following the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle. It's like he always has to make that extra move with the puck that gets him into trouble. On one occasion, he had the puck behind the net on a bit of a scramble. The Majors defense was scattered and disoriented. He brings the puck on a wrap around, has a teammate wide open in the slot for a pace, but was so focused on trying to score, he continued the wraparound and put it right into Carrozzi's pads. End of the offensive opportunity. In the third period he got absolutely LEVELED by David Corrente. He tried to bring the puck into the offensive zone all by himself, failed to get around Corrente and then got drilled hard into the boards as the Majors defenseman pushed him off the puck. Admittedly, this seemed to completely fire him up and not long after he managed to score the goal (by showing nice hands in close on a juicy rebound) that brought it to within one. But he shouldn't need to be motivated in that way, but hasn't that been the Nathan Moon story his entire junior career? He finished with a goal.

Brian Lashoff (DET)
I've read and heard that Fronts fans have been disappointed with his play this season too. Admittedly, I've been underwhelmed by his offensive production this season. With the way he played in the AHL to finish last season, I think a lot of people had really high expectations for him. Perhaps that has gotten to his head too, as he looked like a guy trying to do too much with the puck tonight. Lashoff is a great defenseman when he plays a solid two way game with a bit of an edge, but he appears much more offensively focused this season (which is odd considering the stats don't back it up). His rushes became predictable and he feel victim to the Majors forecheck at times. Defensively, he did play pretty solid, but took two bad undisciplined penalties, one because he was out of position in defensive zone coverage. Like Moon, he needs to keep things simple and play within his game. He did have an assist on Derek Froats goal by getting a nice low wrist shot through a crowd (which Froats redirected).

Derek Froats (2010)
Really impressed by what I saw from Froats and Corey Durocher tonight. Froats was all over the ice. Not the biggest guy, but he's one of those prototypical energy guys. Motor always running, everywhere on the ice. On one specific occasion, he won a battle along the boards off a good forecheck, got the puck to a teammate, teammate turnover it over to which he managed to skate over, lift the stick and steal the puck back and put the puck on net. Showed soft hands on the Brian Lashoff redirection. These types of guys always generate NHL draft attention and Froats could be no exception.

Corey Durocher (2010)
As mentioned, Durocher was excellent as well on a line with Froats. Seems like a similar player, but has the size Froats doesn't a 6'3. Was winning battles in the corners, threw a couple nice hits and did a very good job disrupting puck distribution on the forecheck. He has four points in his last seven games, including an assist tonight and like Froats, could generate NHL draft attention.

Ethan Werek (NYR)
I thought he was the best player for the Fronts tonight. Just returning from a deep bruise injury on his leg, Werek did look a little sluggish at times and I think it's obvious he's still in some pain. The good news was that it didn't really effect his play. He created a lot of scoring chances tonight, especially in close. Thought he tied it up late in the 3rd after one timing a nice shot five hole in the slot, but the goal was disallowed (either because the puck never crossed the line or because the whistle was blown before it did). A few shifts earlier, his missed an easy goal on a 2 on 1 chance, but he was on his off wing and couldn't handle the one time pass that kind of hopped over his stick. I still think this guy should have been a first rounder in 2009. He earned an assist on Moon's third period goal.

Tyler Beskorowany (DAL)
Beskorowany played a solid game. He faced a ton of shots tonight and made some really good saves to keep his team in it. On the first goal, he can't be faulted as Devante Smith Pelly used Taylor Doherty's skate to bank the puck in. The first Wallen goal was a bit weak though, as he cut across the middle of the ice and caught Beskorowany cheating on the pass a bit, putting one over his shoulder blocker side. The second and third Wallen goals were scored off tough rebounds that his defenders failed to clear. While his stats this year haven't been tremendous, I don't think it's a reflection on how he's been playing. He definitely still needs to work on his rebound control, as he tends to make the first save but needs to do a better job of freezing the puck or doing his best to direct the puck away from the slot. He made 44 of 48 saves and took the loss.

Mississauga St. Michael's Majors

Casey Cizikas (NYI)
Probably the best game I've seen Cizikas play this season. He was really solid tonight and is developing into one of the better two way players in the league. Had some really good chances in the slot after managing to get himself open, but failed to hit the net. Late in the second period, he took the puck hard into the offensive zone, protected the puck with his body, beat the Kingston defender and managed to get a shot on net that generated a rebound for William Wallen to scoop up. He's such a tremendous penalty killer too and his anticipation working the top of the box is excellent, always finding a way to get his stick on the puck. He finished with 2 assists on the night.

Devante Smith Pelly (2010)
He's getting better and better, and the line of Cizikas, Wallen and Smith-Pelly is really clicking well for the Majors right now. While I've always liked him as a player and prospect, I have at times questioned his offensive potential. I was wrong to do so and I was wrong to leave him out of my early top 30 for the NHL entry draft. As I conversed with a commenter in my last Majors game report, Smith Pelly has a lot of potential as an offensive possession kind of player at the next level due to his strength down low and general agility. He finished with a goal and an assist. The goal, as mentioned, went off Taylor Doherty's skate, which Smith-Pelly definitely did intentionally.

William Wallen (2010, but 1991 born)
The Majors leading scorer finished the game with a hat trick as a member of that aforementioned Majors first line. I like him as a player and I think he has very strong offensive instincts. He is really smart with the puck and as such has been seeing some time quarterbacking the powerplay. But as an undersized water bug kind of player, and a guy who isn't the world's greatest skater (although he's not a poor skater by any means), where does he fit in the grand scheme of things at the NHL level. I'll be really interested to see how he performs at the World Juniors this year, where he'll likely be a top 6 forward.

Chris Carrozzi (ATL)
The OHL's hottest goaltender outside of Troy Passingham, Carrozzi has forced the Majors hand and actually appears to be the "starter toujour" over J.P. Anderson. He takes away the bottom of the net really well, although in unconventional means at times (aka flopping or stacking the pads on his side), but he gets the job done. Like Beskorowany, he needs to work on his rebound control, as the last two Fronts goals were scored off juicy rebounds. He made 31 of 34 saves for the win.

Anyone care to chime in? Here are some highlights of the game, in case anyone wants to see some of the plays in question.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thoughts on Sudbury and Brampton from October 18

I hadn't had the chance to see Sudbury yet this season so I caught this one on the OHL Action Pak this afternoon. The Wolves were losers of seven straight games coming into this one. Meanwhile, the Battalion were coming off 3 wins in their last four and showing massive improvement at the offensive end. One would have thought that this one had the potential to get ugly for Sudbury, a team in the dumps coming in to play a team riding a high. But the Wolves hung tight, got some great goaltending and came out on top by a score of 3-0.

The Wolves are an interesting team. They have talent, especially at the offensive end. Obviously their defense and goaltending would have to be considered average, but their talent and depth at forward should be able to make up for it in a lot of situations. While the shot total was grossly in favor of the Battalion, I don't feel like the Wolves got grossly outplayed. They definitely got good goaltending from Alain Valiquette, which was refreshing to see. Valiquette was brutal against Niagara last night from everything I've heard, so it's good to see him bounce back. One thing that perplexes me a little bit is how good the Wolves penalty kill has been, yet how poor their goals against has been. Teams are beating the Wolves five on five and not with the man advantage, which is a bit of a rarity in a league where a good powerplay is so important. So why can't the Wolves play as good defensively five on five, as they do when they play with a man in the box? To me, that screams a team that is pressing and making things more complicated than they should be. With the Stepanov and Rinke incident, you have to think there is something slightly rotten behind the scenes and that probably compounds the on ice problems too. A win like they got today has the potential to get this team back on track, like they were in the first 5 or 6 games of the season.

The Battalion were visibly frustrated during the game. They had their offensive chances, but they just couldn't bury them. A lot of pucks bouncing over sticks on juicy rebounds, or shots fanned on in close to the net. While they only gave up 14 shots, a couple of bad defensive breakdowns cost them. More than likely this is how the Battalion season will go for the rest of the year. Some really good games, and some really poor ones. I look at them similar to the Kitchener Rangers of last year. A lot of quality young talent mixed with some veteran players, but inconsistent in their ability to generate offense. This team has the potential to be really good next year though (especially if an eventual Cody Hodgson trade nets them some really valuable assets).

Some thoughts on individual players...

Brampton Battalion

Matt Clark (ANA)
Clark had a good game. I think he's a solid NHL prospect for the different things he brings to the table. He's got great size and isn't afraid to use it. He absolutely leveled John McFarland behind the net with a clean hit, as McFarland brought the puck to the area with his head down. He had a couple other nice hits too, and he's generally intelligent about it too. He's not one of those guys who runs around looking to hit someone, taking himself out of position for it. He played on the first powerplay unit and I thought did a good job. He gets his point shot through to the net very well and it could have resulted in a few goals had the Battalion done a better job of getting forwards in front of the net, and if they could have done a better job of finishing off rebounds. On one occasion Clark out waited the forward at the top kill and put a good low shot through to the net. The rebound went right to Phil Lane for the easy tap in but it jumped over his stick and he didn't get a shot off. For his size, he's a good skater too. On one occasion he did get beaten by John McFarland (perhaps redemption for the hit) as he drove to the net, and Clark was forced to take a penalty. But McFarland is one of the better skaters in the league, so I'm not sure it's something to be too ashamed of. He just needs to remember to keep his feet moving.

Cameron Wind (2010)
Wind had limited OHL experience before this season but has done very well with an increased role in Brampton. He's a solid two way defender who I think is just starting to gain confidence in his offensive abilities. The thing that impresses me about Wind is his hockey sense. He always seems to be at the point to prevent the puck from getting out of the zone, and he's starting to get more confidence in pinching in. He also does a good job of getting his point shot through to the net, as he did on several occasions today. His looks fine too. Seen him play a few times now this year and I continue to come away impressed. Looks like a potential NHL draft pick to me.

Philip Lane (2010)
Lane had a bit of a tough game. He had a couple glorious scoring chances, but he just couldn't get the puck to settle down for him. The aforementioned Clark rebound was a gift, but he couldn't put it home. That being said, the effort was there and I think he's got a lot of potential in this league. He's a solid power forward prospect and a guy who will get better offensively with added strength. He's always active on the forecheck and he goes to the front of the net with his stick on the ice. Near the end of the game when Brampton was trying to drum up some offense, he was doing a very good job of working the cycle and seems to be one of those forwards who always comes away with loose pucks against the boards. Like any OHL rookie, I think he's going to be an even better at game 60 of this season.

Sam Carrick (2010)
I think Carrick is really starting to come into his own. He's been on fire lately with a couple of hat tricks and I think he's starting to gain confidence in his offensive abilities. With that added offensive confidence, I think other parts of his game are starting to develop too. He was a lot more physical today than I've seen him previously. Always a solid two way player, Carrick was taking the body today and laid a couple really nice hits. An average skater, but he does a good job of protecting the puck. On one nice rush up the ice, he used the defender as a screen and put a good, low, hard shot on net that generated a juicy rebound. But the Battalion forward (I believe it was Sean Jones) couldn't put it home. I think he's a guy who will continue to climb in the draft rankings.

Patrick Killeen (PIT)
Considering that he only faced 14 shots tonight but took the loss, you'd have to think Killeen played a poor game. I wouldn't say he did. The first goal was a tap in at the side of the net that he had no chance on. The second goal was a screen shot from the point that had eyes for the net. Again little chance. The third goal he probably misplayed a little bit, as I think he went down a little early and went for the pokecheck, missed and the Sudbury forward (Tarini) slid the puck by him. But the majority of Sudbury's shots were solid scoring chances and he did a good job of making some big saves to keep his team in the game. One was a solid stop on a two on one by Eric O'Dell and John Kurtz, as he eventually stoned Kurtz sliding across the ice showing good mobility. He's played very well on the whole this year and he's giving Brampton a chance to win every game he starts. He stopped 11 of 14 shots and took the loss.

Sudbury Wolves

Justin Sefton (2011)
This kid does not look or play like a 16 year old rookie. The 5th overall pick in 2009, Sefton is a physical beast. He's already strong enough and has enough conviction to push people around. He was very physical and did a great job of winning battles in the corners and bullying forwards in front of the net. By the time he's 18 or 19, he's going to be a beast at the defensive end. On the negative side, it does look like he needs to improve his skating, in particular his lateral and backwards mobility. Now don't be alarmed, he's no Devereaux Heshmatpour (gotta be some of you who get that reference), but he did get exposed once going backwards. The Brampton forward flew by him on the dump in, got the puck and then perhaps in frustration, Sefton took a bad penalty by pushing him into the boards from behind. I was a little bit underwhelmed by him offensively too, but at this point he seems more defensively focused. Nothing wrong with that.

John Kurtz (Overage Free Agent)
I think John Kurtz has the potential to make a solid professional hockey player. He'll never be more than a role player, but he has the on ice intelligence to make it in that capacity despite no above average offensive qualities. Kurtz's biggest strength is his two way player. He always seem to be in the right place on the ice at both ends, and I think this can be attributed to his hockey sense. Failed to convert on the Eric O'Dell two on one, but had a couple other solid opportunities to score. On one occasion he found a lane going to the net and got a good shot off only to be stoned by Killeen. He does everything well, which allows him to overcome his only modest skating ability. Got a tryout from the Maple Leafs this offseason, so hopefully he's able to catch on somewhere after this season is over.

John McFarland (2010)
He and Eric O'Dell were the most dangerous players on the ice tonight. This was probably McFarland's best game that I've ever personally witnessed. He was simply all over the ice. Was vicious on the forecheck, performed well on the penalty kill, laid a few nice hits. The move to the wing really suits him as it allows him to use his speed to fly down the side and to the net. Lately I've read a lot of people criticize his offensive potential and overall skill set. I've seen claims of "I don't think he belongs in the top 10 because he's not as naturally skilled as some of the other players available." I think that's bologna and I have no idea where these unfounded claims come from. I do agree that his hockey sense can come into question at times, as he'll fail to make things out of his rushes and fail to find the puck in tight situations. However his skill level should never come into question. Nor should his on ice vision with the puck. Made three absolutely beautiful passes today, two of which led to goals. The first was to Eric O'Dell, as he found him at the side of the net from all the way across the ice at the other point. Tape to tape, to the back of the net. On the second, he sprung O'Dell and Kurtz on the two on one with a beautiful tip pass to send O'Dell away with the puck. On the third, he drew the attention of the defense and gave it to Kyle Tarini for the walk in goal. For a player who's had some question marks about the way he uses his teammates, he certainly did well today. His goal was a screen shot from the point where he just tried to put the puck on net but ended up putting it in the net. He finished the game with 1 goal and 2 assists.

Jared Staal (PHX)
Staal is kind of frustrating to watch in all honesty. He has potential, but his skating still holds him back. He really does look like he's skating in molasses out there and his lack of speed burst prevents him from using his size on the way to the net. It also prevents him from being heavily involved on the forecheck. I just know that if he were a better and more explosive skater, he'd be such a quality player. This is because he is solid on the boards and in front of the net. He has good offensive instincts and does tend to make the most of his opportunities...when he gets them. On McFarland's point shot goal, he did all the work to gain possession of the puck along the boards and made a nice pass to McFarland. With the way the NHL game has evolved, I do think he could have a tough time keeping up with the pace enough to be a scoring line forward. But because of his hockey sense and board play, he could develop into a solid role player. He finished with an assist.

Daniel Maggio (NYR)
Finally healthy and playing with confidence, the former 7th overall Priority selection is off to a great start this season. He's Sudbury's number one defenseman and played a large majority of the game. He was incredibly physical and punished the Battalion forwards all night. On one occasion in particular, A Brampton forward (I believe Thomas Stajan) tried to get by him, failed and Maggio rode him right into the boards, erasing him from the play. He was very impressive defensively today. Offensively, he was just as equally impressive. He runs the powerplay very well and seems to have a really hard point shot. He could stand to do a better job of getting it through to the net, but that's minor nitpicking. He also showed a lot of confidence in bringing the puck up the ice. With great size, he's fairly mobile too (although no one will confuse him for Scott Niedermayer either). A really solid game from Maggio and it looks like he's progressed well this year. He finished the game with an assist.

Marcus Foligno (BUF)
Foligno has had a really disappointing start to the 2009 season, at least offensively. I think a lot of people, myself included, expected him to take some steps forward offensively this year. His skating doesn't look like it's improved and that appears to be what's holding him back. Like Staal, he couldn't be as effective in the offensive zone because of his failure to beat defenders to the puck. A real effective player along the boards, Foligno wasn't a factor in the cycle because Brampton's defenders were able to move the puck before he could get to them. On the positive side, he was excellent on the penalty kill. His strength away from the puck really allows him to be a factor at the top of the box. While his offensive game seems to have stalled, his two way ability seems to be blossoming. Maybe Buffalo sees him as an eventual replacement for Paul Gaustad?

Eric O'Dell (ATL)
As mentioned, he was incredibly dangerous today. He's a hawk on the puck and always seems to be around it. Not the world's best skater, O'Dell is still elusive on the ice and manages to give himself space on the ice to make offensive plays. Had an easy goal off the McFarland feed in the first. Made an incredibly nice pass to John Kurtz on the two on one, feathering it over the defender's stick, but Kurtz couldn't finish the play off. Later in the third, he made a tremendous play to charge into the offensive zone, lift the defender's stick, steal the puck and head in on net. But he missed the net on his shot as he tried to go top corner. He actually missed the net on a few chances in close too, so that's something he's got to work on. O'Dell is also a solid two way player and is quite often the first forward back. Made a really nice play to save a defenseman who got caught pinching, as he came back hard to disrupt the pass to the open wing. One thing that's always left me a little bit perplexed is his inconsistent physical game. When he played Under 18's in 2008, he was a physical force and threw his weight around with ease. But in the OHL, this side of his game has always been rare. If he could add that side to his game, he'd be a dominant player in the OHL on a night to night basis. He finished the game with the game winning goal.

Thoughts on Sudbury, or anything else mentioned?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thoughts on Niagara and Mississauga from October 16

Went down to the Hershey Centre last night to check out the Dogs and Majors. Once bitter rivals, the bite between these two Central Division teams has left the building. When the Majors first moved to the Hershey Centre and the Dogs left for Niagara, you'd be hard pressed to find a more intense match up. But as one reader pointed out in comments not long ago, the bitterness among these two teams has long since dissipated. With only a handful of players still around from before the switch, the rivalry seems long forgotten.

This game was a real testament to that, for the majority. Definitely not the prettiest game to watch. Lacked any real energy for the first half of the game, especially from the IceDogs. There were some fisticuffs at the end of the game, but that was more to do with a cheap shot by Johnson Andrews than anything else. Possibly a little frustration from what appeared to be a lifeless IceDog team.

Perhaps the Dogs were tired after their longwinded shootout victory over Owen Sound the night before, because only a handful of their players showed any giddy-up at all. The lack of energy from their end really allowed the Majors to dictate the pace of play for the majority of the game. Of note, the IceDogs powerplay is particularly atrocious and almost frustrating to watch. They really miss Alex Pietrangelo and Drew Schiestel on the back end. Not one of the many different powerplay combinations could generate much of anything for the Dogs, including the ol' fashioned five forward powerplay unit (which I'm completely against using). This team is sitting at under 6 percent right now for their powerplay unit, that's by far the lowest in the league. With only 3 powerplay goals all year, the Dogs are close to giving up as many shorthanded markers (2) as they've scored powerplay goals. That right there is the definition of a struggling unit. It's almost as if the Dogs would prefer other teams didn't take penalties against them so that play could remain five on five. The other thing I've noticed as far as the Dogs go is the breaking up of the DeSousa/Friesen/Agozzino line in order to try and spread the wealth offensively. That line was performing so well and really dictating the pace of play. While spreading the wealth and getting production from your other lines is important, so is scoring goals. I'd much prefer the Dogs keeping that line together and pressure the secondary units to step up their game. One line working well together is better than 4 lines working averagely. Plus that aforementioned "mini" forward line really set the pace of games. They tired out opposing defenses and really brought energy to the ice and this is something the Dogs lacked tonight. It'll be interesting to see how the Dogs handle the struggling Sudbury Wolves (losers of 6 in a row) today at home.

As for the Majors, they played a really strong game. Defensively, the effort was tremendous. Chris Carrozzi didn't have to do a whole heck of a lot tonight, as the Dogs were kept to the outside for the majority of the game. I really think this team is one really solid offensive forward away from being a serious OHL contender. Getting Gregg Sutch back in a week or two shoudln't hurt.

Here are some thoughts on individual players...

Mississauga St. Michael's Majors

Tim Billingsley (PHX)
I think Billingsley is really starting to come around again. This is the third time I've seen him this season and he's gotten better each time. I think the background of my disappointment with Billingsley is that I remember how promising he looked in his first two years in the league, as a somewhat hard-nosed two way rearguard. Last year was a huge step backward for him, but he seems to be slowly putting it back together. I think the key for him is keeping things simple with the puck, like he did tonight. He's not a blessed puck mover so as long as he can make smart decisions with the puck and not rush movement up ice, he can limit his turnovers. Last night he actually laid a few nice hits too, which is an element that has been absent in Billingsley's game of recent times. He needs to play that way in order to be successful defensively. I think Dave Cameron has to be happy with Billingsley's progression this year too since he actually received some powerplay time tonight and didn't look out of place either.

Brett Flemming (WSH)
Good to see Brett back on defense after he was up at forward the last time I saw him play. Glad to see that experiment over. He's back paired with Cameron Gaunce on the Majors top defensive unit and I continue to be impressed with his play. His best asset is his mobility which he uses to play both ends of the ice. Made several nice rushes up ice tonight. He also used his speed to make a solid play at the defensive end. Turnover at the blueline led to a breakaway by Andrew Shaw, but Flemming caught up to him and forced him to a somewhat weak backhand attempt. It was good on him to not take a penalty on the play, but to play Shaw clean (although how much damage would an IceDog powerplay do anyway?) Was somewhat disappointed by the fact that he saw little powerplay time though. He finished the game a solid +2.

Casey Cizikas (NYI)
Thought he played a pretty solid game. As always, he was active on the penalty kill and I like the fact that he's starting to show a bit of grit to his game (saw his fight against Matt Clark recently). He's been more consistent this year in playing active and going to the net with and without the puck. He scored on a very nice tip in of William Wallen's point shot. Cizikas finished with a goal and an assist.

Jordan Mayer (2010, but 1991 born)
I'm always impressed by Jordan Mayer. He's definitely one of the elite skating forwards in the OHL. He can turn on the jets and really blow by an opposing defense. I like his fearless attitude too. Not the biggest, but he works hard in the corners and is active near the crease. Corey Bureau's third period goal was all Mayer. He drove hard into the offensive zone, came up with the puck, kept possession and found Bureau at the side of the net for the nice finish. His speed and work ethic really do wonders to confuse opposing teams defenses. As one of the youngest players eligible for the draft last year, here's hoping NHL teams have taken note of his progression this season.

Devante Smith-Pelly (2010)
Even though he was held off the scoresheet, I thought Smith-Pelly was the most impressive Majors forward on the night. Not always a consistent point producer, I don't think it's long before he starts hitting the stat line consistently. I really liked the newly formed Smith-Pelly/Cizikas/Wallen line. The thing I like about Smith-Pelly is that he plays bigger than he actually is. Only average sized, he generates a lot of power in his skating stride and it makes him very hard to contain on the rush. At times I've questioned his offensive ceiling and overall skill set, but I'm starting to believe it's more a matter of confidence with the puck on his stick. He showed a couple highlight reel moves tonight, one as he got past the Dogs defenseman with some nifty puckhandling, but couldn't get a serious scoring chance out of it. I think we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg with Smith-Pelly.

Cameron Gaunce (COL)
Cameron Gaunce was typical Cameron Gaunce tonight. Steady as he goes. Gaunce is almost always a solid two way defender who makes smart decisions with the puck. Sometimes he gets himself in trouble when he tries to do too much, like one turnover he had at the blueline that nearly led to an odd man rush. Not the most blessed stick handler you'll see, he's better when he relies on his on ice vision to make quick plays, rather than trying to play the puck possession game (part of the reason why the Gaunce/Flemming pairing works so well IMO). Gaunce can absolutely wire it from the back end too, scoring on a nice hard point shot in the first period. I also like the added physicality to his game this year. Always a criticism against Gaunce, it appears hes working on becoming more of a physical threat.

Chris Carrozzi (ATL)
Carrozzi was solid when he had to be tonight. Wasn't really tested a whole lot, but when he was he was up to the occasion. Made a nice save by sliding over to hug the post on the Andrew Shaw breakaway attempt. Made a couple second chance saves on goal mouth scrambles by standing his ground. One such occurrence happened because of Carrozzi's poor clear of the puck which led directly to a turnover and a couple scoring chances, but none of Niagara's forwards were able to get the puck over his pads. Carrozzi has always been a really steady goalie who doesn't necessarily wow you, but who won't lose the game for you either. It'll be interesting to see what happens as the season goes on. Whether the Majors keep Carrozzi to continue to split time with J.P. Anderson, or whether they trade him to one of the teams looking for a starting goaltender (ala Windsor). He made 22 saves for the shutout victory.

Niagara IceDogs

Alex Friesen (2010 but 1991 born)
Friesen has really taken steps forward this year. He's learned to use his speed to generate offensive opportunities and has a lot more confidence in carrying the puck into the zone. In a way, he's a very similar player to Mississauga's Jordan Mayer. Friesen was one of the few IceDogs who looked like they were actually tying tonight, but he often got swallowed by the Majors defense as he entered the zone. It'll be interesting to see if his steps forward this season earn him NHL draft attention.

Chris DeSousa (2010, but 1990 born)
This year is DeSousa's last chance at being drafted and he's playing like he wants it. I thought he was Niagara's best forward tonight. Not the greatest skater in the world (which can spell trouble for smaller players at the next level), DeSousa uses solid strength and positioning to get by defenders. It almost felt like he was all by himself out there, as he'd do well to get puck possession in the offensive zone, but receive no support from it. I think he's got a real nose for the puck too and has a pretty high level of hockey sense. Once the Alex Pietrangelo situation is cleared up, I'd be surprised if DeSousa wasn't the next IceDog captain (should Petro not return).

Matt Petgrave (2010)
I continue to see a lot of potential in this kid. He's not really putting up points right now, but I think it'll be really interesting to see what he does at the end of the year. An OHL rookie who played AAA last year, Petgrave is still going through some growing pains. He still turns the puck over in the offensive zone by making poor decisions. He still takes himself out of position going for the big hit. But, you can see the potential in him. The way he skates the puck up ice. The way he reads plays offensively. I'd love to see him get more playing time on the powerplay. It's pretty obvious that the PP isn't working as it is, so why not give Petgrave a chance on the first unit, so that he can develop his skills and get some experience.

Petteri Simila (MTL)
I thought Simila was outstanding tonight. The Dogs have been really blessed to get the quality of goaltending they have been getting so far this season. If not for Simila, this game could have been 6 or 7 nothing. You'd be blind to not notice his size on the ice, at 6'6 he's a behemoth goaltender. But I like the way he challenges shooters and makes himself even bigger. Often times you'll see big goaltenders stay deep in their net, but I like to see them stay aggressive and come right out to the top of the blue ice. He takes away the bottom of the net really well and controls the rebounds from his pads, directing them to the corner. Like some big goaltenders, I do think he needs to work on his lateral mobility. On two of the goals tonight he got beat going side to side (the Lopes SH goal, and the Corey Bureau goal). A skating and strength coach should help him improve his overall agility. He made 38 of 42 saves and took the loss.

Anyone else see the game?

OHL Plays of the Week for Week 4


The Ontario Hockey League website brings us the top 5 goals from last week. Here is their description of the clip.

Check out the top five goals from week four in the Ontario Hockey League featuring Nazem Kadri of the London Knights and goals by Vern Cooper of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Jeff Skinner of the Kitchener Rangers, Cody Lindsay of the Ottawa 67's, and Ryan Spooner of the Peterborough Petes. Video footage is courtesy of Rogers TV and TVCogeco.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on Barrie and Sarnia from October 15

Sarnia had trouble containing Barrie's offensive push but great goaltending from Courchaine combined with a solid team effort helped Sarnia to their second consecutive win vs. a Top 10 team in Canada with a 3-2 victory over the Barrie Colts.

Alexander Burmistrov - #8 - C - YOB: 1992 - 6‘0” - 170lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/15/09: After seeing Burmistrov with all this hype around his game, there was the good and the bad but overall I was disappointed. In terms of skill Burmistrov is a very fast skater, he moves his legs quickly and is very shifty and can change directions on a dime. He handles the puck very well and has very gifted hands, mixed with speed and shiftiness he made a few Sting players look like house league players when chasing after him. He protects the puck well for someone at only 170. Burmistrov is a guy who could be a high percentage player for the shootouts, and could be a shootout specialist if he makes the NHL. He looked fairly reliable in the defensive zone. Generally when you have a player as flashy as Burmistrov they tend to float, but not Alex. He engaged very actively defensively and caused a few turnovers. The negative side is Burmistrov for one tries to do everything himself, and outright does not utilize his linemates whatsoever. Even during the power play he’d stickhandle his way into a situation that saw two of the four Sting players chasing him. Meanwhile, his defenceman with a wide open shot he refused to pass to him and eventually the puck was off Burmistrov’s stick and down the ice, this happened a few times, twice during the critical part of the game. Secondly Burmistrov whenever physical contact is engaged, if it becomes too much, he’ll fold like an accordion and act like he got shot. During the 2nd period he absolutely embarrassed himself. Preisinger’s stick came up near the face, but went wide over Burmistrov’s shoulder.. After the stick had alredy made it’s way up and down, Burmistrov randomly dropped to the ice flopping around and started crawling on his hands and knees probably about 8 to 10 feet trying to sell the high stick and acted like a player would if they were seriously injured and bleeding profusely. It was an absolutely pathetic display and the referee either wasn’t looking and thought he missed an obvious call, or is just plain incompetent because Preisinger received a high sticking call, there was not a trace of blood, and Burmistrov was back on the ice within 20-30 seconds. The raw skill is there for Burmistrov, he is an excellent skater and puck control expert and could be a game breaker in the offensive zone. But overall as a Canadian hockey fan Burmistrov is not someone I’d ever want to draft to my team just based on his ignorance for the integrity of the game, and his inability to handle anything more than the minimum physical contact without trying to act like he’s hurt.

Michael Sgarbossa - #11 - C - YOB: 1992 - 5‘11” - 165lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/15/09: Sgarbossa is a name I had circled going into this game, I’ve heard good about him, but he hasn’t done enough to really stand out in terms of a prospect for the 2010 draft. Sgarbossa looked pretty good out there at times, but really never created any scoring chances, also I believe he didn’t even have a shot on net. Barrie kept putting him out there in critical moments, and things such as his skating and puck moving seemed to help his team, but didn’t really stand out in any way.
(Sgarbossa was a +1)

Kyle Clifford - #13 - LW - YOB: 1991 - 6‘1” - 200lbs.
NHL: 2nd Round - 35th Overall by LA in 2009
Report: Oct/15/09: Clifford was the best player for Barrie in this game. He’s a very quick skater for someone his size, and he absolutely punished a few players with some massive hits. He mixes things up and makes things difficult for the opposing team in the offensive zone. Clifford had the first goal of the game, in which he created the play almost entirely on his own, as it looked like Sarnia was going to transition the puck out of the zone, Clifford delivered a massive hit behind the net, knocking the puck loose then got open for Della Rovere to pass it to him, and he buried it in an impressive 10 second or so set by Clifford. Later on he set up the tying goal in the 3rd period protecting the puck and making the right pass out to the point. Overall Clifford didn’t look like he had a weakness in his game. He skated better than someone his size, but hit harder than someone bigger as well. Impressed with Clifford overall.
(Clifford had 1G, 1A, +2)

Ryan Strome - #16 - C - YOB: 1993 - 5‘11” - 160lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2012
Report: Oct/15/09: Strome received limited ice time, but looked very impressive despite not making any eventual contributions towards the game. He did well in the face-off circle. He has a very quick release with a laser shot, unfortunately all 3 times that impressive shot when right into the logo of Adam Courchaine. Strome also showed off some good speed down the wing and carried the puck well. Definitely a positive first impression from this 16 year old.

Stefan Della Rovere - #19 - LW - YOB: 1993 - 5‘11” - 200lbs.
NHL: 7th Round - 204th Overall by Washington in 2008
Report: Oct/15/09: After Della Rovere was the talk of the rink for the following couple weeks after Barrie left last year, He was very surprisingly quiet during the game. He started out well making an excellent pass to Clifford to complete the play Clifford created. He did make a good hit or two, but was very undisciplined as well and is very lucky to come away with only two penalties. There are good penalties and bad penalties and Della Rovere could have had 4 or 5 really bad penalties called on him this game. Defensively he was alright but not as good as we’re accustom to seeing and hearing from Stefan. Overall an off game for SDR.
(Della Rovere had 1A, +2, 4PIM)

Ryan O’Connor - #21 - D - YOB: 1992 - 5‘8” - 175lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/15/09: If Clifford didn’t steal the show it would have been Ryan O’Connor that stood out for Barrie. I had O’Connor ranked #13 on my preliminary list, and Burmistrov #9. I think these two should at the very least be switching spots on that list, as O’Connor really played like a Ryan Ellis kind of defenceman. I know that comparison is getting beat to death but both have good offensive instincts, where as Ellis’ are better, O’Connor is better at carrying the puck up the ice, and his top speed is better, the first few steps for O’Connor could use work, but when he gets going he can fly. Unlike Ellis who is used mainly at his actual position; O’Connor moved up to forward several times on the special teams, and was many times the 4th forward on the ice while Barrie was down (which doesn’t seem to happen a lot this season) where they are similar and maybe where O’Connor is better is the physical department, however he got a little too rough and let Zach MacQueen get under his skin a little, and took an undisciplined penalty, but this guy is a hitting machine. He threw a couple hits that could be considered some of the biggest in this game, even with players twice his size throwing them, he really layed into a few guys at his size it was something else to see. Where Ellis has O’Connor beat is the natural anticipation for the play.. While O’Connor is not bad at this, it’s what sets Ellis apart from other smaller sized defencemen. Also judging by O’Connor’s shot it’s not where Ellis’ is. Overall I find myself comparing the two throughout this scouting report, but to best break it down the two are similar, and where Ellis may be more known for his anticipation and devastating point shot, O’Connor may be more established as a puck carrier who makes smart plays, and throws massive hits for his size.
(O’Connor was -1, 2PIM)

Josh Brittain - #22 - LW - YOB: 1993 - 6‘4” - 217lbs.
NHL: 3rd Round - 71st Overall by Anaheim in 2008
Report: Oct/15/09: Overall Brittain wasn’t a game breaker but he did help the Colts out tonight. Brittain unleashed a pretty solid shot, and went to the net hard every time he didn’t have the puck. He made power plays miserable for Courchaine and created a screen that made it very possible for Barrie to score if their power play was connecting better. Brittain really looks like a power forward, and could wind up in that role one day. He needs to get faster and be more willing to just throw his weight around at times.

Taylor Carnevale - #27 - LW - YOB: 1991 - 5‘11” - 184lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/15/09: Carnevale was passed over in last year’s draft, and was honestly not someone I heard a lot about until this season. He’s off to a great start this season which may once again make it possible for him to get drafted. Carnevale did very well in the face-off circle, and displayed good speed while carrying the puck up ice. Had a few chances to get some assists, as he appeared more willing to set up the goal than to score it.
(Carnevale was a +1)

Peter DiSalvo - #35 - G - YOB: 1990 - 6‘0” - 180lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/15/09: Honestly any chance of me considering DiSalvo a prospect anytime in the near future is gone. Last year I figured maybe it was just nerves coming back to Sarnia, but he played horrible tonight again, fortunately his team in front of him kept him in the game. DiSalvo looked fearful of playing the puck even in situations where Sarnia wasn’t pressuring he would give them an offensive zone face-off instead of passing the puck back behind the net for his defenceman. DiSalvo had decent reflexes, but oddly enough they were hit and miss as at times he looked like he had trouble reading shots. He gave up several rebounds. DiSalvo looks like an average OHL starter at best.
(DiSalvo stopped 20 of 23 shots)

Ben O’Quinn - #22 - C - YOB: 1991 - 6‘1” - 185lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/15/09: I can’t seem to help but always find myself impressed with Ben O’Quinn most games, especially where he came from being a 4th line/pk guy with 5 mins per game last year at this time. Jordan Hill may have scored the winning goal, but this play was created off the stick of Ben O’Quinn. He passed it through the sticks and skates of 4 players and threaded the needle right onto the stick of Hill to tap it into an open net. Earlier O’Quinn set up what was at the time the go ahead goal with a perfect pass to Hill, the point shot was going in however Kerbashian helped that out. O’Quinn was out there several times in critical defensive moments including the final 1:10 of the 3rd period with a one goal lead. I have a hard time not seeing O’Quinn getting drafted, based on the way he’s been playing game to game for Sarnia. Great hands, will never be a big time scorer, but they are good enough to make him a contributor on the 3rd line of some NHL team one day.
(O’Quinn had 2A)

Miroslav Preisinger - #28 - C - YOB: 1991 - 6‘0” - 175lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/15/09: So much for Preisinger being labeled a playmaker only. About half a period before Preisinger’s phantom high stick that sent Burmistrov into a seizure on tlhe ice, Preisinger collected up a drop pass and absolutely sniped a laser to the top shelf over DiSalvo’s glove hand, very few goaltenders would have been able to catch up to that. Opinions on Preisinger are hit or miss, but the fact remains he does own a good shot, can threat perfect passes through traffic, and is one of the most devastating import players physically in the OHL. How this season goes for him should be very interesting, but he does have a very real chance of getting picked up this year by an NHL team.
(1G, 2PIM)

Adam Courchaine - #1 - C - YOB: 1991 - 6‘3” - 185lbs.
NHL: Signed by Boston as a free agent in 2007
Report: Oct/15/09: This was Sarnia’s first look at Courchaine in a home game after his fight last week in Saginaw. Courchaine looked shaky at first giving up an early goal and almost giving up a few more in the 1st, but once he settled in he looked excellent. He had perfect positioning, and the quickness to cover up just in time, at times it almost looked like he wanted to make the second save dramatic. Rebounds were really the only issue in his game. Also has an awkward glove hand where he keeps it close to his waist almost like there’s one of those stretch ropes attached to it, it usually doesn’t leave his side, and when it does it’s nothing dramatic, but he made several good saves with it, so I guess whatever works. Overall Courchaine was great under pressure, as I mentioned rebounds were an issue but he did an outstanding job on the 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th chances that would develop from them. He could be a huge trade asset for the Sting, maybe even to a team like Barrie who seems to be having issues with DiSalvo. If the goaltenders were on different sides, this would have likely been a 6-1 win for Barrie. I have to say I’m very impressed with Sarnia’s new goaltender, and although his style is a little unnerving at times, and does worry me despite the performance, he should be able to keep Sarnia in every game.
(Courchaine stopped 33 of 35 shots)


Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on Belleville and Sarnia from October 9

Sarnia's rookies put on an outstanding performance as they score five 2nd period goals to dismantle the Belleville Bulls 9-4.

Bjorn Krupp - #4 - D - YOB: 1991 - 6’3” - 195lbs.
NHL: Signed by Minnesota as a Free Agent in 2009
Report: Oct/9/09: Krupp looks A LOT bigger than last year, however he is the same old player. Really disappears during the game, plays decently in his own zone, still does not hit nearly as much as someone his size should. Personally I’m a little surprised Minnesota used an entry level free agent contract on Krupp. He has the intangibles to be a potential NHL stay at home defenceman but there’s other 1991’s out there with far more upside.
(Krupp was a -2)

Stephen Johnston - #10 - C - YOB: 1990 - 6’1” - 190lbs.
NHL: 6th Round - 181st Overall by Detroit in 2008
Report: Oct/9/09: Johnston once again was not an impact player in the Belleville/Sarnia game, however he was as usual steady. He’s a great skating forward, who does a good job in his own zone, and is willing to initiate as well as take contact to make the play. He will have a tough time in Detroit with players like Abdelkader and Helm playing a more prominent role with fairly similar games, but Johnston could find himself a spot in the NHL on someone’s 3rd line, but it’s becoming more and more apparent if Johnston makes it, it’ll be as an energy/PK specialist type role.
(Johnston was a +1 w/ 2PIM)

Shawn Lalonde - #9 - D - YOB: 1990 - 6‘1” - 195lbs.
NHL: 3rd Round - 68th Overall by Chicago in 2008
Report: Oct/9/09: Lalonde played outstanding tonight offensively. He is a very smooth slick skater out there, and looks a lot bigger than 6’1” - 195 out there. He looked a lot like John Carlson from London last year the way he carried the puck up the ice at times, and would pinch in from the point at the right time. He has a blast from the point, and a very quick and accurate wrist shot, which is how he scored his goal tonight. Offensively Lalonde has everything you’d look for an in offensive defenceman, with above average size than most of your speedy puck moving defencemen. Defensively he looked like he was willing to hit when the situation called for it, defensively he didn’t look like anything special but wasn’t a burden to his team either. I’ve been really impressed with how much Lalonde has developed over the last 2 years.
(Lalonde had 1G, -1)

Stephen Silas - #26 - D - YOB: 1992 - 6‘0” - 190lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/9/09: Silas is a defenceman I’m pretty high on going into this draft. You look at his points and how he looks on the ice and you’d think offensive defenceman, and you’d be right, but I think a lot like former Sting defenceman Mark Katic; Silas gets unfairly labeled and judged based on his offensive contributions. Silas made multiple solid defensive plays, and only gave up defensive positioning at opportune times, he didn’t cause any mistakes that lead to a breakaway or any goals. Silas is a smooth skater, and willing to carry the puck, but passes it off at intelligent times. He looks mature beyond his years and plays every shift to the end. Silas took on Miro Preisinger in a fight, Preisinger who is built pretty solidly, and has already shown well in another fight did seem to do more damage, but Silas who is not really regarded as much of a fighter at all hung in and held his own against a very tough opponent.
(Silas had 1A, -2, 7PIM)

Matthew Tipoff - #27 - LW - YOB: 1990 - 6‘0” - 190lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/9/09: Tipoff could arguably be the best player on the Belleville Bulls based on his performance tonight, and his track record based on this season so far. Tipoff plays with a very high energy hitting anything that moved, and skating very well. Tipoff carried the puck, but instead of a lot of players that carry it across the blueline he would go after advantageous positioning in order to set up a scoring chance rather than throwing it at the net. His puck protection is great for someone who isn’t particularly big. Tipoff did release a few shots and he did appear to have a quick release. I could really see this guy ending up like an Alex Burrows type player with a little less physicality, and without the fighting, I could really see him playing an energy line type role but still producing points. Tipoff was critical on the PK despite Sarnia scoring twice with him on the ice. He never seems to leave during PK time, and really prevented a few goals from going in. I was huge on him after seeing him play last year, and my opinions only get better on him after his performance at the RBC Center this season.
(Tipoff had 2A, +0)

Philipp Grubauer - #33 - G - YOB: 1990 - 6‘0” - 180lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/9/09: Grubauer was pulled after giving up 4 goals on 24 shots, but honestly Grubauer couldn’t have been held responsible for any of those goals. All of Sarnia’s goals on him were passing plays where any goaltender would have been scored on, and one was a rebound. Grubauer showed great positioning, and was always in an ideal spot to make the save. Rebounds were few and far between despite getting burned on one of them. This game easily could have been 6 or 7-0 after the first if it wasn’t for Grubauer, and after 20 minutes it looked like Grubauer was going to steal this game. That wasn’t the case after the explosion of offense in the second period. Grubauer really didn’t look like he let the goals phase him even with a 2-1 or 3-1 score he came out and made a big save right after the goals. Very quick glove hand and kicked the pads out quickly as well. Like I said the stats can’t really explain his performance and he may be one of those goaltenders who doesn’t have great statistics that gets picked higher than those that do, based on scouts seeing things like what I saw today. Very impressed with Grubauer.
(Grubauer stopped 20 of 24 shots)

Nathan Chiarlitti - #5 - D - YOB: 1992 - 6‘0” - 185lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/9/09: This was quite possibly the best game of Chiarlitti’s career. He was his usual poised self defensively doing a great job stopping the offense, especially getting involved in the corners battling for loose pucks. Chiarlitti is very good defensively, but he’s not one for a lot of action in front of the net, his best area’s are either in the corners, behind the net or taking on the winger coming off the boards. Offensively Chiarlitti has shown a very solid and accurate wrist shot from the point, in which he used to score his second goal of the season tonight. He moved the puck well up the ice in transition which lead to him helping break out Ben O’Quinn and Jesse Stoughton for a shorthanded goal. Chiarlitti is not a guy who stands out on a game to game basis, but is always solid, reliable and is starting to show off his offensive assets. Chiarlitti is an average skater, but if he can either become more physical or quicker on his feet he should establish himself as a sure fire prospect in the 2010 draft.
(Chiarlitti had 1G, 1A, +3, 4PIM, named 1st Star of the game)

Brandon Alderson - #18 - RW - YOB: 1992 - 6‘4” - 195lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Oct/9/09: This may have been Alderson’s best game of the year that I’ve seen. There’s the good and the bad, however as a rookie the bad is more along the lines of something he just needs to improve on. Alderson apparently doesn’t fight as he’s had several opportunities to, but outside the rough stuff he reminds me a lot of what a young Brandon Mashinter brought to the team. Alderson goes right to the net and establishes himself there, that is how he scored one of this two goals tonight. He is very difficult to move and if he can add 15-20 lbs to his frame he'd be a force. He was good along the boards and threw a few good hits, but overall he’s still being considered a little soft, and if he developed a mean streak he could become a lot more valuable as a hockey player. Alderson’s skating desperately needs to be improved, especially someone at his size it’ll be essential for him to become a better skater and get bigger. Alderson has shown he has good hands and has used them in tight areas, as well as unleashing a solid wrist shot to score a second goal on the night. Alderson could be labeled a project in terms of being an NHL prospect. He has a lot to work on, but has the hands and the size to be a player to watch over the next few years. If he develops his skating to an acceptable level for a prospect by the time he’s an overager he could become somewhat of a less physical/fighter but more offensive upside version of Brandon Mashinter.
(Alderson had 2G, +2, 2PIM)


Thursday, October 15, 2009

News and Notes

There have been some interesting developments in the OHL the past couple of days, and I think it's fair to take some time out to discuss them.

Kingston defenseman and potential 2010 lottery selection, Erik Gudbranson will miss at least 4 weeks with a knee injury. Bob Mackenzie broke the news today via his twitter account (found here) Gudbranson injured the knee on Sunday against the Ottawa 67's when he fell victim to an inadvertent knee on knee collision. It is believed to be an MCL sprain (source). This is a really tough blow for the first place Frontenacs. I'm not sure their defensive depth is strong enough to overcome an injury of this magnitude. Taylor Doherty is going to have to step up huge now and join Brian Lashoff on the first pairing (unless Gilmour uses them on two separate pairings to spread the wealth). Hopefully Gudbranson comes back strong and this injury doesn't negatively effect his draft stock in 2010.

The Sudbury Wolves have sent home Import defenseman Stefan Stepanov. Stepanov was sent back to Russia for breaking team rules (source). This unnamed incident has also seen the team suspend fellow import Eddy Linke for a week. Rumours have the two getting into an off ice altercation during the teams recent road trip. This is a disappointing end to the Stepanov saga in Sudbury. As highly touted prospect for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Stepanov was supposed to be a budding offensive defenseman with star qualities. Instead, he had trouble adjusting to the size and speed of the OHL game and found himself in the press box as a healthy scratch. Whether his actions were spawned by frustrations from lack of playing time, or by immaturity (or a combination of both), the Stefan Stepanov experiment in Sudbury is over. Interestingly enough, Rangers beat writer Jeff Hicks is claiming that Saginaw defenseman T.J. Brodie could be heading to Sudbury to help fill the gap left by Stepanov on the Wolves defense (source).

The Windsor Spitfires got an interesting boost to their line up today as it was announced that forward Kenny Ryan has left Boston College in order to join the club. Ryan was the 2nd round selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs at last year's draft and a 2007 draft pick of the Spitfires. He comes in with a lot of hype after playing for the U.S. National Development Program the past two seasons. NHL Central Scouting's Gary Eggleston describes the right winger as "a solid skater who is strong on his skates, has good balance and his hard to knock off his feet. Has good overall speed and works hard in all zones. He is strong in the corners, is aware of defensive responsibilities and backchecks well. Ryan plays a rugged two-way game” (source). Sounds like he's going to fit right in with the rest of Windsor's offense. I'll be really interested to see him play. On a side note, does a pick up like this one give the Spitfires a chance to move a young forward in exchange for a goaltender?

Also on note with the Spitfires has defenseman Jesse Blacker joining goaltender Steve Gleeson on the sidelines awaiting a trade. Blacker left the team this weekend and wants to be traded to a team where he can play a more prominent role (source). Blacker is a Leafs 3rd rounder from last year's draft and a quality defenseman who no doubt was being held back by a small role in Windsor. It seems as if Warren Rychel and the Spits want this resolved as soon as possible which means a trade is probably not far off. The hot rumour on the net has Blacker heading to Saginaw in exchange for goaltender Edward Pasquale. We'll see where this all goes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thoughts on Oshawa and Belleville from October 14

Nothing like some good ol' Wednesday night OHL action and tonight I was able to catch the Oshawa Generals take on the Belleville Bulls on the Olympic ice surface at the Yardmen Arena.

First time I've seen Belleville this year and the second time I've seen Oshawa. It was a pretty entertaining game, albeit a bit of a sloppy one. The Generals went on to win the game by a score of 5-3 and have now entered into a tie with Kingston and Peterborough for first in the East Division. This was a huge win for Oshawa as they were without their best player, Calvin de Haan, as he was at home due to the death in the family. Oshawa has a really interesting team this year. They've got a lot of heart and spunk. They play the game very hard and they really attack the puck in your end. With no real true offensive stars, they are getting scoring from a collection of players (9 already with 3 or more goals). More interestingly, the Gens have been finding success without good goaltending. With Michael Zador posting back to back good games, perhaps they've found the answer and can really start to go on a bit of a run.

As for Belleville, as expected by many, I think it's going to be a really long year for them. I've read that George Burnett wanted to give it to around the quarter mark of the season before he started to make moves regarding the teams direction this season (for example the trading of players like Shawn Lalonde). Were getting close to around that area and I think Burnett has to be getting a sense that this year might be a bit of a write off. Nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. The high and low runs in the standings from year to year is a natural occurrence in the OHL. The biggest problem for Belleville has been the lack of progress from their younger players. With the exception of a few (Silar, Grubauer, Tipoff), the younger players (1991 and 1992 players) who needed to play larger roles this season have failed in doing so. Stephen Johnston, Luke Judson, Andy Bathgate, Brett Mackie, Cody Alcock, and Scott Howe have combined for a total of 7 goals this year. This has been the biggest reason for the Bulls anemic offense this year (second last in goals per game at 2.8). In a sense, this has to be concerning for Bulls fans because these will be the same players expected to lead the team back to prominence next year. If they fail to show progression this year, who's to say next year will be any different? Maybe these guys just aren't very good. Perhaps early to be making an assumption like that, but Bulls fans, would you be lying if you said that hadn't crossed your mind?

Alright on to the player reports...

Oshawa Generals

Scott Valentine (ANA)
I like what I see from Valentine again. I like his fearless and aggressive play in the defensive end. He needs to be careful with taking himself out of position going for the hit, but he has the skating ability to generally recover. He did a phenomenal job on defense on two occasions. One where the speedy Brett Mackie tried to fly by him down the wing. Valentine stayed with him all the way, guided him to the boards and absolutely obliterated him to the ground, forcing a turnover. On the second play, he recovered from a mistake on the powerplay where he overhandled the puck and turned it over at the line. But he hurried back, caught up to the puck carrier just passed the redline and eliminated him from the puck turning play back up ice for the Generals. This saved a breakaway and showed great determination and skating ability. I also like the way he plays offensively. Quietly but effectively. He's capable of moving the puck up ice, although I'm not sure he's comfortable rushing it up. I like his potential as a quality rugged NHL defenseman. He finished with 2 assists tonight.

Tony DeHart (2010, but 1990 born)
DeHart's point streak to start the season was broken, but he didn't play poorly. Without his DE-fensive partner (see what I did there) Calvin de Haan, he still logged a ton of ice time. He's not really a noticeable guy on the ice and I mean that as a compliment. He doesn't really make mistakes defensively, he's smart with the puck and he does a really good job of quarterbacking the powerplay. He's not going to wow you with an end to end rush, and he's not going to level a guy with a bone crushing hit. He seems to just play a very quiet, but effective game from the back end. With good size, perhaps his level headed game earns him some NHL glares.

Daniel Pachis (2010, but 1991 born)
Once a first round OHL selection in 2007 (by Saginaw), Pachis was considered to have a lot of promise in this league. But then he injured his knee in the 2008 playoffs and missed the majority of last season. Now he's playing for Oshawa and is getting a lot of playing time. As his confidence slowly returns, I think he's going to develop into a dangerous player in this league. Pachis was very strong tonight. Set up 2 goals beautifully tonight and nearly a third. On the first one, he split the Bulls line of defense (skating by Shawn Lalonde, no easy task), and got a shot on net that generated a juicy rebound for Alain Berger, who put it home. On the second goal, he received a pass from Scott Valentine as he skated in full stride, got knocked off the puck but managed to make a beautiful one hand pass to Nick Esposto for the one time goal. On the play that didn't create a goal, he turned Bjorn Krupp inside out on his way to the net and created a scoring chance in close that couldn't be buried. He really seems to have a knack for creativity and playmaking. I'm interested to see how he develops this year after missing so much time in crucial development periods. He finished with 2 assists.

Christian Thomas (2010)
The last time I saw him play I stated that I didn't think he had the goal scoring touch that his father did. I lied. His first goal tonight was a pure goal scorer's goal. Flying down the wing, using the defender as a screen and absolutely roofed a laser of a wrist shot just under the bar. A great shot. Thomas was very solid all night. He's little, but he's got a great center of balance and is really hard to push off the puck. He's always got that motor running too. More and more, he's starting to become a dangerous player every time he's on the ice. Thomas finished with that goal.

Michael Zador (TBL)
After a real tough start to the season, Zador has been lights out lately. In his last three games, he's got a 3-0 record with a .948 SV% and a 1.67 GAA. I'm hoping this is the beginning of a great stretch for Zador, and a great season. He has been inconsistent in the past though. Outside of a really terrible goal by Michael Curtis (on a dump shot from the blueline that went up his stick and into the net), Zador was quite solid tonight. He's a very athletic goaltender who moves very well laterally and is able to make the acrobatic save. He's definitely a pure butterfly goaltender who likes to make the save from his knees. He has some things he needs to work on though at the technical level, and perhaps they help to explain his consistency problems. He gives out a lot of juicy rebounds, of which the Gens defense did a great job of clearing. He needs to do a better job of controlling the puck with his pads and taking it into his body. He also tends to flop a little bit. On the Matt Tipoff goal, Zador was baited to go down with a shot hesitation and Tipoff put it over top of him while he was laying on the ice. There is definitely potential there with Zador though. He made 34 of 37 saves for the victory.

Belleville Bulls

Bjorn Krupp (MIN)
I wasn't surprised to see Krupp fail to get drafted in 2009. I was surprised when he received a contract from the Minnesota Wild at their training camp. I'm sorry, but if this guy's last name wasn't Krupp, he'd be getting no attention (and this coming from a guy who was a huge fan of Uwe growing up). There are three dozen available defenseman in the OHL who are better than Krupp, yet do not have the opportunity he's been presented with. In the first period he coughed the puck up twice in his own zone trying to make a pass over the blueline, and he also got turned inside out by Daniel Pachis on a rush as he got caught playing the puck and not the man. Now granted he settled down in the second and third periods, but he's playing on the third defensive pairing of a rebuilding team and he's got a team low -11 rating. If he's going to continue to struggle with the puck, he's going to have to do a better job of playing defense and taking the man. I just don't see it, but to each their own (or Wild's own since it's obvious 29 other teams didn't see it either).

Shawn Lalonde (CHI)
Do you want the positive or the negative first? How about I combine them? On the positive, few defenders in the OHL can rush the puck up ice like Lalonde. His skating ability and confidence with the puck is tremendous. The thing I've always really liked about Lalonde's game is that he actually makes something of his rushes. It always bugs me when defenders (with Lalonde's skill set) bring the puck effortlessly up ice, but then just dump it in rather than continue over the blueline and help set up shop in the offensive zone. Lalonde has the confidence to continue his rushes. On the negative side, he needs to do it less. It feels like every time he carries the puck up ice, it's like he has to make something of it even if he has to force it. And when he does gain access to the offensive zone, he doesn't return fast enough to the defensive end. He needs to be a lot smarter in making these decisions and realize he's a defender first and foremost. On the positive, his shot from the back end is lethal and creates many scoring chances. On the powerplay especially, he does a tremendous job of getting open to unleash it. Two of Belleville's goals were scored off of Lalonde's point shots tonight. On the negative, he needs to make better decisions with the puck, especially on the powerplay. Because of poor passes or forced attempts, Lalonde's sloppiness led to 3 shorthanded odd man rushes during the game. Luckily enough, none led to goals, however one did lead to a forced penalty by Lalonde in order to prevent a goal and this negated a Bulls powerplay. On the positive, he can be an very effective one on one defender, especially using his speed to stay with forwards. On the negative, he rarely puts himself in position to play defense. On Daniel Pachis' first rush where he broke through the Bulls defensive line, Lalonde was caught standing there watching. Then he failed to hurry back to the zone to pick up the trailer and Alain Berger put in a rebound. Now don't get me wrong, I like Lalonde as a player and a prospect. I think he's just trying to do too much right now with so much talent leaving Belleville this year.

Andy Bathgate (PIT)
Completely invisible in a bad way. Had a hard time handling passes, was failing to win battles in the corners, seemed tentative to enter danger areas. On one occasion he failed to take a pass out of the defensive end, almost because it looked like he was afraid of getting hit (since it was a bit of a suicide pass). But it led to a turnover and a scoring chance for Oshawa. After having trouble with injuries, is it possible he's playing tentative in fear of getting injured again? I generally liked what I saw from him last year, but in tonight's game (and from what I've heard all year) he was quite brutal.

Steven Strong (2011)
A 4th round pick of Belleville in 2009, I liked Strong's game tonight. An averaged sized defenseman, he showed no fear on the ice. He threw a couple nice hits and played a generally very strong defensive game. He looks like he can move the puck up ice too and made smart decisions with the puck. Wasn't really a guy I went into the game looking for, but came out noticing. The only player to finish with a plus rating for Belleville.

Stephen Silas (2010)
If I hadn't made it clear by listing him in my early top 10 for 2010 (as part of my top 30), I'm a big fan of this kid's game. I almost felt bad for him tonight as Lalonde's carelessness with the puck led to several odd man rushes against him, including a 2 on 0 that he had to break up. I think he's the complete package. Defensively, he's very sound positionally. He's not the biggest, but he manages to win all his battles in the corner by gaining position on forwards and getting the puck out. I also like that he's willing to use his body from time to time. He'll catch you with your head down every once in a while, which tells me has a bit of a mean streak. Once he gets stronger, I could see him developing that more at the defensive end. Offensively, he makes the smart play, whether it be a pass or a pinch. I think his pairing with Lalonde has somewhat limited his offensive capabilities in that he's not getting to rush the puck as much as he's capable of. This kid is a star.

Matthew Tipoff (2010, but 1990 born)
About the only Bulls forward creating offense tonight (and pretty much all season it seems). And as he should be, as a late 1990 born playing in his fourth season. If only all of Belleville's forwards had taken the step forward that Tipoff has. He buzzes around the ice, uses speed down the wing to take the puck to the net. He's willing to go to the net for a loose puck and he shows patience and skill with the puck on his stick. Scored a nice goal by out waiting Michael Zador to the ice and putting the puck over top of him. I wonder if he becomes a trade piece for the Bulls, should they decide to fully rebuild. He finished with a goal and an assist.

Philipp Grubauer (2010)
Was impressed by Grubauer tonight. I think he's made some great strides this year and does seem to be playing well. His defense left him hung out to try a lot tonight and he did a good job to keep them in the game. First goal he didn't have a chance on (Thomas'); perfect shot. Second goal was a redirect off his defenseman's back; no chance. Third goal was a juicy rebound off a two on one, but it was an awkward save and his defenseman (Lalonde) didn't pick up the trailer on the play; again no chance really. Fourth goal, a one timer off that beautiful pass by Pachis. That's four goals which he had little chance to stop. He did a good job of controlling his rebounds. He attacks the shooter and challenges them at the top of the blue ice. He's athletic and can go post to post with the splits. I like him and hope that playing on a poor team doesn't hurt his draft standing too much. He stopped 34 of 38 shots and took the loss.

Anyone have any thoughts on the game?