Monday, December 26, 2011

Trade Deadline Preview

I thought about doing this article as a Sunday Top 10, but decided against it. Mostly because the trading situation in the OHL this season is bound to be incredibly complicated and difficult to predict. There are as many as 10 teams who could be legitimate sellers, depending on what direction they take. Just the same, some of those very teams could actually end up as buyers (like the Oshawa Generals or Owen Sound Attack). Too many teams on the bubble, which also leaves us with an interesting buying scenario. The parity in the league is quite fascinating.

As any of you who follow the OHL know, trading can also be complicated due to the restrictions on overage players. Teams can dress only three every game. So the first thing I'll breakdown is who has the room to acquire an overager. RED means they won't (in all likelihood) be acquiring an overager. Green means they could. Only going with possible buyers here.

Barrie Colts - They have an excess of overagers, but really Daniel Erlich and Colin Behenna are the only key ones. Even if Norm Ezekiel is a favourite of Dale Hawerchuk, he's by no means a surefire OHL'er.

Belleville Bulls - Three overagers playing a key role already, including captain Luke Judson.

Brampton Battalion - They'll already have too many when Ian Watters returns from injury.

Kitchener Rangers - Three solid OA's including captain Mike Catenacci.

London Knights - Playing with only one overager right now, the newly converted to defense Colin Martin. If they decide to buy, they've got a ton of wiggle room.

Niagara IceDogs - Already have three of the best overage forwards in the league.

Oshawa Generals - Just acquired Peter Hermenegildo to fill their remaining OA spot.

Ottawa 67's - Are currently carrying three OA's, but only Marc Zanetti is a truly worthy one. Ben Dubois is useful too, but Daniel Broussard is expendable.

Owen Sound Attack - Three solid OA's, but Scott Stajcer is still a possible trade target. Too complicated to give a green light.

Peterborough Petes - Yogan, West, and Jasper make up a solid OA group.

Plymouth Whalers - Maybe the best OA group in the league with Bathgate, Devane, and Schmitz.

Sarnia Sting - Acquiring Brett Thompson earlier this season maximized their OA situation.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - Three contributing OA's, but if an upgrade over Mike Schwindt is available, they could likely be enticed.

Examining the above would suggest that, at the very most, it is possible that 5 overagers could be moved between now and the deadline. Let's look at some names.

Mike Cazzola - Injuries have killed him this year, and he's out again with a broken wrist. But he's scheduled to come back after the Xmas holiday. He's a very talented offensive player and would generate interest if the price tag isn't too high (because of the injury woes this year). He'd look great in a place like Ottawa, where he could help provide secondary scoring.

Stephen Gaskin - Playoff experience with Barrie two years ago, Gaskin is a solid defender who could provide leadership to a defense that may need it. He might look good in London, or as an upgrade over Schwindt in the Soo.

Tyler J. Brown - Solid two way player who's upped the offensive ante this year. He'd look good in any of the above destinations (except London where he's ineligible to go due to a trade restriction).

Andy Andreoff - ONLY if the Generals are selling, which I don't think they will. But obviously he'd provide a huge boost to any of the above lineups, especially a team like London who could use the size.

Scott Stajcer - None of the above teams need a goaltender, which makes trading Stajcer hard. Which is probably why it hasn't happened yet. Oshawa is the most talked about destination, but they'd have to move a guy like Andreoff or Maggio first (or in exchance for Stajcer).

Josh Shalla - I'm not convinced Saginaw is selling because their playing well again. But if they do, Shalla's goalscoring talents would look great in any of the above destinations, especially in a place like the Soo...who desperately need goal scoring help.

Josh McFadden - McFadden's pure offensive ability make him a terrific powerplay QB and an effective 5 on 5 player if paired with a stay at home guy. Doubt he moves though.

Adrian Robertson - Even if he's become the whipping boy of Spits fans, he's still a solid defenseman who's being asked to do too much right now. He can play in all situations and has the playoff experience with Windsor from last year. He'd be a perfect pick up for a team like Barrie who could use another experienced defender.

Outside of OA's, you've got the three BIG guns on bad teams that everyone has been talking about moving for the past few months.

Greg McKegg - With how bad Erie is this year, they'd be absolutely insane to not move McKegg. In return, they'd likely get at least one very solid young player to help build a solid young core for the future.

Ryan Spooner - Ditto for Spooner in Kingston. However, his bout with mono complicates things. It might have lowered his trade value a bit, but he should still bring back a King's ransom.

Brandon Saad - Again, I'm not convinced Saginaw is a seller, but if they are, Saad is a damn attractive piece for any team to add. So long as he can avoid the injury bug like he hasn't been able to this year so far.

Then we have two teams who COULD be sellers...or even buyers. The Mississauga Majors got off to such a strong start, but have floundered lately (more like come back to Earth). But they have some solid pieces if they want to start the youth movement early. While the Oshawa Generals have been the biggest disappointment in the league. They too have some VERY attractive pieces, if they decide to start a rebuild (already mentioned Andy Andreoff above).

Riley Brace - While he's cooled lately, Brace has had an excellent season and has turned himself into one of the better two way forwards in the league. He should definitely be back for an overage season, making him a guy who should have a fairly high price tag.

Joseph Cramarossa - While he's a 92 and a recent draftee, I'd be surprised if he wasn't back in the OHL next year. Like Brace, he's a solid two way forechecker and a guy who could definitely help fill out a line up in a second or third line role.

J.P. Anderson - The market for goaltenders isn't exactly there right now. But if made available, I'm sure he'd generate interest...such as if Oshawa decides to buy.

Devante Smith-Pelly - Does he go back to the NHL after the WJC's? Or return to Mississuaga? Who really knows. If he does come back to the OHL (If I was a betting man, I'd bet against it), he would likely be among the most attractive trade pieces in the league.

Christian Thomas - Dynamic scorer who finally turned a corner in December. He could bring back quite the load in a trade.

We'll all know soon enough, when the trade deadline hits us in a few weeks. Any predictions from the readers out there?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Rosters Announced

As the headline suggests, the participants of the 2012 CHL Top Prospects Game were announced today.

You can find the rosters HERE.

Remarkably enough, the OHL has 21 players involved in the prestigious event. That's just over 50%. Just for comparison sake, The QMJHL has 9 players involved, while the WHL has 10. Pretty crazy stuff.

Really no surprises on the roster. Great to see Tanner Pearson get an invite.

Which team looks stronger on paper? Orr or Cherry?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Team Canada Named for the 2012 WJC's

The final cuts were made this morning, leaving us with the finalized Team Canada roster for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships.

The roster includes 10 OHL Players. You can find it HERE

What makes the selection camp and team unveiling so exciting, is the unpredictability about it. Three guys I had identified as longshots prior to camp (Wedgewood, Jenner, Harrington), all cracked the final roster.

Congrats to all those that made it and good luck in Edmonton/Calgary. Be sure to tune in on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) when Canada takes on Finland to open the tournament!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Team Canada Selection Camp - What are the Odds?

The selection camp for the 2012 version of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships will begin next week. Last week, Hockey Canada announced the roster of those who will be competing for spots (HERE).

So let's take a closer look at it. Who has the best odds of making this team? Who are the longshots? Let's not forget that there are no locks. Anybody who follows the World Juniors knows that nobody's spot on this team is guaranteed.

Virtual Locks (While nobody is a lock, these guys have to be considered as close as you can get).

Mark Visentin
Some may be surprised to see Visentin in this category. But here's my thinking. Visentin has a lot of things going against him. He hasn't played terrific this year. And everyone still blames the Gold medal game collapse on him from last year. But let's not forget he was the team's starter last year. And he was the goaltender of the year in the OHL last season. He is talented. And as rough as his start to this season has been, he's been much better lately (.927 Sv % and a 5-2 record in his last 7). And if there is one thing that Mark Visentin is, it's mentally tough. He's a very focused young man and he'll be determined to get that starter's job again and prove all of his doubters wrong.

Dougie Hamilton
Not only does he have a terrific chance of making this team, he has a chance to be the team's top defenseman. Hamilton is having an absolutely fantastic year. He's running away with the defenseman scoring race in the OHL...and he's tied for 6th in the entire OHL in scoring. He's also stepped up his defensive game and is playing like a man among boys out there on most nights. His fantastic mobility and ability to play both ways make him a terrific option from the back end.

Mark Scheifele
Good enough to start the year in the NHL...good enough for team Canada? That argument likely holds some ground. But you can add to the fact that since returning to the OHL, Scheifele is up near the top of the league in points per game and has looked fantastic at both ends of the ice. His versatility makes him that much stronger of an option. He's a likely fit for one of the top two lines, but his strong play away from the puck also makes him an option on a checking line should Hockey Canada feel that they have too many pure scoring options.

Ryan Strome
I'm not sure he's as much of a lock for this team as many people are suggesting, but he's still a pretty good bet. He hasn't had a terrific year thus far and it appears that he hasn't made the significant strides from last year that many expected. He's going to have to win a spot on one of the team's top two lines to be effective. One thing that is heavily in his favor is that he is fully capable of playing the wing, and looks comfortable there at times...which is more than you can say for some centerman.

Good Chance

Ryan Murphy
He's back...and he's dangerous. Murphy's puck carrying ability and offensive production from the back end would be a huge boost to Team Canada. Now that he's fully healthy, a lot of people are just assuming he'll be on the team and probably should be on my above list of virtual locks. But let's not forget that Hockey Canada has never been the biggest fan of Murphy and that his offensive style can be a bit risky at times. When you have guys like Hamilton, Nathan Beaulieu, Brandon Gormley, Ryan Murray, etc, who can play both ends of the ice equally, you wonder if Hockey Canada is interested in a purely offensive guy? Or at least...a guy still developing his defensive game.

Jamie Oleksiak
From what I've seen of him this year, I'm really not sure he deserves to be in this category. But I've got him here based on what I'm hearing. And Hockey Canada apparently loves this guy and the simplicity with which he plays the game. He's huge and can actually skate, which makes him a potential defensive stalwart at the international level. He's also smart in using his size, which makes him less of a penalty risk than some of the hulking defenders Canada has brought in the past.

Freddie Hamilton
I think Hamilton has a terrific chance of making this team because of his versatility. He has the hands and offensive smarts to play in the top 6, but he could also be a terrific role player for this team on the checking lines. Hockey Canada has traditionally loved these types. Pair this with his excellent performance at the Subway Super Series event, and I think Hamilton could definitely be on the final roster.

Tanner Pearson
He's got a better chance than people are giving him credit for. And I'd absolutely love to see him make the team because of the story it would supply. Pearson has become just a terrific offensive player. When he's on the ice, things happen. Plain and simple. He'd also make the team's powerplay that much stronger. Couple that with the chemistry he has with Mark Scheifele and I think we could easily see him, not just on the team, but on a scoring line.

Christian Thomas
Thomas has a lot of things going for him. He's obviously one of the best pure goal scorers at the camp and could easily slot on one of the team's top lines. But he's also a tenacious forechecker and energy guy who could just as easily slot in on one of the team's checking lines to provide speed and energy. Again, his versatility makes him a very attractive option. He hasn't had a terrific year, with his slow start and suspension, but he's picking it up as of late (with 6 goals and 4 assists in his last 5 games).

Tyler Toffoli
Toffoli is an interesting case. On a lot of prognostications for the team, I'm seeing him on the first or second line...or I'm not seeing him on the roster at all. I'd say that's probably pretty accurate. Toffoli is what he is. He can score with the best of them, but he's not someone who will likely find success on your checking line. So he'll need a strong camp to make this team (but then again, who doesn't).


Scott Wedgewood
There is no doubt that the goaltending spots for Team Canada this year are wide open. But there is also no doubt that Wedgewood is the biggest underdog among those attending. He's a solid goaltender and he's been better as of late (after starting the year slow). But I just can't help but think he could be a bit over his head.

Cody Ceci
Ceci is a terrific NHL prospect for this year's draft. He's also older than most of the other 2012 eligibles (with a 1993 birth date). But I just don't think he's ready for the prime time yet. His defensive game has come a long way, but it's still developing. And offensively, there are better options right now...or at least more experienced options (like Ryan Murphy).

Scott Harrington
I'll relate Harrington's situation to Ceci's. Harrington is having a solid bounce back year, as he's simplified his game again and found his confidence. But he won't be on this team for offensive reasons. At this point, he's strictly a defense first guy. But does Canada have better (and bigger) options for the stay at home spots. Or do they have more well rounded guys who can play defense, but also chip in offensively. I would say yes.

Boone Jenner
Jenner is a solid checking line center. But he's playing for a position on the team that is the hardest to achieve. Canada is always deep at the center position and despite all things Jenner can do for you...there are currently guys available who can do more and have more experience.

Ryan Spooner
I think he's probably less of a longshot than the guys I've got listed ahead of him. I originally had him in my "Good chance" category...but I switched him at the last second. Why, you ask? I think Spooner is a bit of a tweener on this team. He's been red hot lately, but I think there are guys who are better offensively available to this team. And while he works hard away from the puck, I think there are guys available who are better defensively and away from the puck. In essence, he seems like a guy without a role.

What do you think?