Was at the Hershey Center tonight, watching the Majors take on the Barrie Colts. A good ol' fashion Central Division battle. Problem was, the game was a bit of a snooze fest. The Colts squeaked out a 1-0 victory, but largely dominated play. The Majors were outshot 35-23, despite having 8 powerplays. Ironically enough, the only goal of the game was an ugly one by Ivan Telegin, where he banked a puck off Brandon Maxwell from behind the net. The Colts probably should have had a few more goals, had it not been for a few hit posts and a couple nice saves from Maxwell.
Some quick thoughts on a few players from each side.
#5 - Aaron Ekblad (NHL Draft Eligible in 2014)
It's crazy to think of how young this kid is. He's an absolute behemoth. At 15 years of age, he looks like an established 4 year OHL veteran. Considering how comfortable he looks, it's absurd to think of how good he could end up being. He's already a very solid OHL defender who isn't afraid of pushing players around in front of the net or in the corners. Had a couple of nice hits tonight. He's pretty calm with the puck in his own end too and avoids the forecheck well. Offensively, he had some difficulty on the point tonight. Had a bouncing puck go by him that lead to a partial breakaway. Also couldn't really get his point shot through to the net. But considering how young he is, he's crazy good.
#14 - Tanner Pearson (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012, but third year eligible)
Maybe Barrie fans can help me out with this one, but when did the Colts start playing Pearson at center? First time I've seen it, and he actually looked good. He's such a smart player and sees the ice so well. His anticipation and reads make him a terrific playmaker. He gave his linemates (Colin Behenna and Anthony Camara) a couple of really nice feeds, but they couldn't finish. Playing center also showcased how strong of a two way player he's become too, as he was very committed on the backcheck, covering off for pinching defenseman. Had a couple of chances where he found room in the slot for a big shot, but couldn't hit the net. I think he was probably the best player on the ice.
#16 - Ivan Telegin (Drafted by Atlanta/Winnipeg)
Started off kind of slow, but got better as the game went on. He's such a big body and he's got big long strides, so once he gets going, he's really tough to stop. Had a couple of nice drives to the net. He scored the only goal of the game on a real ugly one. Got the puck behind the net and as he was cutting around, he flipped the puck up over the net on his backhand. It hit Maxwell in the back and rolled into the net. Did he mean to do it (sensing Maxwell wasn't really paying attention)? Or was he just trying to get the puck over the net back into the slot? We'll never know.
#19 - Mark Scheifele (Drafted by Winnipeg)
Scheifele was OK in the game. Mississauga's Trevor Carrick did a good job of keeping him under wraps tonight. Had a few scoring chances but nothing outrageous. Looked a little frustrated by the lack of space Mississauga was giving him. To be honest, I've been a little disappointed with his play this year, considering how impressed I was last year with him. While he's a terrific player, I'm not entirely sure he's progressed a ton this year.
#27 - Reid McNeill (Drafted by Pittsburgh)
McNeill played a really solid game. While his offensive game never really developed, I've seen good strides from his defensive game. He was quite physical tonight, laying the body any chance he could get. His above average mobility makes him a very effective defender too. Mississauga had a real tough time creating offense when he was on the ice.
#2 - Dylan DeMelo (Drafted by San Jose)
Definitely the best game I've seen DeMelo play this season. He was very good. He and partner Trevor Carrick were paired against the Scheifele line most of the night, and did a good job of neutralizing them. DeMelo had a couple of nice hits and did well to cover up some of Carrick's bad pinches. He was at his best at the point on the powerplay, where he was controlling the pace of play well and getting his shots through. Looked really composed back there. In the past times I've seen him this season, he's had some issue with the forecheck and turning the puck over in his own zone, but he had no turnovers tonight and was overall very solid.
#4 - Trevor Carrick (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
As I mentioned above, his offensive decision making wasn't at its best tonight. Had a couple of bad pinches that lead to odd man rushes, and was a little clumsy with the puck at the point on the powerplay. But defensively, he was very impressive. Was closely monitoring Mark Scheifele all night, and actually doing a pretty good job of pushing him around. Had one really nice hit on Scheifele as he tried to cut back to the middle of the ice on 1 on 1 rush and Carrick stepped up to take him out. The last few times I've seen him, he's definitely been impressive and there's no question that NHL Central Scouting was on to something when they rated him so highly in their preliminary rankings.
#13 - Sergey Kuptsov (NHL Draft Eligible in 2013)
Wasn't very good tonight. But then again, he wasn't really being put in a great spot to succeed, by bouncing around a bevy of different lines with different linemates. He also didn't see a ton of powerplay time (which continues to confuse me every time I see the Majors). I still think he has a lot of potential and hopefully he's given more of a chance next year in Mississauga.
#16 - Kristoff Kontos (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
Lots of speed, lots of hustle, but not a lot else. He's playing center now with Riley Brace and Jamie Wise, but I don't really think he's suited there. He just isn't a good enough playmaker and is better off using his speed to drive wide to the net, looking for loose pucks while playing the wing.