Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thoughts on Saginaw from October 25 vs. Niagara

Last Saturday the Saginaw Spirit came to the Garden City to take on the Ice Dogs and were defeated 5-4. Was my first time seeing the Spirit this season. Here are my thoughts on some of the Spirit players...

Adam Comrie (Drafted 2008 by Florida/80th)

He was every bit as impressive as the times I saw him last year, maybe more so. He scored a goal with a huge blast from the point. He looks a lot more confident in using his shot this year. He's always had that big cannon from the point, but he looks more anxious to use it. He was unleashing it all night on the Ice Dogs. It's actually quite accurate too and he generated a few scoring chances off it later in the game. He also looks more confident in using his strong skating ability to rush the puck up the ice this year. He was joining the rush a lot more than I saw him doing last year. I think this is good because as mentioned his skating ability allows him to join the rush, but also get back on defense. Defensively he was solid and remains a very solid positional player. Ideally, because of his size, I'd still like to see him become more aggressive physically. But he's not timid out there either. His puck skills skill need a bit of work though. Comrie still looks kind of stiff when he's handling the puck, especially at the point on the powerplay. In terms of a player comparison. I think it's pretty tough to say. I think the one guy Comrie may remind me of, or at least has the chance to develop into, is Sami Salo. Good two way player, works the point with a hard shot, and is a big guy who can skate and lay the body.

Nick Crawford (Drafted 2008 by Buffalo/164th)

Crawford was another guy that impressed me a lot. Can't say I ever really noticed him much last season, but he was very noticeable on Saturday. As evidenced by his 3 assists, he moved the puck very well with a good first pass. He also has the skating and puck handling ability to rush the puck up the ice with confidence. He saw a ton of powerplay time and was definitely the Spirit's go to guy, playing the full 2 minutes in some instances. Defensively, he was alright. He took the body a few times, but also got caught a few times in making pinches. When he moves on to the next level, he'll definitely need to add some strength because he got outworked a few times infront of the net and in the corners. But as a puck moving defenseman, he definitely appears to have NHL upside.

Jack Combs (Undrafted Overager)

Combs has already impressed me. He attended the prospect and training camp of the Colorado Avalanche this year but failed to earn a contract, thus his return to Saginaw for his overage year. They must be happy to have him back though. He's a great offensive player, particularily a great playmaker. He can skate fairly well and really seems to have a head for the game. He was in on all four of Saginaw's goals Saturday evening. Defensively he isn't quite as involved, but I'm sure this is an area he'd like to improve upon as well. And physically, he seems to get involved and isn't afraid to go to the net, which is what you like to see with somewhat undersized players. I'd be really surprised if he doesn't get an NHL contract after this season, especially considering some of the names that did last offseason (cough, Justin Soryal, cough).

Jordan Skellet (Undrafted 89)

Skellet is another guy that I enjoy watching play. Was always impressed with him when the Otters came to St. Catharines last year. He's a bit of a pest out there and is always buzzing around the ice looking for either an opportunity to score or an opportunity to hit someone. He drives to the net with and without the puck. He's undersized, but he skates fairly well and is involved in many different aspects of the game. He's had a great start to his year with Saginaw after sitting out the start of the year, while he waited for a trade from Erie. If he keeps this up, and as long as NHL teams don't blacklist him for his trade demand, he should begin to get serious sniffs from NHL teams, at least as maybe a late round draft pick in the coming years.

Chris Chappell (Undrafted Overager)

Another guy who really impressed me. He had a hell of a game. Chappell is their captain and a guy who's looking like a serious breakout candidate. Career high before this game was 14 goals (last season). He's already got 9. He's a big monster, listed at 6'4, 212. But he can skate. Blew through the Ice Dogs defense for one of his two goals on the night. Had other scoring opportunities as well. Looks to be a big strong guy with good skill. Not sure how he managed to put up so few points before this season. Definitely a guy to watch.

Jordan Szwarz (2009 Eligible)

Szwarz never hit the scoresheet, but he impressed me at times. Was more so a factor at the beginning of the game, but you can tell he has skill. Looked like a very good skater who was elusive and could find the openings for scoring chances. Just missed wiring one top corner on one attempt in the slot. Other times he was invisible and not involved physically. So he appears to be an enigma, not unlike many draft eligible players in this league. But he's off to a good start this year and looks to be a guy who'll find himself somewhere on the draft radar.

Edward Pasquale (2009 Eligible)

Pasquale didn't start the game. The Spirit gave the start to rookie Joe Lepara, who lasted a few minutes into the 2nd period. But Pasquale is a solid goaltender. He's a very big presence in the net and makes himself even bigger when he comes out to challenge shooters. Only let in one goal, the game winner by Chris DeSousa. He really kept Saginaw in the game and allowed them to get back into it and tie it up. Wasn't incredibly flashy but, as long as he's stopping pucks, that's all that matters. It'll be an interesting race to see who emerges as the top draft eligible goalie. But it definitely looks like Pasquale is in the mix.

That's all I've got. Now if you're asking yourself, why are all these reports positive. Don't get used to it. It's just that the main Saginaw guys did look fairly solid. I could have wrote a very negative report about rookie goalie Joe Lepara, but I chose to spare him that. The one guy I really wish I could have seen was T.J. Brodie. He didn't play in the game, but has had a great start to his season.

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