Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thoughts on Kingston from November 23

This afternoon, the Kingston Frontenacs came to Niagara to take on the Ice Dogs. It was the first meeting of the season for the two clubs. It was a very exciting game that went back and forth, but ended with a 6-5 Ice Dog victory in the shootout. It was the first shootout victory of the season for the Ice Dogs, whom had lost four prior to this contest.

Here are my thoughts...

Ethan Werek (NHL Draft Eligible 2009)

Looking at the stat lines of the season thus far, I think it's pretty safe to say that this was Werek's best game of the season. He was the best player on the ice tonight for either team. Werek showed an ability to play a really solid all around game. He showed some great speed, especially with the puck on his stick. Both of his goals were scored off wrist shots while he was driving towards the net. The first one was a tough pass that he almost fanned on, but got enough on it to get it past an out of position John Cullen. The second one was a relatively weak goal that was scored on a floating wrist shot as he cut across the blueline towards the net. Regardless of the fact that both of his goals could have likely been stopped, he looked good doing it and showed good hands. He also forechecked hard and his line really worked the cycle well, tiring out the Ice Dog defense all day. Defensively, he backchecked, and physically he was involved, laying a couple hits. Color me very impressed in my first viewing of Werek. However, I've heard that he has been quite the enigma this season and for every game he has like this, he's invisible the next. Even if that is the truth, he showed today that he at least has the skills and is worthy of the draft hype he is receiving.

Josh Brittain (Drafted in 2008 by Anaheim/71st)

I thought Josh Brittain had a good game. He had one goal which was a garbage goal that he banged home in a goal mouth scramble. But he was physical all night and was very effective on the forecheck. I thought that his skating definitely looked improved from last season, and he's driving to the net with more conviction. For such a big guy, he actually moves pretty well now. The rest of his line had trouble getting things going today, but I was pretty happy with Brittain's level of play. I think he's a really underrated prospect who should have been drafted higher than he was last June.

Matthew Kang (Overager and NHL free agent)

Outside of Werek, Kang was definitely the Fronts best player tonight. He was buzzing all over the ice, showcasing his solid stick handling ability. He carries the puck with ease and in the offensive zone, he does a great job of keeping the puck on his stick to make things happen. His goal was an absolute beauty. He intercepted a pass, drove past an Ice Dog defender and roofed it on the goalie glove side. He's got a lot of offensive skill and I've always wondered why he has never put up better offensive stats. He's not really all that undersized, and he's actually a great skater. He's not soft either and will go into the corners to win battles. I like him as a player, always have and I hope he gets a chance to earn a contact with an NHL team this offseason at a training camp.

Nathan Moon (Drafted in 2008 by Pittsburgh/120th)

In all honesty, I'm not his biggest fan. He has offensive skills, but I question his hockey sense. I find he tends to over handle the puck, rather than making the simple play. I also think that he's soft and an incredibly one dimensional player who has a tendency to float near the redline for passes. Over the course of his OHL career, he's grown into a little bit of a pest who gets under the nerves of opposing teams defenders. Today he injured Ice Dog goaltender John Cullen after falling on him in the crease. Ice Dog forward Chris Desousa gave him a little shove for slashing Cullen after he had covered the puck, but he appeared to embellish and flopped down on Cullen as if Zdeno Chara had just hit him. Earlier in the game, he drew a penalty on a huge dive in the corner on a similar play, when an Ice Dog defender pushed him off the puck and he flopped down as if he had been shot. There has been a lot of talk that he's on the trade market in the OHL and quite frankly I don't find it surprising. But maybe he could learn a little bit of something from new coach Doug Gilmour. I just don't think he's a future NHL calibre forward.

Taylor Doherty (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

Doherty probably played the best game I've ever seen him play tonight. He kept things simple in the defensive zone, electing to make the safe and smart pass. He had a couple really nice stretch passes that started the rush, one in particular on the aforementioned Werek floating wrist shot. He is actually starting to look a little more comfortable rushing the puck too, going from blueline to blueline impressively late in the game. The big attraction to Doherty is that for a 6'8 monster, he's a great skater with an effortless stride. Big, lanky guys like Doherty can often be choppy and awkward looking skaters. Defensively he was good and took the body hard, as he always does. He managed to refrain from taking any stupid penalties, except for one in overtime. He tripped up Alex Pietrangelo in the defensive zone, but actually the penalty stemmed not from him getting beat per say, but from an effort to stick check, rather than taking himself out of position on a hit, like I've seen him do before. He's a project, but he's got a lot of skills that NHL scouts look for, which is obviously why someone is going to take him with a relatively high draft selection in 2009.

Erik Gudbranson (NHL Draft Eligible in 2010)

It's pretty easy to see why this kid is projected to be a very high selection in the 2010 draft. He's got a lot of skill. At 6'3, he's likely to continue growing and is already a very strong skater with great closing speed. He ran the point on nearly every Kingston powerplay and looked very comfortable using his shot to create scoring opportunites. This is exactly what happened on the aforementioned Josh Brittain goal, which was a rebound off Gudbranson's shot from the slot. Defensively, he made a couple really nice plays, and a couple bonehead rookie mistakes. I'll start with the nice play. Andrew Agozzino broke into the Kingston with speed on a one on one situation with Gudbranson. He tried to get past Gudbranson, but he stood his ground and pushed him off the puck. However, on the first dogs goal, he was completely at fault. He lost his man in the defensive zone and appeared lost and confused, but his man was infront of the net for the easy tap in. Obviously for a rookie and such a young defenseman, you are going to get these type of mistakes. The important thing is that Gudbranson's talent level is quite high. Definitely a guy to watch in the future.

Just as a side note, Ice Dogs defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been absolutely amazing since his return from the OHL. He's playing like a man among boys. He's looking incredibly confident in rushing the puck and is making things happen offensively everytime he touches the puck. The guy has 3 goals and 6 assists in the 4 games since his return.

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