Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Thoughts on Belleville from December 18

Last night, the Belleville Bulls defeated the Niagara Ice Dogs 3-2 at home in Belleville. It was a high paced game that saw many scoring chances for each team. The Bulls managed to cling to a third period lead thanks to the remarkable goaltending of Mike Murphy, who made several highlight reel saves en route to preserving the lead and the win.

Again, oddly enough, Ryan was recently able to see Belleville, so one can make comparisons between what we saw.

Bjorn Krupp - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I've yet to be impressed with Krupp this season. He was probably at the worst I've seen him tonight. At least in the other times that I had seen him this season, he wasn't impressive because he was invisible. He was unimpressive tonight because he stuck out for the wrong reasons. Had two absolutely terrible giveaways infront of the Belleville net. One where he tried to make a pass from behind the net, but the pass was intercepted. The other where he tried to skate the puck out from behind his net and was driven off the puck by a forechecker. Luckily for him, neither time could Niagara capitalize. A lot of his trouble seems to be stemming from this inability to handle the puck. It's almost as if his confidence in doing so is low and he's making things too difficult for himself. On the plus side, he did make one nice defensive play on a one on one rush where a Niagara forward tried to drive around him, but was rubbed off the puck. In a sense, Krupp showed there why he is at least getting attention from NHL scouts (other than his last name). But in the end, his overall lack of many redeeming playing qualities should severely hold back his draft position. At least if I were drafting, and from the sounds of things Ryan as well, I wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole.

Cory Tanaka - Overager and NHL free agent

I think Cory Tanaka is going to get an NHL contract and I'm going to tell you why. He's a tireless forechecker, he's a great skater, he's strong on and off the puck despite his size disadvantage, and he's one of the best penalty killing forwards in the OHL, if not the best. His offensive skills aren't incredible, which is why he doesn't hit the scoresheet that often. But the other intangibles he brings, screams capable 4th liner/depth player. Every NHL team needs guys like Tanaka just as much as they need players who can score. He was all over the ice tonight, scored a goal, and was wearing the C in Eric Tangradi's absence.

Shawn Lalonde - Drafted by Chicago in 2008/68th

Lalonde was great tonight. He generally plays a more reserved game when paired with partner P.K. Subban, so it was great to see him taking more responsibility on offense. He scored on a beautiful end to end rush where he went through the entire Ice Dogs team and roofed it top corner on goaltender Mark Visentin. On this rush, he showed that extra gear and skating ability that he possesses. Defensively, he was rock solid too. He made a couple really nice plays to break up scoring chances, in particular using an active stick to break up a partial 2 on 1. Just a really smart player who I have no doubts will be an NHL'er in some capacity.

Stephen Johnston - Drafted by Detroit in 2008/181st

Despite the fact that he was a team leading -2 on the night and did not hit the scoresheet, he actually played a pretty solid game. Definitely one of the best skaters on the ice, and looks great on the big ice in Belleville. Attempted to drive to the net a few times using his speed on the outside, but ended up getting pushed off the puck. I think his strength is currently holding him back from being more involved on a consistent basis. I think he's still a really raw player who's only using his speed to try and generate offense as of now. But as he gets stronger and plays a larger role on the team, I think we'll see those offensive numbers climb because he has skill and he's not afraid to get his nose dirty.

Luke Judson - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I had never really noticed this guy before when seeing Belleville, but I thought he looked great on a line with Stephen Johnston. He matched Johnston's speed step for step, but was more successful in using his body to prevent defenders from getting to the puck. He was also aggressive on the forecheck and took the body a few times. Considering he's not getting a lot of playing time right now on a deep Belleville team, is he another diamond in the rough for Belleville? He certainly looked like a legit NHL draft prospect tonight.

Nick Palmieri - Drafted by New Jersey in 2007/79th

Is really excelling since the trade from Erie and is averaging a point per game for the first time in his OHL career. He was outstanding tonight, the best player on the ice for either team. Strength wise, and in the corners, he was a man among boys. I can't remember one time where he didn't come out from a battle in the corner with the puck on his stick. The most impressive thing about his game is how good a skater he is for a big man. When he gets going, there is almost no stopping him from getting to the net, at least at this level. In Erie, I never saw him use his size to his advantage as much as he did tonight, which has to be very promising to the Devils. His great play ended up paying off as he scored the eventual game winner on the powerplay off a nice one timer set up by Stephen Silas.

Andy Bathgate - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Bathgate was pretty good tonight. Showed a lot of hustle and was skating hard. He forechecked well and even forced a turnover on one occasion that lead to a scoring chance. He did a good job centering a line with Mashinter for most of the night and was able to play the cycling game that he likes to play. I'm not sure that I'd be using an NHL draft pick on him just yet, but I think he's a guy to pay attention to while Tangradi is away at the WJC's to see if he can step up his offensive production.

Bryan Cameron - Drafted by Los Angeles in 2007/82nd

I'm a big fan of Cameron's. And while he didn't have the greatest of games, he was still a factor. I think the thing that sticks out most for Cameron is his intelligence on the ice. He's a very slippery player who seems to always find himself in a position for a scoring chance in front of the net. It's almost like the puck and his stick are magnetically attracted to each other within 5 feet of the crease. He does a little bit of everything too, really solid all around player. He cycles well, he'll go to the net hard, and he's also pretty good defensively, as evidence by the fact that he was on the ice with 30 seconds left to help preserve the lead. I don't think he's ever going to be an NHL star, but I think he's going to find himself as a very useful secondary player who can be a consistent 20 goal scorer. Kind of reminds me a little bit of Andrew Brunette.

Stephen Silas - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Silas looked great tonight for a 2010 eligible defenseman. There is no wonder why he was named to the Ontario Under 17 team. He looked great at rushing the puck up the ice showcasing good skating ability. He also played the first powerplay unit with Shawn Lalonde and help set up the winning goal by Palmieri with a beauty pass right on the tape. Defensively, he didn't look out of place at all. He made smart decisions with the puck and wasn't getting outmuscled in the corners. He even made a great play on a rushing Chris DeSousa, using his stick and then his body to separate DeSousa from the puck, which is no easy feat. I think this guy is legit first round talent for 2010. For my money, he looked more comfortable than Erik Gudbranson in Kingston, although I'm not sure he's as good of an NHL prospect.

Matthew Tipoff - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

A late 1989 birthday, Tipoff has benefited greatly from this because he's been able to breakout offensively in his draft year. He looked very solid tonight. Was all over the ice, buzzing around and waiting for something to happen. He worked the cycle effectively and continuously found the front of the net waiting for a scoring chance. Even though he didn't hit the scoresheet, I've seen him do that earlier this season, so I know he can score. It's hard to gauge where he falls come draft day because of the fact that he's a late 89, but I'd harbor a guess and say he's at least an NHL mid rounder.

Brandon Mashinter - Overager and NHL free agent

Mashinter played in his first game after coming over in a trade from Kitchener that saw Tyler Randell leave the Bulls for the Rangers. Mashinter is a really big body who's been able to produce offensively this season. He drives hard to the net and is nearly impossible to separate from the puck in the corners. Thus he is an extremely effective player in the cycle and is ultimately a great addition by Bulls management. His skating is mediocore, but for the type of game he plays, I'm not sure it needs to be any better. As far as earning an NHL contract, I've seen less players get one, so I wouldn't be surprised if he did too.

Mike Murphy - Drafted in 2008 by Carolina/165th

What else can you say about Mike Murphy. It's funny because for the first two periods, he definitely wasn't having his best game. He was really fighting the puck and giving up some bad rebounds and looking awkward on a few other saves. But just when you think he's having an off game, he steals the show in the third period. To me, this is the mark that makes Murphy the best goaltender in the OHL. Belleville was badly outplayed in the last 10 minute of the game, but Murphy shut the door, including an absolute highlight reel save on Chris DeSousa with 7 seconds left. DeSousa was left all alone infront of the net, but couldn't beat Murphy who sprawled to make the save. I hear a lot of people criticize Murphy for his uncharacteristic style. Or should I say, his lack of conventional goaltending mechanics. But the bottom line is this, the guy can stop the puck. I also hear a lot of people say that he's lucky because he finds himself out of position a lot. But, someone can only be lucky so long before you have to start thinking they are good. The fact that Murphy makes so many of these highlight reel saves is a testament to his athleticism and his ability to read plays. Yes, before he gets to the next level, he's going to have to work on some things. He's going to have to not go down so early, and he's got to do a better job of controlling his rebounds. But I ask you this, what junior aged goaltender doesn't have something they need to work on? I then follow it up with the following question, how many of those goalies have the natural athletic ability of Murphy? If anything, I think this guy is only going to get better when a goaltending coach can really get him to fine tune some things. But what do I know?

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