Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thoughts on the Mississauga Majors from December 13

The Ice Dogs had a home and home with the Mississauga Majors this weekend, losing both games. In this one, the Dogs blew a third period lead, and gave up the game winning goal with 22 seconds left, losing 4-3. It was a relatively unexciting game, which is rare for a match up between these two rivals.

Ryan Yessie reported on the Majors last week, so it's interesting to see how our reports match up on some of the players...

Tim Billingsley - Drafted in 2008 by Phoenix/189th

I've never been terribly impressed with Billingsley. He's rather invisible on the ice and this game presented nothing different. He doesn't play a lot on the powerplay, he doesn't rush the puck up the ice, and I've always felt his physical play was overrated. Often you hear of this being a compliment to a defenseman because it means they aren't screwing up. But I don't agree. To me, players who don't stand out above their competition at this level scream average to me. And while he made strides offensively last season, which likely earned him a draft selection, he's still pointless this season. Quite frankly, as harsh as it sounds, I don't see him as a significant professional player, if at all.

Brett Flemming - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Was very impressive, I thought. Showed a really solid skating ability, in particular defensively. Moves around effortlessly on the ice and had a couple nice rushes into the offensive zone. Played on the top powerplay unit with Cameron Gaunce and these two showed pretty good chemistry. On the powerplay, Flemming was able to get the puck on net a few times with a good low shot. He also made one really nice slap pass to Jesse Messier who fanned on the shot attempt. If it was a more skilled player, it probably would have been in the back of the net, no offense to Messier. Defensively he didn't make any mistakes, nor did he look undersized at 5'11. I think this guy is definitely going to be an NHL draft pick come June, as I've been impressed with his play in every game I've seen of him this season.

Casey Cizikas - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I'm not sure what to make of this guy. Everytime I've seen him this season, he's impressed me greatly. But I keep hearing a lot of negative things about him, regarding his skill and effort level. So I looked, and Cizikas actually has over half his points this season against Niagara. Maybe that explains it! Regardless, I can only comment on what I've seen. Cizikas was all over the ice tonight. Showed great speed carrying the puck into the offensive zone. Was the first forward into the offensive zone forechecking hard. His line of Cizikas, Rinaldo and Smith-Pelly was the most dangerous on the ice. He scored a nice shorthanded goal after taking the puck off Dog defenseman Drew Schiestel at the blueline. He was physical, in particular along the boards during the cycle. He finished the game with 2 goals and 1 assist (same stat line in an earlier game this season versus Niagara). Even if he might have consistency issues, he's got that ability to be a big factor every night if he wants to be.

Michael Pelech - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009, but 1989 born

Never been a big fan of Pelech. He's only a mediocore skater which really holds his game back, since he likes to have the puck on his stick. I find him to be a very selfish player who tends to overhandle the puck in the offensive zone. I'm not sure how many times he coughed up the puck in the game trying to gain access into the offensive zone, instead of simply dumping it in. I don't think he is a serious professional hockey prospect.

Zac Rinaldo - Drafted in 2008 by Philadelphia/178th

Rinaldo is what he is. He skates hard, he hits hard, he'll drop the gloves and he's not afraid to drive to the net. While his offensive skills aren't quite at that level that permits him to be a big factor offensively, his work ethic ensures that he is at least highly involved in the play. His line (with Cizikas and Smith-Pelly) showed a ton of grit and were highly successful in playing the puck possession/cycle game. Rinaldo does need to work on his defensive game, though. If he wants to make the NHL, he's going to have to become a 4th line sparkplug, which means that all areas of his game have to be strong. If he's a defensive liability, he's not going to get those minutes at the next level. From all things I've heard, Philly has been happy with his progress this year, especially after he opened some eyes at their prospect camp.

Jordan Mayer - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I think that a lot of people, myself included, thought that Mayer would have been putting up better offensive stats so far this season. He became a big member of the Majors offense in the second half of last season after coming over from Tier 2 Kingston. But, those offensive numbers aren't really up from last season. He is however seing only 3rd line minutes right now, trying to provide secondary scoring for Mississauga. I did think he was very impressive in the game though. Showed a lot of speed, especially on the forecheck. Had a couple nice scoring chances too. If he were with some better offensive players (was seing a lot of time with Kyle Neuber last night), he might be putting up some better numbers.

Devante Smith-Pelly - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Smith-Pelly was the 8th overall pick in the 2008 priority draft and looked really good out there tonight. He was the third member of that highly effective grind line with Rinaldo and Cizikas. He looked quick on his feet and was not afraid to get his nose dirty, which is something you like to see from a 16 year old player. Strength wise, he never got overmatched either, and was able to work the cycle very effectively. Looks like he's on the way to becoming a solid prospect.

Cameron Gaunce - Drafted in 2008 by Colorado/50th

Gaunce is just a real steady defenseman. Solid in every espect of the game, but not outstanding or overwhelming in any area either. But don't associate the fact that he doesn't overwhelm you with that fact that he might be invisible. He's on the ice a ton, plays on the first powerplay and penalty killing units. He rarely gets beaten one on one, and he rarely loses a race to the puck. I think his skating and speed are a bit underrated. I've heard some people say they have concerns about his skating, but I think it's fine. He shows a willingness to lead the rush and once he gets going, his speed aids him in gaining entry to the zone. However, he also does a great job of protecting the puck with his big body. However, I do agree that he needs to improve his acceleration in order to play the role of puck rusher at the next level. The two things I always say about Gaunce are that I find he tends to fall asleep in coverage sometimes, and that I wish he was more physical with his frame. Tonight again, he was directly responsible for an Ice Dog goal where he lost Andrew Shaw infront of the net and he had an easy tap in goal off a rebound. I don't know whether it's that he's falling asleep in coverage, or whether he's reluctant to play physically and really overpower his man. Or maybe it's a combination. Gaunce was also uncharacteristically sloppy with the puck tonight too, but that's not something you normally see from him. I agree with Ryan Yessie in that I see Gaunce carving out a nice NHL career as a 4-5 defenseman who can play a little bit in all situations.

Chris Carozzi - Drafted in 2008 by Atlanta/154th

For some reason or another, I can't help but always feel underwhelmed by Carozzi. He's solid technically and always makes himself square to the shooter. His rebound control is good and he's aggressive in challenging shooters. His weakest area is definitely his five hole, as many of the goals I see scored on him are five hole. And while he doesn't have a lot of weaknesses, he's underwhelming in that I've never seen him flat out steal a game for his team. He gives his team a chance to win nearly every night, but I've never seen him turn in a dominant performance where he completely shuts the door. A lot of the time, you'll hear people say that about NHL goalies, and people will be happy with their play because while they may not be flashy, they give their team a chance to win. But in the OHL, I expect to see some of the top goalie prospects flat out steal games for their team. Some of the best goalies in the OHL like Mike Murphy, Thomas McCollum and Trevor Cann all do this. And that is what holds Carozzi back from being named at that level.


On another note, I've heard that Majors forward William Wallen has started skating again and is expected to start playing again after the new year. Wallen is a solid 2009 draft prospect who suffered a brain hemorrhage after the 4th game of the season and had successful emergency surgery to fix it. The Swedish import forward is an incredibly talented offensive player whom I hope shows no ill effects of his injury and can make a full return to hockey.

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