Friday, January 30, 2009

Thoughts on Erie from January 29

The Erie Otters came to Niagara last night and whacked the Ice Dogs 5-3. The Otters controlled the majority of the play thanks to a very sloppy game from the Dogs. They also showed off why their penalty kill is tops in the league, as Erie limited Niagara to one goal on ten chances and also scored two short handed goals. Erie improves its record to 4-1 against Niagara this season.

Some thoughts on the Otters...

Mitch Gaulton - Drafted by the New York Rangers in 2008/171st

Gaulton was playing in only his 4th game of the season following reconstructive elbow surgery done during the summer. In fact, his return last week marked the first time he had played since the beginning of January in 2008. The former 4th overall OHL Priority selection still has a lot of promise if he can finally stay healthy. He had a pretty good game for someone who has to be pretty rusty. He used great speed to join the rush and buried a pass from Luke Gazdic for his first goal of the season in the first period. Defensively, he showed great positioning and a willingness to battle in the corners. On the downside, he was pretty careless with the puck at times and made a few bad passes that got intercepted and turned into odd man scoring chances. However, I'll chalk that up to rust.

Ryan O'Reilly - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I've been a somewhat harsh critic on O'Reilly in the past, questioning his skating ability and his willingness to use his size, but he had one hell of a game. I'm pretty sure he was out there for every single penalty kill (all 10 of them) and had short handed scoring chances on half of them. He scored a shorthanded goal when he stripped Drew Schiestel of the puck as he tried to rush up the ice and roofed it back hand on Mark Visentin during the breakaway. He also was a monster on the cycle and created a bunch of scoring chances driving to the net, using his size. I think his skating is still not outstanding, but I'm less concerned that it is going to effect his ability to be an NHL player. Colour me very impressed after a very strong game at both ends of the ice.

Tyler Hostetter - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Hostetter played an ok game defensively tonight. He did show me some things as to why he's getting some attention from the Central Scouting Bureau. He showed great skating ability as he joined the rush for a scoring chance, and he showed great lateral and backward mobility as he kept up with Alex Pietrangelo on one of his rushes into the zone, forcing him to peel off behind the net. He also showed good heart, blocking a Petro shot with his face and returning to the game after some repairs. On the downside, he was directly responsible for two breakaways, one of which ended in a goal. On the goal, a puck was lofted into the zone and he swung and missed a few times, then let Chris DeSousa get by him as he was able to chorale the puck and head on net for the breakway goal. On the other chance that did not lead to a goal, he simply fell while skating backwards, tripping over his own feet. Two things that could probably happen to any defenseman, however they did leave a bit of a black mark on his game tonight.

Shawn Szydlowski - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009 (but 1990 born)

Szydlowski was passed over in last years NHL draft, despite being one of the youngest players available. This season, the big 6'0, 213lbs winger, is 3rd in goals for Erie with 18 and 5th in points. He had a very strong game as he was very effective on the penalty kill with Ryan O'Reilly and also scored at even strength. He uses his size very well and skates pretty good for a big man. He was physical and worked the cycle well with O'Reilly, using his big frame to support the puck. With his progression this season, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on an NHL team's list for 2009.

Zack Torquato - Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 2007/178th

A lot has been made about Torquato's lack of development over the past couple of years. His point per game average has been decreasing over the course of the last 2 seasons after a solid 2006-07 season. The former high profile, 3rd overal OHL priority selection, has been criticized for never taking that step forward and becoming the top notch offensive player many expected him to become. That being said, he's still a solid player. He plays both ends of the ice, he's not afraid to mix it up and play physical, he pays the price infront of the net, he's a good skater and he does have goal scoring instincts. He's also the captain for Erie this season and has the team playing very well compared to more recent seasons. He still leads Erie in goals with 20, which is no minor accomplishment. He may never become that elite offensive player many envisioned, but he has a chance to be a well rounded third line contributor at the NHL level.

Luke Gazdic - Drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2007/172nd

Gazdic is a physical force on the ice. He hits everything that moves and brings energy to the ice every time he steps on it. His skating isn't outstanding, but he works hard and uses his size to protect the puck in order to compensate for his inability to pull away from defenders. He actually showed great playmaking skill tonight on the Mitch Gaulton goal, as he feathered a beautiful pass from the boards through Drew Schiestel to Gaulton for the goal. He's never going to be a big time offensive contributor at the NHL level, but he does have a chance to be an energy player for Dallas in the future.

Jaroslav Janus - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009 (but 1989 born)

Janus was passed over in last year's NHL draft after putting up only mediocre stats as a late 1989. Obviously, his incredible performance for Slovakia at the recent WJC's helped to put him on the map again. He is an incredibly athletic goaltender who loves to challenge shooters. He's also vastly improved his rebound control, which was part of his problem last season. He still has a tendency to go down to early and flop around, allowing shooters to go high on him, but he has the raw athletic abilities you like to see in a goaltender. I would definitely be surprised if he went unselected again in 2009.

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