Monday, February 2, 2009

A New Contributor and His Thoughts on Ottawa/London from February 1

First I would like to introduce you to Sean Keogh. He will be joining Ryan and I to bring you even more coverage of OHL prospects. Sean is a former writer for HockeysFuture and an avid CHL, not just OHL, follower. He currently lives in Ottawa so the game reports he will supply us with will come from watching the 67's take on opponents at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

Below is his report...

The London Knights are probably the most hyped junior team in the country yet again, and for good reason considering all the talent they have. In today’s game the 67s neutralized their skill for the most part and outworked them en route to a huge 4-3 victory. The star of the game was Logan Couture who was dominant in every aspect of the game, and the biggest disappointment was arguably John Tavares. Below are my thoughts on selected players for both teams.

John Tavares – YOB: 1990 - Draft Eligible 2009

Obviously Tavares needs no introduction or talent analysis because he’s a known commodity. In this game however, he was unimpressive, if not poor. Although he scored a goal to tie it up in the third period, he struggled the rest of the game. He tried several cutesy moves that were easily stopped, was routinely stifled one-on-one by Julien Demers and displayed a measure of frustration as the game wore on. As a result he started yapping at opponents and got involved in some skirmishes. His goal showed again that with some time and space he can and will score, but more was expected. His skating has improved but he will need to upgrade his balance and lower body strength as a professional. Although he had a goal and an assist, it was an underwhelming performance from JT.

Nazem Kadri – YOB: 1990 – Draft Eligible 2009

Was probably London’s most impressive player in the first half of the game, then got a diving call and a ten minute misconduct and was a bit off his game afterwards. His skating, particularly his acceleration, is good, and he’s fairly elusive with the puck. Although I have seen his slick stickhandling on display before, it was not too evident in this game. Also, Kadri displayed nice energy and his usual willingness to play physical hockey. The questions about his hockey sense and finishing ability again came up in my mind. Kadri is very good at breaking out and coming through the neutral zone, but little comes of it. At worst he’s a third line center though, but that’s not what you want in a top ten pick, as he is projected to be.

Phil Varone – YOB: 1990 – Draft Eligible 2009

For the second half of the game, Varone was probably London’s most impressive forward. He had several nice bursts, and is willing to drive to the net when he gets a step on a blueliner wide. It was he, not Tavares or Kadri, who was arguably the catalyst for the Knights’ third period surge. He had a goal and an assist, but also took a late hitting from behind penalty, ending London’s hopes of tying it up. I would want to see him again from a different perspective in the rink to get a grasp of just how high I would take him.

Phil McRae – YOB: 1990 – St. Louis 2nd round pick, 2008.

It seems as though Tavares’ arrival has resulted in less ice-time and responsibility for McRae. While he was generally uninvolved and had little impact on the game, McRae still demonstrates the tools that he has. Along with good size and solid all-round skating ability, he ripped a couple of nice shots. I could see why St. Louis took him so high last year, but he did not appear to be a core player for London.

Zac Rinaldo – YOB: 1990 – Philadelphia 6th round pick, 2008

Rinaldo’s performance was not exactly what I expected from him. He had one big hit but was not a pest or a shift disturber in the Stefan Della Rovere or Patrick Kaleta way. On the powerplay he played the front of the net and got a goal, albeit a weak one, as a result. Overall he played reasonably well as a complimentary player on a scoring line.

Daniel Erlich – YOB: 1991 – Draft Eligible 2009

It’s impossible to be invisible when you are as small as Erlich is. Even his listed 5’6” might be exaggerated. He was fairly involved in the play and showed good offensive ability. Thanks to having to survive in spite of his size, he always has his head up and sees the ice well. The decision to play him on the point of the powerplay is questionable though, as he is far too small and weak to defend at all and it almost cost the Knights a couple of goals. Unfortunately for Erlich, he is half a foot too small, and at least 40 pounds too light, to be a legitimate prospect.

Justin Taylor – YOB: 1989 – Washington 6th round pick, 2007

Of all the notable forwards on London, Taylor was the least visible. Perhaps I was just focusing on too many other players to notice him, but he certainly did not stand out in any way.

John Carlson – YOB: 1990 – Washington 1st round pick, 2008

I had high expectations going in, but Carlson was only mediocre. It was evident that he has all of the tools, great size, good skating ability, overall offensive tools and a willingness to play the body. However he never asserted himself or made a huge impact on the game, and he was a underwhelming when playing in his own zone. In the neutral zone he intercepted passes nicely, but was beaten to loose pucks and made some bad reads defensively, including on the winning goal. Part of that is definitely acceleration, but it displayed either or both a lack of effort and questionable in-zone awareness.

Michael Del Zotto – YOB: 1990 – New York Rangers 1st round pick, 2008

For such a gifted offensive player, Del Zotto was fairly quiet tonight. He had an assist but did little on the goal. His break-out passing was only average and he is certainly not gifted defensively, but he was neither dynamic offensively nor adventuresome defensively in this game.

Trevor Cann – YOB: 1989 – Colorado Avalanche 2nd round pick, 2007

Although the 67s outshot the Knights, Cann faced far fewer quality chances than his counterpart Adam Courchaine. Aside from perhaps the winning goal, none were his fault although he did not make any game saving stops from what I could see. It was an average performance.

From the 67s…

Logan Couture – YOB: 1989 – San Jose 1st round pick, 2007

Quite simply Couture was the best player on the ice by a country mile. Moreover, it was perhaps the best game I have ever seen him play. He was in on all four goals, sniping two and directly creating and setting up the two others. Neither of his linemates, Cowick or Nigro, were as dynamic or creative as Couture. What was most impressive about his game, however, was that for a player much-maligned for his effort, he was a force in all zones. He was outstanding on the penalty kill, threw several big hits including almost destroying Tavares, and showed impressive puck control along the boards. Particularly notable is the fact that he got better as the game went along, and all three times London scored in the third period, Couture led his line out there to respond soon after. If Couture had played like this he would have made the World Junior team as well, and I can only hope for his sake that it’s the beginning of a great finish to the season for him. He was the first star of the game and for extremely good reason.

Anthony Nigro – YOB: 1990 – St. Louis 6th round pick, 2008

Without a doubt the Michael Latta trade with Guelph has worked out very well for Ottawa. Nigro has been very good since arriving, first on the second line and now as a winger on Couture’s line. He has supplanted Cowick as the trigger man on that line, and shows good finish, hands, shot and cycling ability. I’m not sure he’s more than a good junior player at this point, because he’s not likely to have NHL scoring line upside and in Ottawa is not showing the all-round game that I expected. It was definitely a strong game from Nigro though, getting in on all three goals in the third and being named third star.

Corey Cowick – YOB: 1989 – Draft Eligible 2009.

For the game Cowick had no points, but he played very well. Although known for his goal scoring ability, Cowick’s best work this game was defensively and on the penalty kill. His defensive game has improved a lot and he has good awareness. His skating is fine for a player his size, but he lacks explosiveness. Pittsburgh considered signing him after he was invited to their camp in the fall, and Cowick could definitely be drafted this summer in the late rounds if a team sees third line potential in him.

Thomas Nesbitt – YOB: 1990 – Draft Eligible 2009

Nesbitt had a very strong game, despite not putting up any points. He played with great energy and work ethic, won a lot of races and battles, and generated a few chances as well. After being passed over last year, it is possible he gets picked up this year but I doubt it. He is not a gifted offensive winger but he’s a classic Kilrea-style player.

Julien Demers – YOB: 1990 – San Jose 5th round pick, 2008.

Essentially Ottawa’s #1 blueliner with Tyler Cuma still out, Demers and his partner Travis Gibbons, must have played over thirty minutes in this game. Overall, Demers had an up and down game. On the plus side, he was matched-up against Tavares and was outstanding in playing him one-on-one and frustrating him at every turn. He plays the man very well and uses his size, strength and lateral mobility to his advantage very nicely. Offensively, he had a good game, notching three assists and getting some nice shots off. On the down side, he took a couple of penalties and it was his mistake that led to Tavares’ goal. He still needs work on his first-step quickness but he’s a very good defenceman at this level and has definite NHL potential in my opinion.

Adam Courchaine – YOB: 1989 - Signed by Boston

Courchaine had a strong game, particularly in the first two periods. Although he did not face a ton of shots, most of them were of the difficult variety. Courchaine has great size and moves well for a big man at 6’3”. He has a bit of trouble in close though and has certainly been inconsistent this year. I will be interested to see how he does if he plays in for the AHL’s Providence Bruins next year.


Anonymous said...

Obviously 67 fans should be making reservations for Rimouski and the Knights are way too over rated.
Or perhaps this fellow is not a very good judge of hockey talent

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

I think you must have misinterpreted my contribution to the blog, considering I do not believe and in no way was trying to suggest the Knights are overrated or that the 67s are a superior team. In fact, I was not attempting to draw any conclusions about either team based on one-game, that is not the purpose of such game reports, that would be player analysis.

Moreover, considering London is a better team with a far superior roster of players, obviously losing to a good but hardly elite team in Ottawa means some players under-performed and/or over-performed on one side or the other. I believe I alluded to the fact it was likely an off night for a couple of players, which is entirely understandable considering it was the third and final game of a weekend road trip. 

Finally, considering I have been living primarily in Nova Scotia for the last five years and was attending my first 67s game of the season, it would be a tad presumptuous to insinuate that my emotional attachment to the 67s clouded by judgment so profoundly that my contribution is dispensable. 

As I also alluded to, for example with Varone, I would want to see London again to get a better read on these players, and I think the context of the blog clearly frames most contributions as one-game assessments which are primarily descriptive and thought-provoking. The obvious exceptions would be the mid-season rankings and evaluations from Brock, but my contribution was not intended to be (and quite clearly was not) conclusive. It was one report from one viewing, and I am not drawing final conclusions or judgments on these players solely based on that, and I would expect those reading would apply the same logic to my contribution.

However, if you see a lot of London or were in attendance on Sunday, please feel free to provide your perspective though, because it is after all a blog and is meant to elicit discussion. Considering professional scouts rarely find consensus on players, neither should that be the expectation of the contributors or readers of this blog.