Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sean Keogh's Thoughts on Brampton from February 6

Sean returns with his second game report, as he was able to take in the massive Eastern Conference clash between the Battalion and 67's...

The Brampton Battalion came to Ottawa tonight to play the 67s, trying to extend their winning streak to twelve. Thanks to four goals in the second period, Brampton was able to come out on top 5-2. Simply put the better team won as well. Brampton out shot the 67s 48-33 and never allowed their opponents to get into a groove offensively. It was a perfectly executed road game by a very efficient and disciplined Battalion team. If they can play like that in the OHL playoffs, they will be a very tough team to beat, particularly for the 67s if they run into each other. Coach Stan Butler has three strong lines at his disposal, as well as an effective blueline and obviously a top-notch goaltender in Thomas McCollum.

Of note for the 67s, Thomas Nesbitt had both goals for the 67s and as usual played well in all zones. Logan Couture again played well, creating many chances, playing very well in his own zone and showing much more physical play than in previous seasons. On the negative side, Tyler Cuma dressed for his first game since suffering a knee injury at the World Junior Camp. After taking several shifts in the first period and early second, he awkwardly threw a big hit along the boards and seemed to limp off. He took one more shift and then moved to the end of the bench. Cuma did not return for the third, so at best the Minnesota first rounder is not back to 100% yet it appears. Considering how poorly the 67s blueliners played last night, the top pairing of Julien Demers and Travis Gibbons aside, it would be very unfortunate if Ottawa brought back Cuma too early and he re-injured himself.

Cody Hodgson – YOB 1990: Vancouver 1st round pick, 2008.

Although he was the game’s first star and collected two assists on the night, Hodgson had a quieter game than I expected after his tour de force performance at the World Juniors where I thought he was the best player on Team Canada. Even with an average performance, Hodgson is undoubtedly an outstanding player and a great prospect. He is so intelligent, constantly aware and consistent in all zones, much like former 67 Alyn McCauley. In this game he showed off his good vision, quick hands and strong defensive play as usual. While Hodgson may not be a speedster, he is a good skater with strong lower body strength which he utilizes well on the cycle and when driving to the net. I would be surprised if he was back in the OHL next year, because there’s no reason he could not play a two-way role in Vancouver.

Matt Duchene – YOB 1991: Draft Eligible 2009.

This was my first live look at Duchene, who of course is projected to be a top five pick in this summer’s entry draft. Playing center, with Evgeny Grachev on one of his wings, Duchene had a good but unspectacular game. He scored Brampton’s fifth goal on a weak shot from the sideboards on the powerplay. Otherwise he was usually involved offensively, mixing it up with some nice passes, quick cuts to the middle to let his shot go and a couple of attempts to drive wide with speed. Duchene looks like a complete offensive player, and I was impressed with his hockey sense, particularly in how he anticipates contact and defenders. For all the hype his skating gets though, and he is a good all-round skater, I kept expecting him to create a bit more with it. Duchene is not quite as explosive or capable of blowing by players as last year’s first round pick Mikkel Boedker or comparable 2009 prospect Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi. I would like to see him on the wing though to see how he utilizes his speed there.

Evgeny Grachev – YOB 1990: New York 3rd round pick, 2008.

Probably the flashiest of the big three forwards on Brampton last night was Grachev. His listed height is certainly not exaggerated, as he looks every bit of 6’3”, although he still has some filling out to do. Grachev is remarkably smooth and fluid for a player his size, and displays impressive offensive skills. He notched one goal when he caught 67s goaltender Adam Courchaine reacting slowly, but was probably the most dangerous forward in the first half of the game for Brampton. Although Grachev could use his body more, he does use it to protect the puck and battle along the boards already, which is a good sign. He also played the point on the powerplay, which for a forward is always a vote of confidence from the coach. Overall, I would say the Rangers have themselves a first round caliber talent in this player.

Thomas McCollum – YOB 1989: Detroit 1st round pick, 2008.

McCollum has had an up and down couple of months. He was terrible at the World Juniors for the U.S, although he was not the only disappointment on that squad. A trade to Brampton seems to have worked out very well for him though and again tonight he played well. The former OHL goalie of the year stopped 31 of 33 shots faced and was not really to fault for either of them. That being said, the 67s did not challenge him as much as they needed to. Overall it was a solid performance by McCollum.

Anthony Peluso – YOB 1989: St. Louis 6th round pick, 2007.

Skating on the wing on the first line with Hodgson, Peluso was surprisingly impressive. He picked up two assists and had several nice offensive plays, as well as establishing a presence in front of the net on the powerplay. At 6’4” and 235lbs, Peluso really is absolutely huge and he looks it. For a player that size though he moves very well and demonstrated some nice hands and offensive ability. Although he is a good skater with a smooth stride, he will need to work on his balance. At one point he got around a defender and was in alone but somehow lost his balance and quite embarrassingly fell without even getting a shot off. There were a couple instances as well that his focus seemed to lapse, as he let the puck roll off his stick for no good reason. Nonetheless Peluso is an intriguing package with outstanding size and I would be quite surprised if St. Louis did not sign him. I am not sure how high his offensive ceiling is, but at a minimum he has the ability to be a Ben Eager kind of player it appears.

Matt Clark – YOB 1990: Draft Eligible 2009.

Going into this game, Clark was a player I knew virtually nothing about, but it quickly became clear he is a legitimate prospect for this year’s draft. A late birthday and also an OHL rookie, Clark had a solid game for Brampton, picking up an assist and playing a fair bit of minutes for the Battalion. At 6’3” and 215lbs, he definitely has perfect size for a defenceman, but I was surprised by his mobility. Although fluidity and agility is not perfect and he could smoothen out his stride, he does move quite well for a player his size and can contribute some offensively as well. Moreover, he showed some physical enthusiasm and solid defensive ability. I wish I had seen him earlier in the year to get a sense of his progression over the season, but he definitely looked like an NHL prospect worthy of at least a mid round pick this summer.

Kyle Pereira – YOB 1991: Draft Eligible 2009

Pereira is another rookie blueliner for Brampton who is up for this year’s draft. The highlight of his performance last night was a spirited but short fight with the 67s Jon Carnevale. Otherwise he received less ice time than Clark and did little to stand out overall. Pereira demonstrated some decent offensive abilities but was not as good a skater as I expected. Moreover, he looks like he needs to put on some weight in order to be more effective. Based on this viewing, I am not convinced he is a draft-worthy prospect.

Matthew Kang – YOB 1988: Undrafted Free Agent.

I have always liked Kang for the energy and speed that he brings, and he has some nice offensive abilities as well. He potted a goal and was involved all night. As an overager, this is his last shot to earn a contract and a good playoff run for Brampton would help his chances. At the end of the day though, I expected him to get a contract or be selected in the draft before and I am just not sure he is more than a classic undrafted overage player. If you compare him to 67s overager Thomas Kiriakou, he is fairly similar, with a bit more flash offensively and a bit less grit and heart. I like Kiriakou a lot as well, but both are likely CIS-bound next year.

Josh Day – YOB 1988: Undrafted Free Agent.

Another overage player that was brought in at the deadline, Day was essentially utilized as the #1 blueliner by Coach Stan Butler. He was the only blueliner to play on the first powerplay unit, with Grachev manning the other point, and he notched two assists from there. With Day, there are some nice things there, including decent size, reliable defensive play and the ability to contribute offensively. However, he has been passed over a few times and I think it is because he is simply a classic good OHL player with not quite enough to offer as an NHL prospect. He is not quite dynamic enough offensively, dominant enough defensively or imposing enough physically to intrigue teams I think. That being said, I would say he might be more likely to get a contract than Kang.

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