Friday, February 6, 2009

Thoughts on Sault Ste. Marie from February 5

Last night, the Niagara Ice Dogs battled the underachieving Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and defeated them by a score of 5-3. The Dogs controlled the majority of the game, outshooting the Hounds 55-30. Not only was it the 22nd time this season that the Soo have given up 5 goals or more, but it was the 4th game in a row giving up 5+ and it stretched the club's losing streak to 9 games. It's tough seeing the Hounds struggling so much, since the team has been to the playoffs each of the last four seasons, winning their division in two of those.

Here are my thoughts on a few Greyhounds...

Jacob Muzzin - Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007/141st

Muzzin is a big, physically imposing defenseman. He was good tonight. While many might point to the team's second worst -22 rating and assume Muzzin is struggling, I believe it to be more a reflection of the team's performance. Not to mention Muzzin plays against the opposing team's top line. He made a few really solid plays with his stick breaking up passes, and he was aggressive in playing the man infront of the net. His skating looked alright, especially for a big man. Often times, big and physical junior aged defenseman can have trouble with their mobility, but I don't see it being a big issue for him. In fact, offensively he lead the rush up ice several times and actually joined for a two on one at one point, showing good speed to get back to the defensive zone afterwards. The Pens have to make a decision about signing him, but I would be surprised if they didn't. He has the potential to be a bottom pairing NHL defenseman.

Matthew Lyall - NHL Free Agent (Overager)

Lyall was the best player on the Greyhounds last night. Despite being somewhat undersized, he was all over the ice and showed little hesitation in standing in the slot or charging the net. The first goal of two he scored was a beauty. Fired home a pass in the slot top shelf on Jeremy Smith. The offensive instincts look really solid, as he was often in the right place for a scoring chance. I'm not sure he attracts attention from NHL scouts, but I wouldn't be surprised if he at least got a chance at the AHL next season.

James Livingston - Drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2008/70th

Livingston had a really solid game for the Greyhounds last night. He got better as the game went on and ended up with a goal and an assist. The goal was a beauty as he stole the puck off Alex Pietrangelo and went in on a breakaway. To score he deked out Jeremy Smith, and roofed it on the backhand. He had numerous other scoring chances in the game, but they were turned away by Smith. Physically, he was good, showing good strength along the boards to win battles, and he crunched Alex Pietrangelo pretty good behind the net. He also saw time on the penalty kill and did an admirable job winning battles and getting the puck out. At times, I felt he was somewhat behind the play, whether that's a skating or effort issue, I'm not sure. Last season his skating was a bit of an issue, so perhaps he hasn't improved upon it much. The one thing I'd like to see more from him is being aggressive on the forecheck. As a big guy who has the strength to win battles, the fact that he was the follower on many rushes is disappointing. He should look to pattern his game after a guy like James Neal who was a similar OHL player, but was also an absolute beast on the forecheck. I think a lot of people have looked at Livingston and assumed he had regressed and was having a terrible season. I would say his declining numbers are more a reflection of the Soo's struggles. He's not really a guy who's going to create chances for himself, so if the team isstruggling offensively, he's going to as well. I still think he has the chance to be a good pro hockey player. Next OHL season is the bigger one for him, as he'll need to be the offensive leader for the Greyhounds as they try to get back to the playoffs.

Kyle De Coste - Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008/147th

Was De Coste even playing last night? The game sheet says so, but I sure as hell didn't notice him. De Coste was drafted much to my surprise last season, and was traded at the deadline from Brampton to the Soo. He's suppposed to be an energy player who generates chances from the rush and the cycle, but he did neither tonight. Perhaps an off game, or perhaps a reflection on his poor status as an NHL prospect. Either way, doesn't look like he's taken much of a step forward this season. I won't make any more generalizations since I seriously didn't notice him play last night.

Brock Beukeboom - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Beukeboom had a solid game. He looks to be poised at both ends of the ice. He has good size and he skates well, leading the rush at times. He made smart decisions with the puck and he spent some time at point on the powerplay. Defensively, I didn't feel he was overwhelmed, and did a good job positionally. I think that you'll see his offensive stats really jump next season as he makes a push for the top 3 rounds of the 2010 NHL draft. He's certainly got the bloodlines on his side, with his father being former NHL defenseman Jeff Beukeboom.

Bryce O'Hagan - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

O'Hagan had a good game despite giving up 5 goals. He's had a bit of a rough season, with a GAA close to 4, and a save percentage below .890. But he sees a ton of rubber and it's not easy being the goalie on a struggling team. He's still got time to turn things around, because as a late 1991, he's not eligible for the NHL draft until 2010. He does have good potential to improve. He showed good mobility, squared up the shooter, kept rebounds to a minimum and made the saves he had to. For young goaltenders on struggling teams, it's all about mental toughness. If he can stay confident, he'll end up being better for seeing so many pucks this season.

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