Monday, March 9, 2009

Sean Keogh's Thoughts on Sudbury from March 8

Sean was able to catch the Sudbury Wolves and the Ottawa 67's in action this past weekend. Here is his report...

This afternoon the Sudbury Wolves were in town for a Sunday afternoon tilt with the Ottawa 67s. Of the games that I have attended at the Ottawa Civic Centre this year, this was probably the least competitive so far. The 67s scored early and often, en route to a 6-2 victory in which they peppered Sudbury netminder Alain Valiquette with 58 shots. A lack of discipline was the biggest problem for the Wolves. They took four minor penalties in the first eight minutes of the game and handed the league’s best powerplay eight opportunities over the course of the night. That the 67s only converted one of those eight suggests the final score could have been much worse. Another major factor was that the 67s top line completely outplayed the top line of the Wolves.

The 67s were dominant in spite of some adversity. They went in to the game still without two of their top defencemen, Tyler Cuma and Marc Zanetti, and lost their de factor number one blueliner Julien Demers mid-way through the game. It was another strong performance for Logan Couture, who put up two goals and an assist and was the first star. Once again the 67s also showed off their scoring depth, as all three of their top lines were dangerous and eleven players recorded at least one point. One of the highlights of the game was also a big time fight between Pieter Schinkelshoek and Kyle Tarini in which both players landed numerous serious shots. With the victory, the 67s moved closer to clinching third in the Eastern Conference, and the loss hurt the Wolves’ chances of solidifying a spot in the post-season as well.

The following are a few thoughts on some Wolves players:

Eric O’Dell – YOB 1990: Anaheim 2nd round pick, 2008.

I was expecting more from O’Dell, who was playing in his hometown and had been traded just this past week at the NHL Trade Deadline. Suffice to say I have seen him play better. While O’Dell is always a solid player in his own zone, he was largely invisible offensively and did absolutely nothing to assert himself in any way. His line was completely outplayed when matched up against the Couture line, and he finished the game a -3. I like O’Dell has a player, but am unsure of what his offensive potential is. For a center, I have questions about his playmaking ability, and also would like to see him improve his skating, particularly his explosiveness, to make himself more dynamic. More upper body strength would also be an asset. That being said, this game was obviously not a good demonstration of his ability.

Akim Aliu – YOB 1989: Chicago’s 2nd round pick, 2007

Few second round picks are as well known, if not infamous, as Aliu. I have always been impressed with Aliu’s skill set, but am certainly not alone in questioning his focus. I would say he was probably Sudbury’s best player in this game, particularly from the second period onwards, and picked up an assist on the second Sudbury goal. His combination of size and skill is impossible to ignore, and he was the only Sudbury player who could take over entire shifts in the offensive zone. I do question his offensive awareness at times though because while he is dangerous off the rush with his size, skating, strength and hands, in the offensive zone he seemed a bit less sure of what to do. In that way, his offensive success at the NHL may depend on playing on a transition-oriented team. Obviously his off-ice troubles aside, Aliu’s raw skill has never been questioned though and that was evident even as his team was dominated this afternoon.

Jared Staal – YOB 1990: Phoenix 2nd round pick, 2008.

From a game review standpoint, Staal actually fared well this afternoon. He set up the first Sudbury goal and potted the second, although John Kurtz did most of the work. Moreover, he finished even in a near blow out game, so it was a decent game for Jared. I have to be honest though I was not overly impressed with him from an NHL scouting standpoint. In many ways Jared reminds me of his brother Marc more than Jordan or Eric, in his skating stride and lack of offensive creativity. Although Jared goes to the net and has the size to put up some points by doing so, he is neither dynamic nor particularly inventive offensively. In short, I am not sure I see anything that suggests Staal has scoring line upside at the NHL level, although he shows characteristics that make it likely he will get a solid chance to stick as a role player in due time.

Marcus Foligno – YOB 1991: Draft Eligible 2009.

Often out there with fellow large bodies Staal and Kain Allicock, Foligno displayed his good work along the boards a few times. He did not notch a point but did pick up four penalty minutes. It is hard not to compare Foligno to his older brother Nick. They wear the same number and have a similar skating stride. While Marcus has better size, which he could use even more to be imposing, and is rawer than Nick was in his draft year, he is not as good of a skater or as offensively gifted as his older brother. Being an August birthday though, his offensive ability could come with more time, but at this point he displays little offensively. His size, physical play, good board work and favourable bloodlines should guarantee he will get drafted in the first three rounds though.

Daniel Maggio – YOB 1991: Draft Eligible 2009

It was not a good game for any Wolves defenceman, and Maggio is no exception. He took an unfortunate delay of game penalty in the first minute of play and that set the tone for the rest of the game. Overall, he did not have a strong game offensively or defensively, but he has good size, reasonable mobility and had brief flashes of offensive ability from the backend. I am a bit surprised he is not currently ranked by Central Scouting, but his play tonight did not make a convincing argument that they were wrong.

John McFarland – YOB 1992: Draft Eligible 2010

This was my first good live look at McFarland and his performance was mixed. On the one hand, he showed why he was the first overall pick in the OHL Draft last year and will likely go quite high in the 2010 NHL Draft. McFarland is a great skater with a high overall skill level and the ability to electrify with his stickhandling ability at top speed. Nothing came of it tonight though, and he was far less visible as the game wore on. Moreover he seemed disinterested defensively at times, and finished a -3 on the night. The only other concern I had was he showed a tendency towards selfish play offensively. At times McFarland opted to try to dangle when the better option was to use his teammates better, and he did not consistently fight for possession or bother to cycle the puck, suggesting a disinterest in bothering to do the dirty work. There are a few possible explanations for this, and it is not the place to speculate on the explanation. That being said, it did become something of a recurring observation throughout the game, without going in to the game with any expectation of such questionable tendencies.

Sergei Sheleg –YOB 1990: Draft Eligible 2009

Sheleg is a rookie import OHLer from Belarus who went undrafted last year and opted to come to the OHL. He played on the first pairing for the Wolves and was utilized in all situations, which is not common for a rookie import. Sheleg stood out to me because he is massive at 6’5”, and is actually quite a fluid and mobile player for that size. That combination alone is enough to get a player drafted, even if they are a year older. As I focused on Sheleg more, it was evident that he is extremely raw at this point. His decision-making is slow and questionable, he does not utilize his size enough, nor has he really started to fill out his frame. Although he is not ranked by CSB at the moment, I would not be shocked if he got picked up in the late rounds of the NHL draft considering his skating and mobility.

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