Friday, March 6, 2009

Thoughts on Brampton from March 5

Last night the red hot Brampton Battalion took on the Niagara Ice Dogs at the Gatorade Garden City Complex. The Battalion largely dominated the first two periods and held on for a 5-2 victory on the strength two goals from Cody Hodgson.

Here are my thoughts on some of the Battalion...

Matt Clark - 2009 Draft Eligible

Playing in his first OHL season, this 6'3, 200lbs defenseman has quickly risen up the draft charts. He showcases excellent mobility and speed for a big guy. He also does not appear to be afraid to play physical and take the body, especially along the boards. He reminds me a fair amount of the way Adam Comrie looked last season for Saginaw (his first in the OHL). On the downside, I felt like Clark's defensive positioning was somewhat exposed. He was beaten to the outside a few times because he got caught standing still or missing on playing the body. I think these are things which can be improved as his OHL career progresses. I do wonder as how to much offensive potential he has, although he did look impressive in making decisions with the puck and showcasing some playmaking skill.

Matt Duchene - 2009 Draft Eligible

I'm not going to say a lot on Duchene. He didn't have a great game really, but even when he's slightly off and not contributing offensively, he still showcases his outstanding skating ability and his growing awareness of his defensive responsibilities.

Matt Kang - Overager and NHL Free Agent

Kang is currently a free agent, and this steady OHL contributor should be able to get a professional contract somewhere, likely not at the NHL level, but probably at the AHL/ECHL/European level. He has good speed for a slightly undersized forward, especially his first step which is explosive. The thing that always sticks out about Kang is his puckhandling ability. No question that Kang is one of the best 'danglers' in the OHL. However, sometimes I feel like he can get caught up in making the moves rather than finding and using his teammates. I also wish that he was more aggressive in playing in traffic and going hard to the net. A lot of the moves he makes are once the offense has set up in the opposing end, and used to keep puck control. I wish he was use his puckhandling ability to take the puck to the net off the rush and make more of his gift.

Evgeny Grachev - Drafted in 2008 by the New York Rangers/75th

I've made no qualms about letting people know on this blog, about how impressed I've been with this guy this season. He had another solid game finishing with a goal and an assist. I really don't know if I've seen a forward his size with that explosive of a first step. He just takes off and has a ton of power in his stride. But let's forget about everything I've already mentioned before in terms of his dynamic offensive ability. The most impressive thing Grachev did in this game was break up a 2 on 1 by showing a lot of tenacity on the backcheck. The Battalion turned the puck over on the powerplay and Chris DeSousa started down the ice on a 2 on 1. Grachev skated hard from the offensive zone (he wasn't the one who turned it over at the blueline), caught DeSousa and rubbed him out of the play, completing negating the 2 on 1 chance. I seriously think this guy has Marian Hossa like potential.

Cody Hodgson - Drafted in 2008 by the Vancouver Canucks/10th

I think a lot has been said about Hodgson, to the extent that everyone knows how talented this kid is. He works hard at both ends of the ice, he's a good skater, makes moves at top speed, takes the puck to the net, uses his teammates well. Just the complete package. I will mention the beautiful goal he scored tonight though. He completely undressed Drew Schiestel not once, but twice on the way to the net, and deposited the puck behind Dogs tender Mark Visentin. It's impressive because Schiestel has NHL quality skating at the backend, and even still Hodgson got by him and beat him to the net. Check the clip posted and go to about the 1:50 mark to see his goal.

Anthony Peluso - Drafted in 2007 by the St. Louis Blues/160th

Peluso has responded very well to his new playing environment in Brampton. He has 15 points in 22 games since the trade, posting that many points in the 36 games before the trade from Sault Ste. Marie. He had a very solid game tonight, working incredibly hard on the forecheck. He finished with a goal and an assist, with the goal being the one that 'broke the camels back,' putting Brampton up 4-2 with under 2 minutes left. This was especially crucial because Niagara had been putting a ton of pressure on Brampton during the 3rd period, outshooting the Battalion 13-2 in the frame. The goal came after Battalion forward Stephon Thorpe forced a turnover in Niagara's end, and found Peluso streaking hard to the net. Peluso wasted no time in roofing the puck top corner. It appears he really wants that contract from the Blues. While he's not really a threat to have an impact on the top 2 lines, probably even the top 3 lines, Peluso could still make an impact in the NHL as a bottom line energy forward who can fight, forecheck and provide occasional offense.

Thomas McCollum - Drafted in 2008 by the Detroit Red Wings/30th

Since returning from a rather disastrous showing at the WJC's, and a very shaky two games to start January, McCollum has been nothing short of fantastic. Since January 11, McCollum has been playing with a GAA under 2 and a SV% above .930. He was quite excellent in this game. The most impressive thing about McCollum is his quick feet work as he works hard to take away the bottom part of the net. He gets in and out of the butterfly very quickly and moves side to side incredibly well. He made an absolutely amazing save on Matt Sisca to essentially preserve the victory. This save has to be a contender for save of the year in the OHL and can be found at around the 5:15 mark of the posted clip. On the downside, I think McCollum has some things he really has to work on, especially before he can find success at the next level. Firstly, like any butterfly goaltender in the junior ranks (for the most part), he needs to not go down so early. Because he takes away the bottom part of the net so well, he can tend to expose the top part of the net. In the OHL, players aren't as adept at picking that top corner and quickly, but in the NHL, he's going to have to wait longer before hitting the butterfly in order to not run into trouble. Secondly, his rebound control needs work. He coughs up a lot of juicy rebounds, especially directly in his crease. Fortunately for him, McCollum is so great at covering the bottom half because a lot of these second chances get turned away. However, again this is something that will hurt him heavily at the next level. But hes athletic and knows how to make the big saves. Some fine tuning and perhaps some mental fine tuning, and he'll be on his way.


At the 1:50 mark the Hodgson goal.
At the 5:15 mark the McCollum save.

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