Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thoughts on Ottawa from March 1

In an effort to reach out to fans across the Niagara region, the Ice Dogs played the Ottawa 67's at the Niagara Falls Memorial Arena this afternoon. It was a great game for fans to see as the Dogs defeated the 67's 5-3 in a hard fought game. With the 67's currently sitting third in the Eastern Conference, and the Dogs sitting 6th, these two teams are looking at a potential first round playoff match up.

Here are my thoughts on some of the 67's...

Marc Zanetti - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Essentially an OHL rookie this season, Zanetti has been able to play an important role on the 67's blueline this season. This has caught the eyes of NHL scouts as he was listed at 139th in NA by the CSB. I think that arguably, he'll be drafted higher than that in June. He's a big guy, but he skates adequately and can keep up with the play. He's beginning to see more responsibility on the ice and played a fair amount on the powerplay today, earning an assist on a Tyler Toffoli goal. I think there is some offensive potential as he looks comfortable with the puck at times, and the fact that Kilrea is giving him PP time suggests that. On the defensive side of things, which is clearly where he focuses the majority of his attention, he takes his man hard and does a real good job with man coverage and protecting the front of the net. He was also very solid along the boards, as I'm not sure he lost a puck battle all day. I think he's a really underrated prospect and he reminds me a lot of former London Knight Marc Methot, who's finding success as a fixture on the blueline of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Tyler Toffoli - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Toffoli has definitely made a name for himself this season. Whether it was his 4 goal, 5 assist performance for Team Ontario on the way to gold at the 2009 Under 17 World Hockey Challenge, or his 40 points as a rookie this season, the 7th overall selection in the 2009 OHL Priority Draft is looking like a potential first round draft pick for 2010. He had 2 goals tonight and showcased a great shot and an ability to get it off under pressure. His first goal on the powerplay was a rocket. He showcased good speed in entering the zone. Like any 16 year old, he's got to get stronger and continue to work through the physical side of the game. But he has the offensive skills to be very successful in this league.

Julien Demers - Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 2008/146th

Demers is a solid two way defenseman who plays with his heart on his sleeve. He plays the point on the powerplay and takes lead on the penalty kill. Since Tyler Cuma went down with an injury, Demers has stepped up in order to lead this defense. He has good puck skills and is generally smart with the puck. And while he didn't really showcase it in this game, Demers is one of the most feared bodycheckers in the OHL. It's clear that Coach Kilrea has been working on his positioning, as before he could get caught out of position going for the big hit and earlier in the season I was seeing that. Today, he was calm and collected and played a safe game. The only downside to Demers' game is his skating. If he was a better skater, he would have been a much higher pick than 146th. The discouraging thing is that I haven't really noticed a difference in it this year, so I can't say it has really improved. Even if he is to succeed at the NHL level, he's going to need to improve his skating, and more specifically his acceleration and closing speed. But I do like him as a player and hope that he can get the necessary training at the next level to improve.

Logan Couture - Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 2007/9th

I had been hearing from a lot of people that Couture was playing the best hockey of his junior career currently. And the stats support that. The guy had 23 points in February. However, other than an impressive burst of speed to create a partial breakaway (of which he was stoned by Jeremy Smith), Couture was completely invisible for me. Maybe it was because it was the 67's 3rd game in 3 days and he was tired. But in all the times I've seen him play, he's yet to ever really dazzle me. Hopefully the Sharks can keep him motivated at the next level and he can find success suitable of his high draft selection.

Chris Perugini - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Perugini has been solid for the 67's this year, taking over the starting job from Bruins signee Adam Courchaine. He's very agile and athletic and is a great skater for a goaltender. He can get from the butterfly to stand up very quickly and reacts well to the play. He takes away a lot of the bottom of the net with the butterfly style and he also does a good job of controlling rebounds. I have some concerns though. The most critical is size. The OHL lists him at 5'10, but he looks much smaller than that in the net. He's not exactly Darren Pang, but it's clear shooters are aiming top of the net everytime they take a shot on him. This is obviously a concern as in the NHL, undersized goaltenders aren't exactly the apple of a scouts eye. On top of that, I find Perugini's willingness to be aggressive and challenge shooters, wildly inconsistent. At times, he comes way out to where an undersized goaltender should be, while in other instances, he gets caught too deep in his net and his size is exposed. An undersized goaltender should be coming out to challenge everytime in order to maximize the size they do have. But his raw athleticism and fundamental ability should at least get him drafted.

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