Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thoughts on Barrie from September 19

Fresh off a 9-1 spanking of the Owen Sound Attack, the Barrie Colts took their offensive juggernaut to the Garden City Saturday night. The Colts ended up defeating the Niagara IceDogs in overtime by a score of 5-4. It was a hard fought game that saw momentum swing back and forth, and it was a tough one for the Dogs who played their second straight game against a much improved Eastern Conference opponent. The Colts got their offense from Luke Pither and Alex Burmistrov. Pither had a hat trick for the second straight game (now with 7 in his 2 game total), including the game winner in overtime. Burmistrov had 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists). The Dogs got the majority of their offense from Alex Friesen, who had 2 goals and an assist.

The Colts are a high octane team and definitely one that is going to be fun to watch this year. Here are my thoughts on some of the Colts last night...

Alexander Burmistrov (2010)
He was outstanding tonight. A stand out in the first two games of the season, this Russian import has been everything as advertised. It's not often that an import makes such an immediate impact in the CHL. There is usually an adjustment period, even for the most talented ones. Evgeni Grachev didn't score a goal until his 7th game in the league last year. Burmistrov seems like the total package. Solid skater who looks to have an extra gear. He's very elusive on the ice and seems to find the scoring lanes with ease. On one of his goals, he snuck in quickly to the slot and buried a quick pass from Alex Hutchings (who was behind the net). The puck was on his stick for less than a second. Nearly the entire game, he used his strong puck handling ability to cut through the Niagara defense with ease and created numerous scoring chances for himself and his teammates. I say he appears to be the complete package because he also took shifts on the penalty kill and helped to hold Niagara to 0 for 5 on the powerplay. He also appears to have a bit of feistyness to his game, not afraid to give a shove here and there. Colour me very impressed. By the way, on his blog, Alessandro Seren Rosso conducted an interview with Burmistrov and there are some interesting tidbits in it. You can find it here. Burmistrov had 2 goals and 3 assists.

Luke Pither (Overager)
Fresh off an apparently impressive showing at Rangers camp (although he hasn't earned a contract as of yet), Pither looks poised to make a run at the scoring title. Every time he was on the ice, he made something happen. He's an elite level skater and he's so deadly from in close. Definitely one of the better shots in the league, his wrister especially, which is both accurate and hard. Like Burmistrov, his puckhandling ability left Niagara's defense in the dust all night. He's obviously still not much of a complete player, but you can't deny his offensive abilities. If he doesn't a get a contract from someone this season (someone being an NHL team), I'll eat my hat. Pither had 3 goals.

Alex Hutchings (TBL)
After falling to the 4th round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Hutchings has to have a bit of a fire lit under his belly this season. He was apparently incredibly impressive at Tampa's camp and I think a lot of teams will be kicking themselves for passing on him. While he hasn't scored a goal yet this year, there's no cause for alarm. He played a good game, constantly involved offensively with Burmistrov and Michael Sgarbossa (his linemmates). He produces offensively in any situation, whether it be using his speed off the rush, or controlling the puck in the offensive zone. He's undersized, but he's also strong on the puck and a strong two way player who backs down from no one. Hutchings finished the game with 2 assists.

Michael Sgarbossa (2010)
Sgarbossa has had a very impressive start to the 2009-10 season. He was one of Barrie's offensive leaders in the preseason and he's carried it over to the regular season thus far, with 2 goals and 2 assists in the first two games. Sgarbossa had a very underrated rookie season in Barrie and I think that as the season goes on, he'll start to make a name for himself. He seems to make things simple offensively and is really meshing well with Alex Burmistrov thus far. Like Burmistrov, he's an elusive player who reads and reacts to offensive situations well in order to put himself into scoring positions. He's also a really solid playmaker. Sgarbossa isn't as good of a skater as his linemmates, but I wouldn't say he's terrible either. It'll be interesting to see the type of season he has. Sgarbossa finished with 2 assists.

Ryan O'Connor (2010)
O'Connor didn't have a great game last night. The undersized puck moving defenseman is definitely a solid offensive player, but is he good enough to overcome his size disadvantage. I've heard a lot of people compare O'Connor to Ryan Ellis, a natural comparison on paper. But Ellis was a first rounder for a reason, despite his size. His offensive instincts are out of this world. He thinks the game at another level and anticipates the next move. O'Connor, while a skilled puck carrier, does not seem to possess that elite level vision or creativity that Ellis does. He's also not as fearless and willing to throw his body around and in that sense he can play small at the defensive end. Like he did last night, when Niagara's forwards did a good job in winning one on one battles against him. I was impressed with him last season, but this year he really needs to step up defensively. O'Connor had an assist and was -2.

Mitch Bennett (2010)
Tall and lanky rookie defenseman, Bennett was fairly impressive tonight. He's got great size and he moves fairly well. He's also not afraid to use his size and was a physical aggressor all night. He had a really strong preseason offensively, however I didn't really see any significant offensive skills tonight. Perhaps as he becomes more comfortable, we'll see them. Would love to see him play again.

Josh Brittain (ANA)
Brittain did not look good. Just returned from NHL camp, Brittain looked completely uninspired during the game. Perhaps he was just tired, but he never appeared to be skating at full speed. Even defensively he was poor and a non factor and allowed Niagara players to beat him for pucks and get around him for scoring chances. Another factor that maybe lead to a lackluster performance, are the trade rumours surrounding him. Barrie is apparently shopping him for an elite level stay at home defenseman (likely to pair with O'Connor). He needs to step up.

Bryan Cameron (Overager)
I think it's safe to assume that Cameron has to be disappointed that he didn't receive an NHL contract offer this summer, after he failed to come to terms with LA (the team that drafted him in 2007). He attended Phoenix's training camp, but failed to make a significant impression. Cameron is the type of forward who can do a little bit of everything and it'll be interesting to see how he fits in in Barrie this year. With the depth that they have, he may have to take a bit of a smaller role than he's used to offensively. But he did see some powerplay time with the big guns and was his normal self, winning battles for the puck and playing a solid puck possession game. I'm pulling for him to have a big year and to earn a contract. He finished the game with 1 assist.

That's it folks, anyone else have any comments about the game last night?

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