Monday, September 21, 2009

Thoughts on Mississauga and Brampton from September 18

I TiVo'd this one on the weekend and was recently able to watch it. Nothing like a good ol' fashioned battle of Peel (the district that both teams lie in). It was a chippy game that saw a lot of back and forth action. There weren't an abundance of scoring chances for either side, but it was still an exiting game due to the high tempo of play. The Majors ended up taking it by a score of 3-2. Brampton looked a lot better than I figured they would against the Majors. As the season goes on and their young players get better and more comfortable, they could end up making more of a playoff push than people imagine.

Thoughts on both sides...

Mississauga St. Michael's Majors

Tim Billingsley (PHX)
He's going to have to play a lot better than that if he wants to earn a contract from Phoenix. All last year, Billingsley struggled, failing to show the level of potential he did in his first two seasons. I'm sure the Majors expected him to right his ship, but if this game is any indication, he's going to have another long year. Not the biggest defender, Billingsley was once a physical defender. Now, he seems passive and unwilling to engage physically. I saw him win maybe one or two battles along the boards the entire night. He's also careless with the puck, giving it away on several occasions due to poor reads. He's a good skater and he shows glimpses of a greater capability, but he really needs to get his act together. The pairing of he and David Corrente (who was even worse than Billingsley) was a disaster for the Majors tonight. Me thinks that Dave Cameron won't be keeping that one together much longer.

Brett Flemming (WSH)
Flemming was probably the Majors best defenseman tonight. He's an elite skater who uses that ability to play a solid two way game. He can rush the puck up ice and does a good job of establishing his teams offensive tempo. He also uses his closing speed to break up plays defensively, and does a good job on man to man coverage. On the downside tonight, he did have a couple of bad turnovers due to poor decisions on when to rush the puck. If he's able to pick his spots better, he'll obviously limit those mistakes. The first pairing of he and Cameron Gaunce are going to see a lot of ice time for the Majors this year.

Casey Cizikas (NYI)
Cizikas is looking to turn over a new leaf this year after a forgetful 2008-09 season. He and Jordan Mayer were the two best Majors forwards tonight. Cizikas is especially effective on the penalty kill where he uses his great speed to forecheck the opposition. Kept the puck in the Battalion end for around 20 seconds on one PK occasion. He also forced a turnover that lead to a 2 on 1 (and a poor finish by Dustin Ekelman on a great pass from Cizikas). Five on five he was a factor as well. His 2nd period goal ended up being the game winner, after he took a pass from Blake Parlett in the slot, made a defender miss and roofed it top shelf on Patrick Killeen. His ability to make plays at top speed is definitely impressive. I think he really establishes himself as solid OHL player and NHL prospect this season. Cizikas finished the game with a goal.

Jordan Mayer (2010, 1991 born)
Jordan Mayer would have definitely been the most impressive player on the ice, had he not faded a bit into the third period. But he brought a ton of energy tonight through the first two periods, crashing, banging, dangling, and scoring. He's an excellent skater with explosive acceleration and flew by Brampton defenders on a few occasions. He was active on the forecheck, won battles in the corners and laid a few really nice hits. On top of this, he created several solid scoring chances off his speed and ability to stickhandle through the defense, finishing one of these off by going five hole on Patrick Killeen for the Majors second goal of the game. While undersized, if Mayer can develop into a sandpaper type offensive spark plug, he could eventually get NHL consideration down the line. Mayer finished with a goal.

William Wallen (2010, 1991 born)
Wallen didn't have a very good game. The only times he was really visible was when he coughed the puck up in the offensive zone. He tried to do too much with it himself on a few occasions and this led to odd man rushes for the Battalion. The Majors are going to need him to step up offensively this year, especially if they continue to play him on the top line with Casey Cizikas.

Devante Smith-Pelly (2010)
Smith-Pelly is a solid crash and bang forward. He was very active on the forecheck and is exceptional along the boards. While he's not overly big, he is strong and rarely fails to win a loose puck battle in the corner. Because of this, he's a very valuable player on the cycle. He's also a fairly good skater who seems to like creating offensive off the rush, putting the puck on net with a hard slapper down the wing on several occasions. I think it's a bit up in the air as to how high his offensive ceiling is, but he's a player who should get drafted come June.

Cameron Gaunce (COL)
Gaunce did not have his best game tonight. He seemed to have a lot of trouble out there, especially with the puck, which is highly uncommon for him. The puck was bouncing on him a lot and he gave it a way on a couple of occasions. Just not sure his head was in this one. On the positive, he does appear to be playing more physical, which is a plus. However, some of that could have been frustration due to his lackluster play tonight. Take this performance as worth a grain of salt.

J.P. Anderson (2010)
He was solid between the pipes for the Majors tonight. Big things are expected of Anderson this year after his incredible playoff performance last year. He's an undersized goaltender, but he plays a lot bigger than he is. He always get square to the shooter and he's aggressive on challenging and cutting down the angles. He controls his rebounds well too. One thing I really like about Anderson is the somewhat hybrid style that he plays. As a small goaltender, going fully towards the butterfly can be dangerous as you expose the top half of the net and make it harder for you to control the rebounds off high shots. Anderson will sometimes stand up for high shots, rather than drop to the butterfly, making it easier for him to trap the rebound, and to take away more of the net. He's got a real handle on his position, and lack of size be darned, I'd say he deserves first round consideration in June. Anderson stopped 27 of 29 for the win, and he had little chance on either of the two goals against.

Brampton Battalion

Cameron Wind (2010)
Really liked what I saw of Wind tonight. He saw little ice and game time as a rookie last season, but he's got a much larger role this season. He has good size at 6'1, 200lbs, but he moves well for a big defenseman. He seemed calm and composed with the puck, usually opting to make the safe play. I say usually because he turned the puck over twice when he tried to force plays up ice. When he made the simple play, or when he carried it up himself, he was a lot more effective. He was also impressive in getting his hard, low point show through to the net. Looks like Stan Butler has some confidence in him too, as with the Battalion trailing in the last minute, Wind was on the point following a time out. Defensively he was solid too. Hard to get around one on one, won the battles in the corners, was physical. Seems to be a player who could have NHL draft potential. Wind finished the night +2.

Philip Lane (2010)
Held off the scoresheet, but not because of poor play. Lane was a factor all night. He seems like a really complete offensive player. Solid skater (although not tremendous), who was active on the forecheck and forced several turnovers (one off Brett Flemming). He was physical and laid a huge hit on Majors rookie Joseph Cramarossa. He drives hard to the net with the puck on his stick. Lane just couldn't finish off any of his offensive opportunities. If he keeps playing like this, the offense will come for the somewhat under the radar Rochester native.

Sam Carrick (2010)
Carrick had a solid game. He's not a flashy player but he's a hard working centerman who contributes at both ends of the ice. Offensively, Carrick was excellent on the cycle and the forecheck and showed some good bursts of speed as he closed in on the puck carrier. Defensively he was solid and was often the first forward back for Brampton. He played very well on the penalty kill and also had a good game in the face off circle. Seems like a really solid two-way center, who despite not having great size, could be an effective NHL'er down the line. Carrick finished with an assist.

Dominic Alberga (2010)
Another of the Battalion rookies, Alberga played a solid game. He was aggressive and showed a desire to drive to the net. He was physical and active in the corners for loose pucks. He also showed some solid glimpses of offensive ability, especially while on a line with Philip Lane. We'll see how he progresses as the season goes along.

Barclay Goodrow (2011)
The Battalion 2009 first rounder and there preseason leading scorer, Goodrow was impressive. He's a really big kid who's stronger than your average 16 year old rookie. He was constantly in the crease trying to disrupt J.P. Anderson and he showed some grit in getting into a few after the whistle altercations. His skating looks like it could use some work, in particular his acceleration. But it's always tough to determine skating ability on t.v. He looks like he'll be a factor for the Battalion this year offensively and could end up having a really solid rookie campaign.

Patrick Killeen (PIT)
Much like Tim Billingsley, Killeen needs to have a good year in order to earn a contract from the Penguins. With Thomas McCollum gone, the starting position is Killeen's to lose. He played a really solid game against the Majors. Already a big goalie, Killeen makes himself even bigger by challenging shooters and cutting off angles. He has pretty good mobility for a goaltender of his size too. He did a great job of keeping the Battalion in the game in the third period by closing the door. He still needs to work on his rebound control though as he can tend to give up some juicy ones, in particular on low shots. He made 25 of 28 shots and took the loss.

That's it for that game and wraps up my thoughts on the first weekend of the season. Comments? Questions?

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