Baseball playoffs have started. TSN's opening NHL broadcast is on. Yet...I'm watching the Plymouth Whalers take on the Owen Sound Attack on a Wednesday night. Am I crazy? Perhaps I'm a fanatical fan of the OHL. But more importantly, I got a chance to watch Tyler Seguin for the first time this season. With the way he's exploded this season, I felt the need to see him play and see the progression.
It was a pretty entertaining game, all things considered. Fairly wide open play. A few breakaways, some big hits, and some nice goals. The Whalers got out to a pretty convincing 3-0 lead after the first two periods. But the Attack came to life in the 3rd and closed the gap to 4-2. But that was as close as they got, losing the game by a score of 5-2. A.J. Jenks was named the first star by recording 2 goals and an assist, while Tyler Seguin continued his scoring streak by adding two assists of his own.
Here are some thoughts on individual performances...
Austin Levi (2010)
Really impressed with what I saw. Great size at 6'4, 200lbs and he uses it too. Eliminated players off the rush, was great positionally, won battles in the corners. Overall, very solid at the defensive end. Offensively, he didn't do a whole lot. But in a way, that was impressive. He kept things simple and never tried to force a play and he was composed with the puck in his own end. Stay at home defenseman with size, who can take care of the puck do not grow on trees. He will be an NHL draft pick in June.
Tyler Seguin (2010)
Every bit as advertised. Dominated the majority of his shifts and is just one of those players who's constantly around the puck. Explosive offensive player who nearly broke in alone on a few occasions. Has a lot of confidence with the puck on his stick and is not afraid to try and make things happen. But most importantly, he rarely tried to force the play. As aggressive as he was with the puck, he was also smart with it. If the opportunity to take the puck to the net wasn't there, he made the pass or the dump. The pass to Myles McCauley on his second period goal was a work of art. Eluded nearly the entire Attack defense, and made the pass to the wide open McCauley at the side of the net. McCauley was so wide open because the defense was disorganized from trying to keep up with Seguin. At this point, I'm not sure there is anything he doesn't do. He's killing penalties effectively, he's providing leadership as Plymouth's captain, and he was winning battles in the corners. At one point it looked like he and Joey Hishon might drop the gloves, to which I was incredibly excited and was hoping, but alas it failed to happen. If this guy was playing in Windsor and Taylor Hall was playing in Plymouth, would we be talking about Seguin as the first overall pick? There, I said it! He finished the game with 2 assists.
Garrett Meurs (2011)
Was quite impressive, definitely one of the better 1993's I've seen this year. There is a lot of skill there and he did a good job of creating offense by moving the puck quickly and working inside the offensive zone. Like any rookie, he made some mistakes. Tried to do a little too much with the puck at times and turned the puck over. A couple turnovers in the third period could have really cost Plymouth. But the decision making will come with experience and tutelage. He scored a garbage goal at the end of regulation to give himself a two point night.
Beau Schmitz (2010, but 1991 born)
Schmitz went undrafted in 2009, which was somewhat surprising to me. Then he failed to earn a contract from Carolina after attending their training camp, which also surprised me. He's a solid defenseman though; a guy who has vastly improved from the beginning of last year (his first in the league). He's much more composed with the puck now, and is doing a better job with his decision making. He wasn't really noticeable tonight, save for one really nice defensive play on Joey Hishon. Hishon tried to get around him to the net and he knocked the puck off his stick then delivered an awesome hip check. Unfortunately he received a ridiculous interference penalty on the play, but it was an impressive display of one on one defense.
A.J. Jenks (FLA)
Really liked what I saw from Jenks tonight. He was a beast on the forecheck. The game's opening goal was a direct result of Jenks' forechecking ability. He exploded into the offensive zone, hit the Owen Sound attack defenseman behind the net and knocked the puck free. It ended up finding its way to the front of the net and Jenks came back from the corner to bury it to the back of the net. His second goal of the night came shorthanded, as he got sprung on a breakaway by Tyler J. Brown. Made a nice deke on Stajcer and put it to the back of the net. He also played the point on the Whalers first powerplay unit and did a very good job of bringing the puck into the offensive zone. His skating looks much improved from what I remember. Jenks finished the night with 2 goals and 1 assist.
Michal Jordan (CAR)
Jordan had a pretty solid night. He did a good job of carrying the puck up ice and was smart with his pinches. He seems to have solid offensive awareness. Defensively, he was hit and miss. He looked really good on a couple occasions as he prevented Owen Sound players from driving to the net (Hishon on one occasion). But then Steve Shipley made him look really bad in the third period, as he split the defense and went in alone for the goal. On that occasion, he and his defensive partner got caught standing still, so he just needs to keep his feet moving in the defensive zone.
Matt Hackett (MIN)
Hackett has not had a very strong start to the season, so it was good to see him have a solid game. He reads and reacts to the play very well. He covers his angles and is technically sound. The two shots that beat him were breakaway goals by Steven Shipley, where he committed too early to the ice and Shipley beat him high. But he's a solid goaltender, positionally sound, controls his rebounds pretty well. Needs to continue to string together solid games in order to get consideration for Team Canada at the WJC's. He made 31 of 33 saves for the win.
Owen Sound Attack
Keevin Cutting (2010)
Cutting impressed me tonight more than he has in the past. He was composed with the puck and he made really smart decisions on the ice. He was by far the best Owen Sound defenseman at playing through Plymouth's tough forecheck. He's fairly solid with his one on one defense too, despite his slender frame. He laid an absolutely beautiful body check on a Plymouth forward (I believe Gaynor) as he tried to cross the blueline with the puck. I've never seen that physical side of him before. Defensively, he does need to work on his coverage though, as he got caught running around a bit on that Myles McCauley goal. Ditto for the 3rd period Joe Gaynor goal that put the game out of reach. I was still impressed though.
Garrett Wilson (FLA)
Wilson was good tonight until he got injured. He took a Milan Doczy shot to the upper leg/knee area and missed a few shifts. When he came back, he was in obvious pain still and wasn't nearly as effective. But kudos to him for coming back and playing through it. Through the first half of the game, he was his normal self and one of the only Attack players generating offensive chances. I really like the progression he's shown this year so far.
Joey Hishon (2010)
What is wrong with Joey Hishon? That is the question I want answered. He's really struggling out there and it's frustrating knowing how much talent he has. It's pretty obvious he's pressing out there. He has the speed, agility, and puck skills to carry play in the offensive end, yet he isn't. He's trying to break through openings that aren't there. He's not using his teammates as well as he can, and when he does, his passes are not on the mark. On a few occasions, he created a scoring chance using his speed, but then simply threw the puck on the net, rather than making a pass or continuing with the puck. He took a really bad penalty in the 2nd period too. Obviously frustrated, he took a run at Beau Schmitz a few seconds after he had gotten rid of the puck. It was obviously a late hit and had to be called. Someone needs to have a talk with him, just to re-focus his play. Everyone knows he's capable of better and that he'll eventually break out of it.
Steven Shipley (2010)
I seem to remember a certain OHL blogger claiming that Shipley would be a much more effective winger the last time I saw him (Ahem). Tonight, he played the wing on a line with Hishon and Mignardi and looked the best I've ever seen him. On the wing, he's able to keep the game simple. He's able to use his good straight ahead speed to develop plays off the rush. Scored two beautiful goals. First one was off a pure breakaway, where his speed really showed. Second goal was all him, as he exploded between the two Plymouth defenders, went in on net, fought off a vicious slash and roofed it on Hackett. Sure he's a big body who doesn't really use his size to play physical. If he can continue to use his speed and take the puck to the net, he's going to have a lot of success in this league from the wing. He finished with 2 goals.
Geoffrey Schemitsch (2010)
Continue to be impressed with his offensive abilities. He moves the puck very well and has great on ice vision. He runs the powerplay well, although does need to do a better job of getting his shot on net. He is raw though, which is to be expected since he's playing his first season in the league. He makes bad pinches that lead to odd man rushes, two on occasion tonight. And he seems to have a hard time with play in the corners, not strong enough yet to win loose puck battles against guys like A.J. Jenks. That said, when he has the puck on his stick, he knows what to do with it. Hopefully he can continue to work on his defensive game and earn a place on the NHL draft radar. Finished with 2 assists tonight.
Scott Stajcer (NYR)
Like Hackett, he's struggled to start the year. My prediction for the OHL 2nd all star team seems far fetched now. He's still a solid prospect though. Even though he gave up 5 goals tonight, I don't think he played terribly. He got hung out to dry by his defense on the majority of the goals and really didn't have a chance. He does give up way too many rebounds though, although he does direct them to non danger areas the majority of the time. He made 21 out of 26 saves and took the loss.
That's it on the game. Thoughts? Does Tyler Seguin rival Taylor Hall for first overall?