Sunday, November 1, 2009
Sunday Top 10 - Players Who Need to Step it Up!
Now that we're in November and the season is more than a quarter finished for most teams, I think it's an appropriate time to consider some players who've greatly underachieved this season. These guys aren't your typical OHL depth player. They are quality OHL players, several of them NHL draft picks, and as such more is expected of them on the ice.
Let's take a look...
10. Brett Flemming - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
After being such an important part of the Majors blueline last season, Flemming has struggled to find a role this season. Part of that could be due to the fact he's played both forward and defense, but if his play on defense had spoke for itself, he wouldn't have been switched. He has the potential to be a quality puck rushing and offensive defenseman in this league, but he's not doing it right now. The Majors need him to step up his game to take some offensive pressure off of Cameron Gaunce. He was more of a factor offensively in his 16 year old rookie season.
9. Marco Insam - Niagara IceDogs
The Italian Stallion, Insam has failed to repeat the success he had last season for Niagara when he became one of the teams most important goal scorers. This season he's struggled to make a consistent impact and has been much less of a physical force. I thought he had the potential to score 30 this year and the IceDogs could sure use it to help take the pressure off of their three main offensive players (Friesen, Agozzino, DeSousa). He needs to be less enamored with finding room for himself to get off his big slap shot, and begin to play the game simple. Be a big man who hits the crease and creates room for his smaller (albeit tougher) linemates.
8. Mathew Sisca - Guelph Storm
Brought over by Guelph in the offseason after finishing second in scoring for Niagara last season, Sisca was expected to help provide secondary offense behind some of the Storm's bigger guns (Kennedy, Beck, Holland, Latta). Instead, Sisca has been inconsistent offensively and has continued to be a less than effective two-way player (his ticket out of Niagara). On the plus side, he has been good for Guelph in winning face offs, but they brought him in to do more than that.
7. Josh Brittain - Plymouth Whalers
Already traded once this season after falling out of favor in Barrie, Brittain will try to impress the Whalers enough to earn significant playing time. He's getting it right now, playing with Tyler Seguin. Yet, he's got only 2 goals and no assists in 5 games. Such an enigma, Brittain will not be a significant factor in this league until he learns how to play every shift hard. Cutting back on the undisciplined penalties wouldn't hurt either. With some significant injuries to top offensive wingers, the Whalers really need Brittain to step up and provide Tyler Seguin with some help.
6. Marcus Foligno - Sudbury Wolves
Getting captain John Kurtz back in the fold was big for the turnaround of this team offensively and in the standings, but secondary scoring is still a problem. Part of the problem has been the lackluster play of Marcus Foligno, who was expected to take his offensive game to the next level this season, but instead decided to become a pugilist. With his father re-taking his post behind the bench, perhaps he can get Marcus' development back on track. Sure enough he realizes how important Marcus' offensive production is to this team's success.
5. Greg McKegg - Erie Otters
After a somewhat disappointing rookie season, more was expected in 2009 of this 2008 2nd overall selection in the priority draft. The Erie Otters are currently the worst team in the Western Conference by a large margin, and part of this has been an inability to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis. While McKegg hasn't been atrocious, he needs to be more consistent. The Otters are really missing Ryan O'Reilly right now and until players like Greg McKegg step up offensively, Otters fans won't have a reason to forget that.
4. Peter Di Salvo/Jason Missiaen/Scott Stajcer - Barrie Colts/Peterborough Petes/Owen Sound Attack
You know me, I've always got to cheat to get these lists down to 10 players. However, I do see reason to include all three of these guys on this list. All three are playing for good teams, but all three need to be way more consistent in order to make their teams serious threats in the post season. Di Salvo's lucky enough that the Colts offense has been as good as it has. He's given up 4 goals or more six times so far this season, three of which he's managed to win. Missiaen has been either lights out or a sieve, which has been the mantra of his OHL career thus far. Stajcer (a pick of mine for the 2nd all star team...not looking good so far), was quite bad during the Attack's opening season struggles. He has been better lately though, especially in this most recent weekend. All three of these guys have the talent to be top goaltenders in this league, but they need to step up and be more consistent.
3. Phil Varone - London Knights
Yeah the London Knights are a top 10 team in the CHL right now, but I think most Knights fans would tell you the team is underachieving offensively thus far. The main underachiever has been Varone, one of the stars of the teams playoff run last season. Two goals thus far just isn't going to cut it because the Knights are a much better team when the offensive motor of a guy like Varone is running. Perhaps he'll always be a streaky player though as that's kind of been the knack against him in his OHL career thus far.
2. Zack Kassian - Peterborough Petes
After starting the season somewhat well, Kassian injured his shoulder thanks to a hit by Greyhounds captain Jacob Muzzin. And since his return, he's been a non factor. The Petes need a healthy, determined, beast Kassian in order to get back to the way they were playing at the start of the season (when Kassian wasn't even playing spectacular). As a high NHL first round pick, I think the expectations on Kassian have to be high. And without his positive impact on the game, the Petes are only a mediocre team.
1. Tyler Cuma - Ottawa 67's
While I wasn't as high on the 67's this season as some other people and analysts were, I have to admit...If you would have told me that the 67's would have the least amount of wins in the league at the 1/4 mark, I would have thought you were crazy. One of the biggest reasons for the struggles of the 67's has definitely been injuries and illness upfront, but also the inability of the defense to keep pucks out of the net. One of the biggest suspects on this end has been Tyler Cuma. Whether it be rust from his knee injury of last season, or pressure from expectations of being an NHL first round pick, Cuma has not played well this season. In the times I've seen him play, he's been trying to do too much on the ice, rather than playing the smart two-way game he was drafted for. If the 67's are going to turn things around, they are going to need the old Tyler Cuma back (well and better goaltending).
Anybody on your team who needs to step it up? Do you disagree with any of these guys being on this list?