With T.J. Brodie and Nick Crawford making their debut for Barrie, I figured I'd check out this game between Barrie and Sudbury on the OHL Action Pack. Barrie has been on fire lately, winning six in a row, and this one was no different. Crawford and Brodie each finished at +3 as the Colts took it to the Wolves by a score of 5-0. This Colts team is just dominating right now. An eye opening stat mentioned by the Colts broadcast crew was that the Colts have now gone 21 straight periods without being beaten. In other words, the Colts have not only gone seven straight games without losing, but they haven't even lost a period in any of those games. Quite impressive.
In watching Barrie before, and now with Brodie and Crawford, there is a difference. They join this lineup seamlessly and really help to get Barrie up ice quickly so that their forwards can take over play. Speaking of which, the Colts forward have really seemed to find some chemistry. All three lines were solid tonight, with even the fourth line of Ryan Strome, Dean Pawlaczyk, and David Mazurek dominating play down low on several occasions. Goaltender Peter Di Salvo had a great game too. I think there is much reason for Barrie fans to get excited this year, as this Colts team really does look like a contender for the OHL title, perhaps as the second best team behind the Windsor Spitfires.
Sudbury will have some tough times ahead. Already one of the worst offensive teams in the league, the Wolves will be without John McFarland for at least a few weeks as he's suffered a shoulder injury. The guys who need to pick up that slack, like Jared Staal and Marcus Foligno just aren't getting it done. Staal has 1 goal in his last 7 games, and Foligno hasn't scored since the third game of the season. The Wolves started this one with a bizarre offensive line up too. Nothing against Coach Foligno, because he knows what he's doing, but the forward lines he started with seemed like a recipe for disaster. The team's best player and only true offensive player, Eric O'Dell, was between 2 guys with a combined 4 goals on the year (Tarini and Allicock). Meanwhile, the club's other offensive threats were all on one, slow line (Kurtz, Staal, Foligno). Three very two way players, but also three forwards who lack the natural talent and foot speed to carry the puck into the zone. It's obvious that Coach Foligno is trying to find something without McFarland in the line up (and O'Dell's normal linemate), but it wasn't surprising to me that those lines failed to get anything done. And it didn't take long before they got thrown in the blender and mixed around. It wasn't until the 3rd period until the Wolves showed some life, much thanks to Eric O'Dell, but it was too little too late. Not a pretty game from their end at all and it certainly doesn't get easier for the Wolves to score as they'll be taking on the defensively stingy Mississauga Majors at home tomorrow.
On to some individual performance thoughts...
Justin Sefton (2011)
Highly touted draft selection of 2009, Sefton seems to be adjusting more and more to play in this league. I continue to be impressed with his defensive abilities, and ability to use his size at the ripe age of 16. On one occasion, beast Kyle Clifford came into the zone with a head of steam, but Sefton stayed in front of him, guided him to the boards and separated him from the puck. Quite a few defenders have a tough time with Clifford's size and speed combination, but not Sefton. He made a similar play on Stefan Della Rovere later in the game; another guy who's tough to contain. His offensive game still needs work, in particular his confidence in moving the puck up ice quickly, but I think there's some potential there. Late in the game he rushed the puck into the offensive end, which was a first for me in my viewings. He went end to end and took it right to the net, forcing Di Salvo to make a nice save. I hope he starts doing this more.
Jake Cardwell (2010)
Over the past two seasons, Caldwell has always been a guy who's caught my eye. He's got good size on the backend and he's not afraid to use it. He seems to be fairly mobile and has the ability to move the puck up ice. He runs the powerplay and can get his shot through to the net. The only thing missing is a big statline. I'm not entirely sure he's an NHL prospect, but I think it's worth giving him a solid shout out. He did well to defend against the Barrie rush and does a good job of staying ahead of the forwards. He had a couple nice rushes into the Barrie zone, in particular in the third period when Sudbury was trying to get some momentum back. He also hit the post with a point shot while on the powerplay. He did have a couple of turnovers in the defensive end, in particular one bad pass up the middle of the ice from behind his net, but nothing came of it.
Jared Staal (PHX)
Not much to say here. Completely invisible on the ice, for better or worse. Didn't make any glaring mistakes, but he didn't do anything in the offensive end either. Since his hot start to the season, he's gone quite cold as of late.
Daniel Maggio (NYR)
I thought he played a very solid game for a defender whose team just lost 5-0. Defensively he made a few very nice plays. For a guy his size, he has excellent mobility and he seems to do a very good job on rushing forwards. On two different occasions he was able to stay ahead of Kyle Clifford and Alex Hutchings, and keep them from the front of the net. It showed not only strong mobility, but good positioning too. He does need to tighten up his defensive zone coverage though and be quicker in picking up his man. Offensively, he rushes the puck well up ice and seems to make smart passing plays. On the powerplay, made a very nice play to keep the puck in the zone by knocking it down right at the line, then used the Brian Campbell esque spin'o'rama to elude two stick checks, and finishing the play off with a heads up cross ice pass for a one timer that was stopped by Peter Di Salvo. As a former 7th overall priority selection, his progress this year seems to be really flying under the radar.
Marcus Foligno (BUF)
Struggled tonight. Took two bad, sloppy, undisciplined penalties to negate his teams powerplays. The first a tripping call, the second a high stick. Nothing like taking two different penalties with the man advantage to kill any momentum offensively. Also had a couple terrible giveaways in his own end, one a bad pass to the middle of the ice that was picked off at the blueline. Another where he was stripped of the puck from behind while trying to carry it out of the defensive zone. Both led to scoring chances, but not to goals. Offensively, he just isn't getting anything done. As a penalty killer and board player, he's effective, but the Sabres didn't draft him to be a 4th line plugger. Hoping that playing for his dad again turns his game around for the better as the season goes on.
Eric O'Dell (ATL)
I thought he was really the only Sudbury forward who was able to generate offense tonight. Plays both ends of the ice, made a couple of very nice plays defensively to tie up his man. He works the cycle well and he can make things happen off the rush. Missed on a penalty shot (which was a terrible call) after taking the puck off a falling Nick Crawford and going hard to the net. Nothing to show for on the stat sheet, but this loss wasn't his fault. He's definitely missing John McFarland right now, as the two had built up quite the chemistry this season.
Alexander Burmistrov (2010)
Was part of the Colts most effective line on the night, with Alex Hutchings and Stefan Della Rovere. This line just couldn't be stopped. Burmistrov is such a smart offensive player. He doesn't need much room to slip through the defense and has a lot of confidence in carrying the puck. On Barrie's final goal of the game, he took the puck end to end on the powerplay, deking through two Wolves defenders, before smartly pulling up and finding Nick Crawford for the open point shot. Stefan Della Rovere promptly made the redirect, but it was Burmistrov's original play that got the ball rolling. His overall game is really rounding into form too. He's still doing good work on the penalty kill, but he's showing more effort 5 on 5 defensively and on the backcheck. He also is showing a willingness to stand in front of the net for screens, like he did on the Rovere tip in third period goal. Hasn't finished a game with a minus rating in 10 games. His stock for the draft can only go up at this point.
Alex Hutchings (TBL)
Simply put, Hutchings was a beast tonight. His speed caused a lot of trouble for the Wolves defense, in particular for the Wolves forwards on the backcheck. On the penalty kill, he was outstanding, pressuring on the forecheck and killing time along the boards. He takes the puck on the outside and goes hard to the net with speed, and his acceleration and low center of gravity make him very hard to stop, even if he is slightly undersized. Scored a goal on a nice pass from SDR in the first and picked up two assists on Barrie's 3rd and 4th goals. I'm disappointed he didn't get an invite to the Subway Super Series, because he deserves to be there. If there's an injury, I don't doubt he'd be the first they'd call to play.
Kyle Clifford (LA)
While he didn't have any points tonight, he made a difference. As I mentioned, his speed and size combination make him very hard to stop. While Sudbury's defense made a few nice plays on him, they largely had trouble containing him. On one excellent play, he slipped behind the defense for a breakaway, missed the net but followed up his rebound, shrugged off a check and took the puck hard to the front of the net on a wrap around. Unfortunately Andrew Loverock made a nice save on the play, but it showed how hard he is to stop with full momentum. He seems to be gaining a lot of confidence in just taking the puck to the net as soon as he gets it on his stick, which is something the Kings have to be happy with (in terms of his development).
Nick Crawford (BUF)
Played a tremendous game. Was solid defensively, playing a sound positional game. He keeps himself between the net and the opposing forward very well, and he reacts to the play like an NHL veteran. Offensively, he's incredibly smart too. Had three points on the night, a goal and 2 assists. What I like about Crawford is that he doesn't feel the need to take a big slapper from the point. He's comfortable putting a hard, accurate wrist shot towards the goal, and it creates scoring chances. He scored on one, and had another redirected for a goal. All in all, a tremendous first impression for him in Barrie, and perhaps out of the shadows in Saginaw, he'll start to garner the respect he deserves as an NHL prospect and top OHL defender.
Stefan Della Rovere (WSH)
Since starting the season very slowly, SDR has been outstanding of late (7 goals in his last 10 games). He's taking the puck hard to the net, he's crashing the net looking for rebounds, he's screening the goalie on point shots, and he's back to being his general shift disturbing self. Always a physical threat, Rovere is really hard to contain along the wall. Always keeps his feet moving in loose puck battles near the boards, part of the reason he rarely loses them. Scored a nice goal on a redirect in front of the net. Scored another goal on a nice reaction off a rebound, by turning and firing it top shelf, surprising Loverock. He also made a great pass to Alex Hutchings for the first goal of the game. Won a battle for the puck behind the net and made a beautiful back pass to a streaking Hutchings for the one timer. As long as he can keep his emotions in check and remain disciplined, he's such a valuable player to have on the ice in this league.
T.J. Brodie (CGY)
Like Crawford, this was Brodie's first game with Barrie and he was very strong. Interestingly enough, Brodie wasn't really involved offensively tonight like his partner Nick Crawford was. But he was solid defensively. Was never beat to the net, was winning battles in the corners. Did a good job on coverage. I even saw him rub out an opposing forward along the boards. That physical play is something you don't see enough of from Brodie. If he can put forth the defensive effort he did tonight...consistently for Barrie...it won't be long before more than just OHL and Calgary Flames fans know who this guy is. Like Crawford, he finished +3.
Bryan Cameron (Overage Free Agent)
Cameron didn't have a tremendous game, taking some undisciplined penalties. But he has been on absolute fire lately, with 7 goals in his last 5 games before this affair. I really like him as a player and I hope an NHL team gives him a shot this offseason.
Darren Archibald (2010, but 1990 born)
I was shocked when this guy went undrafted last season, after his strong OHL rookie season and playoffs. I'll be even more shocked if he goes undrafted or signed again this year. He's big, he can skate well for his size, and he has good hands and offensive instincts. A true power forward prospect who can do a little bit of everything. Besides Alex Hutchings, I thought Archibald was Barrie's best forward tonight. On his first shift of the game, he took a drop pass from Taylor Carnevale and ripped a snap shot off the crossbar. Later in the period, he flew down the wing, shrugged off a check from Josh McFadden, took the puck straight to the net and fired home a wrist shot top shelf. Quite an impressive goal. He also made a few really nice passes tonight in transition. Big power forwards who can play offense in transition don't grow on trees. He also kills penalties and makes a consistent effort on the backcheck. He saved a likely goal in the second period after coming back to the defensive zone to cover for a pinching defenseman, and intercepting a pass to a wide open Sudbury player in front of the net. After starting the season off slowly as he recovered from injury, Archibald has a 6 game point streak (6 goals, 4 assists) going now. This guy is a beast.
Taylor Carnevale (2010, but 1991 born)
Exploded offensively this season in Barrie and has a lot of people talking about his draft prospectus. Mark Seidel has him in his recent top 100 for the NACS. He seems to have very good chemistry with Darren Archibald and these two worked the give and go on several occasions. He has good speed and he's not afraid to work hard on the forecheck or in the corners. Kind of a jack of all trades who's smarts and vision give him the opportunity to put up points. He finished with a secondary assist on Archibald's goal.
Peter Di Salvo (2010, but 1990 born)
This one is for Mr. CAPS (read my comments section and you'll know!). Di Salvo was excellent tonight. Didn't really face much in the way of serious scoring chances until the third period, but he shut the door all night long. I really like how aggressive he is in challenging shooters. He gets out right past the blue ice and gives opposing shooters very little to aim for. His rebound control was a little bit suspect tonight, especially on long shots, but not much more you could ask from him tonight. Made all 28 saves for the shutout victory. By the way, Di Salvo has one of the coolest masks in the OHL (check it out)
That's it, anyone else see Brodie and Crawford's first game with the Colts?