Watching a game on the OHL Action Pack is not the same as watching it live; that goes without saying. But no way was I missing the last regular season battle (and possibly last OHL battle) between Taylor and Tyler. This was a scout's dream, with a chance to see the potential top 3 selections of the 2010 NHL Draft in the same game (Hall, Seguin, and Fowler). It looked like the entire Oilers front office was in the building tonight.
It was definitely a good game to watch, especially considering both Seguin and Hall had relatively strong games. That said, I think Hall had the more impressive game, as he was instrumental in his team's comeback from being down 4-1, to winning 6-4. The win clinched first place in the West for the Spitfires, and delayed the clinching of 4th for the Whalers.
The Spitfires didn't play the best of games, but you have to hand it to their resiliency. Being down early and turning on the jets in the third period to mount the comeback. Their depth has a lot to do with their ability to stay in hockey games, because every line put out there has the ability to wear down a defense. Eventually that toll just adds up.
Don't have a ton of time tonight for a write up, but here are some minor (when I say minor, I probably mean under 2000 words!) individual player thoughts...
Colin MacDonald (2010)
Really liked what I saw from MacDonald tonight. Looked like coach Mike Vellucci was happy too. MacDonald saw limited ice time in the first and second periods, but after a few strong shifts, got a lot of time in the third. He's got good size and he's very mobile. I was very impressed with his one on one defense off the rush, in particular a play he made to stand up Justin Shugg as he tried to get by him. In the defensive zone he was quiet...which is a good thing. Still looks like he could stand to improve his ability to move the puck out of his zone, might be a confidence thing as he seems more content to chip the puck off the boards at times. But scored his first career OHL goal in the first period off a weak point shot that eluded Phil Grubauer. With all the scouts in the building tonight, I have to think MacDonald did well to put himself on the map for a draft position in 2010.
Austin Levi (2010)
Had a strong game up until the last part of the third period. Was on the ice for both the Windsor 5th and 6th goals. The Dale Mitchell goal was a result of him failing to take his man at the net, while the Zack Kassian goal was a result of a turnover in the defensive end by Levi thanks to a hard forecheck from Justin Shugg. While Levi is mobile, he seems to have a hard time with the forecheck and knowing where and when to move the puck. The first two periods he was excellent though. Made a great play on a 3 on 1, using an active stick to break up an Eric Wellwood pass. Also looked good along the boards and off the rush defensively. An interesting prospect for sure. Unfortunately for him, he got beaten up a little bit by Adam Wallace after coming to the aid of his goaltender, who Wallace ran. Felt bad for him. Truthfully, he shouldn't have gotten a fighting major, and Wallace should have gotten an instigator. I'm not sure what it looked like live, but from home it looked like Levi went to just starting shoving Wallace after the play and instead, before he could touch Wallace, Adam had his gloves off and started throwing on Levi. Quite frankly, it didn't even look like Levi got his gloves off. I don't think he intended to fight there.
Tyler Seguin (2010)
Had a very strong start to the game. Was all over the ice, at both ends. Made a couple really nice plays in the defensive end to break up Windsor scoring chances, showcasing his all around game. Also had a few nice rushes into the Windsor end, showcasing his speed and acceleration. However, I felt like he struggled at times in the second and third. Had a few bad turnovers as he tried to force action up ice and stopped using his teammates. I think Hall outplayed him tonight.
R.J. Mahalak (2010)
Wanted to see more of him. Started off strong, had a couple of big hits and was active in the forecheck, but faded as the game went on. He may need a really strong playoff performance to help him get drafted in an injury plagued season.
Robbie Czarnik (LAK)
Played an absolutely tremendous game. Has speed, skill and perhaps even an underdeveloped mean streak. He's been unstoppable lately and now has 8 points in his last three games. He finished with 2 goals and an assist tonight. First goal was all Tyler Brown as he chipped the puck around Cam Fowler, beat him to the outside and fed a one handed pass to a streaking Czarnik for the tap in. Second goal was off a turnover by Mark Cundari off the faceoff, as Czarnik swarmed him, stole the puck and put it past Phil Grubauer. He earned a second period assist on Tyler Brown's goal, this time by returning the favor to Brown by doing all the work. He exploded into the offensive zone, got through one Windsor defender, used a toe drag on the next to get a shot off that was partially blocked right to Brown for the goal. In the second, he also picked up a pretty vicious checking from behind penalty as he tried to beat out Marc Cantin for a loose puck, and mushed his head into the end glass with his forearm. Cantin was bleeding from the head area and Windsor was rightfully calling for more than the two minutes he received. Still an impressive performance by a player who's turned heads since he joined the league.
Scott Wedgewood (2010)
Despite give up six goals, I thought he played a solid game. Made a lot of saves to keep his team in the game for as long as he could. Robbed Taylor Hall on a partial breakaway in the second period, as Hall got past the defense and tried to slide it home five hole following a deke, but Wedgewood stayed with him and kept the puck out. Did a good job with his rebound control and looks to be fairly poised in the net. I'm not sure I'd call any of the six goals against weak. He made 39 of 45 saves and took the loss.
Taylor Hall (2010)
Hall was the opposite of Seguin. He started slowly but picked it up by game's end. In the second half of the second and during the third periods, he was nearly unstoppable. He showcased his elite speed by creating chances off the rush nearly every time up ice. Slipped past the defense in the second for a partial breakaway but was stoned by Wedgewood. Ended up scoring in the third by going hard to the net and taking a nice pass from Eric Wellwood, finishing back hand top shelf on Wedgewood. Hall also picked up two secondary assists. I think tonight Hall showed why he belongs at the top of the 2010 NHL Draft list.
Zack Kassian (BUF)
Kassian's second game back from suspension, he had an inconsistent effort. Had a couple of really strong shifts in the first period, threw a huge hit in the corner and had a strong shift on the cycle behind the net that ended in a scoring opportunity. But then in the second he disappeared completely. In the latter half of the third period, he reappeared and began to show why he was a first round NHL draft pick. Had a few more nice hits, and scored a beautiful goal to seal the victory for Windsor at 6-4. Took a feed in front of the net, deked out Wedgewood and put it home with one hand as he began to skate in the opposite direction. The knock all throughout his OHL career thus far has been the inconsistency between shifts and periods for Kassian and that appears to still be plaguing him. In order to be an elite NHL power forward, he's going to have to find a way to make an impact every time on the ice.
Justin Shugg (2010)
Second time in a row that Shugg has played very well when I've seen Windsor. I'm really starting to come around on him after originally being weary of his future NHL role. He's become a very good player on the forecheck, and if he can improve his skating (in particular his top speed), I think he could develop into a quality top 9 forward at the next level. Had a nice goal in the first to open the scoring for Windsor as he corralled a bouncing puck from Whalers defenseman Leo Jenner and went in alone on Scott Wedgewood, beating him forehand fivehole. He also earned the primary assist on the Zack Kassian goal by making a nice pass to Zach after stealing the puck from both Austin Levi and Tyler Brown. No way he's still #27 on my final OHL list for the draft.
Philip Grubauer (2010)
Had a very poor outing. Looked to be really fighting the puck early, and even though the Windsor defense wasn't really helping him out, he failed to help them out too. The Colin MacDonald goal was really ugly as I'm not sure the point shot left the ice. Boughner was right to pull him in the second period after giving up 4 goals on 15 shots. I gotta say, I've been disappointed with how inconsistent Grubauer has been in Windsor. I really thought he'd take the opportunity and run with it. He's going to need to have an excellent (or at least dependable) OHL playoffs to save his draft position.
That's it for tonight. Thoughts on the game? Thoughts on Taylor vs. Tyler?