The NFL is on all day & Monday night, so why not watch a matinee OHL game instead? That was my thinking process today in deciding to catch Ottawa and Oshawa on the OHL Action Pack. I had yet to see Ottawa play this year and what a better game to watch than a divisional match up against the Gennies?
The Generals completely dominated play in this game, yet came out on the losing end. Oshawa did manage to salvage a point by getting the game to overtime (after scoring three straight goals in the third period), but Petr Mrazek backstopped the 67's to a shootout victory.
Ottawa had a lot of difficulty with the size and speed of Oshawa's forwards. While the 67's defense did do well to contain the initial rushes of Oshawa's forwards, it was the second effort and the constant motor of the Generals that gave them trouble. Every shift was worked almost like clockwork. Drive to the net, stymied, but then regain possession of the puck and set up in the Ottawa end. Ottawa had only 6 shots in the second and third period combined. It was definitely thanks to Petr Mrazek that they came out on top.
And for the Generals, it was some sloppy defensive and neutral zone play that cost them. Some bad turnovers by the defense really ruined the strong game by Oshawa's forwards. I think they really need to acquire a big, tough, physical stay at home guy (say is Dalton Prout available?). But their forwards are among the best in the entire league.
Here are the player reports:
#4 - Scott Valentine (Drafted by Anaheim in 2009)
He had a pretty tough game I thought. He's really stepped it up offensively this year, but part of that could be because he's taking more chances. Looked to take the puck into the offensive zone a lot and was constantly pinching to try and keep the puck in...occasionally getting caught. The first 67's goal was a direct result of a Valentine turnover in his own zone. He tried to skate the puck out from behind the net, tried and failed to elude the forechecking Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli picked his pocket and put it past Zador. Also still tries to look for the big hit in the defensive zone. Ryan Hanes came down the wing one on one with Valentine. Valentine went for the big hit but Hanes stepped around him (and went through him) and went in alone. But Zador made the save. Big hits are a big part of Valentine's game, but he needs to be more patient. He'll get killed at the next level defensively, if he doesn't let the play come to him first. But I love the fact that he's becoming more involved offensively, as I've always felt he had the talent. He just needs to pick his spots better.
#7 - Tony DeHart (Drafted by the New York Islanders in 2010)
DeHart wasn't incredibly noticeable to be honest. Not really a bad thing. He was active offensively and did a good job of bringing the puck up ice. Defensively, he was solid.
#17 - Nicklas Jensen (NHL Draft Eligible in 2011)
One of the most impressive performances I've seen of a draft eligible prospect so far this season. Funny thing is that he didn't register a point, but sure as hell deserved one. He was absolutely fantastic. I can't say enough good things about his play. First thing you'll notice is how strong he is on his skates. His first step isn't amazing (but not poor either), but once he gets going he's very hard to stop. He protects the puck with his body very well and had a couple really nice rushes where he put the 67's defenders on his back on the way to the net but just couldn't finish. On another play, he outhustled the 67 defenders to a loose puck along the wall, cut hard to the middle, got knocked hard, but maintained possession of the puck while skating on one leg. Just a bull on skates. Very agile for a big man too. Made a really nice play behind the net, changing direction very quickly to generate a wrap around chance, but was stoned by Mrazek going post to post. He hustled defensively too and had a couple of good plays in his own zone to break up scoring chances. Put me on the Jensen bandwagon.
#21 - Scott Laughton (Draft Eligible in 2012)
Was quite impressed by the Generals first rounder. You can see why he's currently 2nd in goals scored by players from the 2010 Priority draft (behind only first overall pick Galchenyuk). Fills the open space on the ice well and skates well too. Scored a goal off a nice feed from Christian Thomas, where Laughton fired a wrist shot past Mrazek, catching him going cross crease. He's going to be an excellent player in this league.
#22 - Boone Jenner (Draft Eligible in 2011)
One of the few Generals forwards I was disappointed with. He's such a big guy, I wish he'd use his size more. I'm not asking him to be Cam Neely, but I felt like I rarely noticed him because he wasn't very active off or on the puck. I don't think the skating is as much of an issue as some other people have said...as he kept up well with the pace. He just didn't do a whole heck of a lot.
#24 - Calvin de Haan (Drafted by the New York Islanders in 2009)
de Haan is too good for this league. At this point, a lack of size and strength was probably the only thing that kept him out of the NHL this year. In the first period, I was a little disappointed with his play as I felt he was being a bit too conservative. But he really picked it up in the second and third period, rushing the puck up ice with ease. He's just such a smart player. It's little things that make you appreciate the high level at which he thinks the game. For example, on the powerplay he was forced to receive a choppy pass at the blueline, bobbled it a bit, and gained control with two Ottawa 67's PK'ers directly to his left and right. A lot of defenseman force a pass and panic, but de Haan gained control and out waited his opponents, keeping possession instead of passing. Then he got to his teammate on the wing. The game tying goal was a thing of beauty too. Took a pass, went to the middle of the ice, was going to shoot and decided against it, partially losing the puck behind him. But he kicked the puck up from skate to stick, kept on going and wired it far side past Mrazek with about a minute left. Defensively, he was flawless too.
#27 - Christian Thomas (Drafted by the New York Rangers in 2010)
Had a very solid game and is really firing on all cylinders right now. He is not afraid to shoot from anywhere on the ice, but at the same time he's smart about it. Gets himself into position to shoot really quickly and was constantly trying to use opposing defenders as a screen. But it was his passing game that really stood out today. It's his playmaking ability that has taken the step forward this year. He's much more patient with the puck and is letting the play develop around him. His assist on Scott Laughton's goal was especially nice, as he rushed down the ice, was cut off, spun out and waited just long enough to draw the defenders in to him. Then he fired a pass to Laughton in the slot for the goal. He's always got the motor running too and is constantly lifting sticks and winning battles in the corners. He has to be a shoe in for an invite to Team Canada's Under 20 camp at this point.
#38 - Lucas Lessio (Draft Eligible in 2011)
Jensen definitely stole the spotlight today, but Lessio was pretty good too. Right now, his speed is his best weapon. In particular, his first step/acceleration is fantastic. He's at full speed in only a couple of strides and it really makes him an impact player. Not only off the rush, but he closes in on defenders very quickly in the offensive zone as their trying to get the puck out. But don't confuse that as forechecking, which is something I'd love to see him use his speed for more. He had a couple of really nice rushes to the net, but couldn't finish on any of them. He was OK along the boards, but he needs to engage physically more.
#33 - Michael Zador (Drafted by Tampa Bay in 2009)
A big year for Zador in a lot of ways. He's being expected to be the starter for a team with aspirations in winning the Eastern Conference. And he's trying to earn a contract from Tampa Bay. While he hasn't been terrible this year, he hasn't been fantastic either. He did come up with a few big stops for the Generals, but at the same time he probably should have had the Cody Ceci goal. He still gives up way too many juicy rebounds into the slot area, of which Ottawa was never in position to capitalize on. On the plus side, he kept his team in the shootout, making four quality saves before giving up the game winner to Thomas Nesbitt. It'll be interesting to see what the Generals do this year. My hunch would guess that they try and get another quality goaltender to push Zador.
#16 - Tyler Toffoli (Drafted by Los Angeles in 2010)
Toffoli had a good game. He was one of the few 67 forwards who was doing a whole heck of a lot. Was forcing a lot of turnovers in the offensive and neutral zones, and it was good to see him hustling. The skating looks a bit better, but he'll still need to work on becoming more explosive towards the net. Scored a nice goal by catching Scott Valentine coming out from behind the net, stripping him and firing a wrist shot past Michael Zador. On the downside, he did take a stupid penalty with about two minutes left, that lead to the eventual game tying goal. He was forechecking hard, forced the Generals defender out, but then used his stick to try and hold him up. He had no chance of getting the puck as the defender was past him, so it was just a sloppy play on his part.
#17 - Steven Janes (Draft Eligible in 2011)
Janes is a big guy and he skates well. That's really about all I can tell about him at this time. He worked the cycle well and is definitely tough to separate from the puck, but I'm not sure about the level of offensive skill he has. Definitely a lunch pail type guy, but with his size and speed, he could generate interest from NHL teams.
#18 - Shane Prince (Draft Eligible in 2011)
I was really disappointed in Prince's play. There is definitely some speed to his game, but it seemed like every time he had the puck, he had it stripped or he was muscled off it. As such, he wasn't really able to create anything offensively, save a nice saucer pass off the rush to Cody Lindsay...who would have been in all alone had he been able to coral the puck. I'm definitely going to need to see him play again (live this time) to make a fair judgment on his draft status.
#33 - Dalton Smith (Drafted by Columbus in 2010)
Offensively he was completely invisible. But he was very physical and had a couple of thunderous hits. But I'd definitely like to see him become more involved with the puck on his stick.
#77 - Ryan Martindale (Drafted by Edmonton in 2010)
If I hadn't have been looking for #77, I don't think I would have noticed he was playing. Martindale was completely invisible and it shows he's still battling the consistency issues he has since he came into the OHL. As a 1991, he needs to be better.
#83 - Cody Ceci (Draft Eligible in 2012)
Ceci looks good...and improved. He definitely looks a little bigger and a little stronger. He did a nice job of containing Oshawa's forwards off the rush and did an even better job of winning battles against them in the corner. He also looks more involved offensively and had a couple of nice rushes with the puck. He scored his goal from the point, releasing a wrister goal through a crowd and into the back of the net.
#1 - Petr Mrazek (Drafted by Detroit in 2010)
Mrazek was absolutely fantastic. He got beat on a couple of well placed shots that caught him going the wrong way in his crease, taking away his angle. He might want the Alain Berger goal back at the side of the net, but his defense was more to blame for leaving two players wide open at the side of the net on the powerplay. He didn't really know how to play it and was caught in the middle of his net...probably anticipating a pass in hopes that one of his defenders would pressure Berger. But he really kept Ottawa in a game they didn't deserve being in. He comes out to challenge shooters and did a VERY good job of controlling his rebounds. He managed to hang on to pretty much everything. He showcased a good glove today too, with a couple of highlight worthy glove saves. I definitely noticed that he isn't flopping around nearly as much as he was last year either, and seems to have reformed his style a bit so that he can take away the upper half. He made 35 saves...and stopped all five shooters in the shootout for the win.