Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sean Keogh's Game Report: Spirit and 67's from January 21

If you remember, Sean provided us with a report earlier this month when he caught the visiting Petes taking on his hometown Ottawa 67's (HERE).

Well he's returned, this time after taking in a battle between two of the league's most formidable teams, the Ottawa 67's and the Saginaw Spirit.


Saginaw coming from the Western Conference rarely makes its way as far east as Ottawa, and this game was doubly exciting considering both squads are near the top of the league standings. Whereas Saginaw was playing well, bolstered by a number of big trade deadline acquisitions, the 67s were coming off a disastrous last weekend where they lost three consecutive games to Windsor, Oshawa and Mississauga. For that reason it was a particularly important game for the 67s.

Ultimately the 67s took the game 3-0, and have to feel good about their performance overall. Although they were perhaps slightly outplayed in each of the first two periods, they were very strong in the third, holding their lead nicely. Oddly enough, although the game featured the second and third best powerplays in the league, neither team scored on each of their seven opportunities. Moreover, in only a couple of those fourteen chances was there any sustained pressure by either team, and the penalty killing units were almost as dangerous, particularly Brandon Saad.

Overall it was not a particularly exciting game, despite having a quick pace and few whistles. The vaunted first line of the 67s was strong but dominant, and no single line for Saginaw consistently imposed themselves on the Ottawa blueline. Both goalies made strong saves, and yet there was no huge momentum swings. I do not much about Todd Watson and his system, but Saginaw through the first two periods seemed to congest the neutral zone quite effectively, a tactic made easier by the size of their squad, particularly on the blueline. The 67s for their part were caught running around in their own end a handful of times, but the Spirit were never able to capitalize. With all that said, here are a few player highlights:

Ottawa 67s

Tyler Toffoli – Drafted by Los Angeles

Scored the first goal of the game on a rocket of a shot right off a faceoff win from Martindale. Parks barely moved and just about no goalie would have stopped it. The goal was signature Toffoli, who has as dangerous a shot as I can remember seeing in Ottawa. Other than his goal, Toffoli had an up and down game. He was probably Ottawa’s most involved player, and actually set up both Prince and Martindale with smooth saucer paces for really nice scoring chances, neither of which turned into goals. Toffoli also had two partial breakaways, neither of which he did much with, and in fact he seemed to lose his balance both times. The knock on Toffoli in this game is something I have noticed frequently this month, both live and on TV. He has kind of settled in to a more passive Dany Heatley-esque role because his linemates Prince and Martindale are both faster and stronger along the boards than he is. Going forward as a prospect he will have to be more assertive and aggressive.

Ryan Martindale – Drafted by Edmonton

Tonight was par for the course with Martindale, a solid if unspectacular game. The faceoff win to Toffoli was one of several big wins from Martindale, and he was consistently involved offensively. Made a couple of good plays off the rush and was involved on the PK. An argument could be made he is the most well-rounded prospect on that first line, but you would like him to be more consistently aggressive.

Shane Prince – 2011 Draft Eligible

After that lengthy point scoring streak, Prince was held off the score sheet for a second consecutive game. Nothing really changed in his game, he and his line were still strong throughout, and if not for some strong saves from Mavric Parks in the third, he probably would have picked up an assist or two. There are shifts when that line just keeps the puck in the offensive zone for about a minute, and it is usually largely because of Prince’s puck pursuit. I wonder how much more speed he can add to his short stride, but at this level he is still plenty quick.

Dalton Smith – Drafted by Columbus

Dropped down to the third line, with Tyler Graovac taking his spot alongside Cody Lindsay and Thomas Nesbitt, and seemed better for it. Picked up an assist on Sean Monahan’s goal, and had a number of solid chances, particularly on the PK. Overall it was a solid game for Smith in all three zones, and with less scoring responsibility came more PK time I think. His skating is a real issue, and really limits him offensively off the rush, but tonight he played well, and stayed out of the penalty box too.

Sean Monahan – 2013 Draft Eligible

Tonight was another strong game from Monahan who has really adjusted nicely as a sixteen year old. His goal came was a nice play off the faceoff, and he helped set up Graovac for the third goal as well. He does not play on either specialty team and therefore had less ice time than usual, so his two points were all the more impressive. I also noticed a couple of smart defensive plays from him. Overall Monahan is definitely a player to watch, because the size and skill is definitely there, and he is impressively well rounded for such a young player.

Tyler Graovac – 2011 Draft Eligible

As mentioned above, Graovac was moved up to the second line and played significantly more in this game, including getting PK time. He was rewarded for a solid game with a goal in the second period. I mention Graovac because I am curious to see if somebody takes a chance on him in the draft this year. A very smooth skater for his size, Graovac looks to have some offensive upside, although he is rail thin and a virtual non-factor physically. Nonetheless the size and skating combination has gotten far more long shot players drafted.

Marc Zanetti – 2011 Draft Eligible

Tonight Zanetti was certainly the 67s’ best defenceman, as he has been most times I have tuned in this year. His skating, puck handling and overall offensive confidence has improved dramatically, and defensively he remains solid and physical. In particular he made a couple of great stretch passes this year, and cleared the puck on the PK with real conviction. Having passed through two drafts, Zanetti is a candidate to go this time around. As Brock will remember, I had previously doubted his pro potential, but given how many overagers have been drafted in recent years, I am beginning to wonder if Zanetti will add his name to that list in 2011.

Petr Mrazek – Drafted by Detroit

The game’s first star, Mrazek was outstanding tonight. He made a handful of big stops, and never allowed Saginaw to gain any momentum, despite several disparate flurries of activity. His ability to go post to post is exceptional, and he robbed a Spirit forward at least once doing that. When Mrazek is playing as he was tonight, he looks like a goalie that could steal a playoff series.

Saginaw Spirit

John McFarland – Drafted by Florida

Brock had been telling me how impressive McFarland has been since the trade to Saginaw, and so tonight was my first viewing of this supposed new and improved player. Early on he looked very dangerous, with a couple of nice rushes in the first few minutes, and a few more throughout the game. None of them resulted in goals, and only one or two turned into true scoring chances. Among Spirit forwards, only Brandon Saad was more noticeable, but the same nagging concerns were there with McFarland. The skating, hands and aggressiveness are great, but the decision-making is questionable. On one rush he confusingly coughed up the puck, and as a credit to him hustled back hard to try to break up the 67s scoring chance the other way. But it was reminiscent of the all flash, no substance criticism that many have had of McFarland over the years.

Brandon Saad – 2011 Draft Eligible

After an arguably disappointing Top Prospects Game performance, Saad was outstanding tonight, easily the most impressive Spirits player in my opinion. From start to finish he was dangerous, even if he did not manage to score. Particularly on the PK, Saad used his speed to drive wide and force the issue offensively. Personally I did not previously appreciate the speed he can generate. Known as a true power forward prospect, his skating, work ethic and defensive ability shone tonight, and separates him from other power forward prospects who struggle off the rush and can rely heavily on bullish play down low to create offence. There were not exhibitions of true high-end skill, but he really challenged the 67s defence, and was able to be dangerous both individually and with his linemates. Seemed to find others well and worked the cycle effectively as expected. Definitely a player I would like to get another look at before the 2011 Draft.

Jordan Szwarz – Drafted by Phoenix

For the most part it was a quiet but solid game game for Szwarz. He had one or two noticeable offensive plays, but otherwise only really stood out when skating on the first powerplay unit. When I have seen Szwarz in the past, I struggle to project him at the next level, and tonight I felt similarly indifferent to his play.

Vincent Trocheck – 2011 Draft Eligible

Another guy who had a solid, scrappy but unspectacular game. If anything he seemed to get a bit lost amongst the other top forwards for Saginaw. Always seemed to be around the play, but did nothing to stand out tonight.

Ivan Telegin – Drafted by Atlanta

Telegin did not seem to get a ton of ice time and when he did play was not overly impressive. Was caught defensively on the Graovac goal, although I would want to see a replay to determine if it was truly his mistake. He had one or two chances, but nothing special.

Josh Shalla – 2011 Draft Eligible

He was a fairly noticeable presence throughout the game, often seeming to be around the puck, getting a couple of chances opportunistically although he obviously could not convert. One play in particular the puck bounced out onto his stick in front of the net, giving Shalla a ton of time from the circle in on Mrazek. Oddly enough, Shalla panicked as if he was not a goal scorer and somehow got himself turned around and blew the chance entirely. He has obviously scored a ton of goals, and is a bigger player than I had previously appreciated, but he is certainly not a dynamic player or a strong skater. Passed over in last year’s draft, tonight was probably not a fair showcase for Shalla as a possible overage selection.

Brandon Archibald – Drafted by Columbus

Perhaps the best Saginaw blueliner from start to finish, Archibald was solid defensively and involved offensively throughout. He made a fairly good first pass, but also skated the puck up nicely as well. Archibald seemed to have a good handful of shots on goal, even a couple of which were clear enough to be called true scoring chances. Archibald was usually on the first PP unit, and his combination of size and skating makes him a fairly versatile player. That being said, he was neither overly physical defensively or particularly dynamic offensively, so while he was solid to good throughout, the lack of a standout quality remains a consideration. He also still needs to fill out, as he is not as strong or imposing as Chiarot or Prout.

Dalton Prout – Drafted by Columbus

Obviously very solid in his own zone, Prout looks big enough to play in the NHL right now. His game was actually not that different than Archibald’s, although he did not really carry the puck offensively. Having seen Prout over the years in Barrie, I like him as a stay-at-home prospect.

Ben Chiarot – Drafted by Atlanta

The most up and down of the three big Spirit blueliners, Chiarot was more aggressive offensively but also ran around defensively a bit, particularly looking to make the big hit. I have seen him play a more composed defensive game though, so I would not read in to it too much on one game.

Thanks again to Sean.

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