I had a chance to watch this one last night. Even though it featured two teams heading in opposite directions (one up, one down), I figured that it'd be a good watch because of the quality of 2011 eligible talent playing.
But I was wrong. This one was pretty ugly. The Hounds were demolished by the Generals 6-1, who controlled the tempo of play (even if the Hounds outshot the Gennies) and capitalized on nearly every one of their scoring chances. It was just not a good game to assess any of the Hounds players because they were badly outplayed.
The one thing that always sticks out for me when I watch the Generals, is how balanced their scoring attack is. Every time I watch them, different players step up as the stand outs. This team is going to be damn good next year, as long as they can find a solution on defense and in net (with the pending graduations of players like de Haan, Di Salvo, Valentine, etc).
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
#5 - Ryan Sproul (Draft eligible in 2011)
Perhaps the player I was most excited about watching, considering how well he's been producing lately. I saw him about a month ago, where he looked fantastic. Last night was a horror story though. I'd have to imagine that was probably the worst game he's played all year. He was on the ice for four of the Generals six goals, and definitely deserved his -4 rating. He hit rock bottom in the second period (the last of the four goals he was on the ice for) when he coughed up the puck in his own end on the powerplay and the Generals scored a shortie. He tried to carry it over from behind his net, and turned it over to Andy Andreoff who slid it past Perugini. While still on the powerplay, I guess interim Coach Dave Torrie wanted to show some confidence in his young blueliner, so Sproul went back out there. Except he then tried to pass the puck up the ice from behind his own net, but ended up giving it away to Nicklas Jensen...who was luckily offside. That was the last we saw of Sproul (save a few sporadic shifts) until late in the third. It was late in the third that we finally got to see that hard shot of his, where he rang one of the post with a boomer from the point. He has to take this performance as a learning piece and move on. Hopefully this doesn't ruin any of the confidence he's gotten from his strong production of late.
#6 - Colin Miller (Draft Eligible in 2011)
If Miller were on a stronger team, I think we'd be talking about him as a possible selection. I've been impressed with him this year and he's one of those quietly effective guys (similar to a Stuart Percy in Mississauga). He was one of the few Hounds who had a decent game (had a couple nice hits, was strong defensively), but wasn't flawless as he was responsible for the first period goal by Andy Andreoff. He tried to keep the puck in at the point, but was caught pinching and the Gens went back on a 2 on 1, which Andreoff scored on. When he keeps it simple, he's a very effective player.
#7 - Daniel Catenacci (Draft Eligible in 2011)
I'm a fan, but it wasn't a good game by the Cat. He was completely neutralized by the Generals defense and wasn't really able to get anything going. The one good moment he did have was the thunderous check on Daniel Maggio against the boards, which was impressive considering the size difference.
#17 - David Broll (Draft Eligible in 2011)
I thought he was probably the best of the Hounds draft eligibles on the night. His skating looks improved since the beginning of the season, which is big for the type of power forward game he brings. He actually showed some good hands and offensive creativity that I hadn't seen from him before. In the first period, he went inside and out on a Generals defender in the slot to create a scoring chance for a teammate. He was relatively effective on the forecheck too.
#19 - Brett Findlay (Draft Eligible in 2011)
I thought Findlay had a good first period, but disappeared after that. This was the first time I've seen him play center, but he was more noticeable down the middle than he was on the wing in my previous viewings. At this point, I'm not sure he's a serious candidate to get drafted without elite size, and any real distinguishable characteristics.
#27 - Nick Cousins (Draft Eligible in 2011)
The most admirable thing about Cousins was that he was one of the few players still going hard in the third period when the game was out of reach. Unfortunately, he just wasn't very effective on the night, save for a nice rush in the first where he used a burst of speed to the outside to get past the defender for a scoring chance. Truthfully, I'm not sure I have a handle on the type of player he'll be at the next level (considering his lack of size).
#4 - Scott Valentine (Drafted by Anaheim)
Valentine had a great game. He still doesn't have a contract from the Ducks, but with the way he's played this season, I'd be surprised if he didn't get one. He'll have to refine his approach for the next level, but the skill set is there for a quality third pairing guy in the NHL. As par for the course, Valentine had a couple of huge checks on players crossing the blueline. Bringing the puck across the blueline along the boards is like a death sentence when Valentine is on the ice. He's learned to pick his spots better this year too, as he was previously run around looking for the big hit and could get a bit lost defensively. Offensively, he did a nice job bringing the puck up ice and has improved his breakout pass and his first few steps (although he's always been a strong skater).
#11 - Alain Berger (Overage free agent)
Berger has had a good season for the Generals. Perhaps not to the level that I expected, but with the balanced scoring attack Oshawa has been employing, being third in goals on the team and on pace for 30 on the season is still solid. Berger remains most effective on the powerplay (third in the league in powerplay goals), where he scored last night (one of two on the night). He's not the most gifted skater, but he plays the game hard, he goes hard to the net and he has good hands in close. Both of his goals on the night were of that ilk. As a big body in front of the net on the powerplay, I think there's a chance he gets a look from an NHL team for a contract this offseason.
#15 - Andy Andreoff (Draft eligible in 2011, but 1991 born)
Passed over in two drafts already, Andreoff has been one of the league's most improved players this season and has a serious shot of getting drafted this year. He has the size, skill, and intensity to get a look. I thought he was Oshawa's best player on the night. The first goal he scored was beautiful, as he stole the puck off Colin Miller at his own blueline, took it all the way to the net, toe dragged around a sliding Derek Hartwick and deposited it past Chris Perugini. The second goal was just as nice, as he came in short handed, stole the puck off Ryan Sproul, and slipped the puck through Perugini's fivehole on the backhand. He was physical, he showed skill and he's made great strides this year. I think he would make a quality late round selection by an NHL club this year.
#17 - Nicklas Jensen (Draft eligible in 2011)
Jensen had a good game, even if he didn't get on the scoresheet. He finished plus three, as part of the big Andreoff and Berger line. He's definitely at his best when he's got the puck on his stick, where he's very hard to stop. His play without the puck offensively is still inconsistent (at least IMO), where at times he's a factor on the forecheck or with the cycle along the boards, but other times he isn't nearly as aggressive. But being able to keep the motor running 24/7, should be able to come to him with greater experience. He was also solid on the PK last night, where he helped to keep the Hounds at 0 for 5.
#24 - Calvin de Haan (Drafted by the New York Islanders)
Even if some people have been disappointed slightly by his offensive production this season, he's really improved in his own end. That's not to say that he's ever been a poor defender, but he's taken his defensive game to the next level this season. The Hounds were just not able to do anything offensively when de Haan was on the ice. He anticipates direction so well and is a very strong lateral and backwards skater, that he's very tough to beat to the net. He's also added a physical element to his game this year and has become tough to win battles in the corner against. I'm not one for NHL comparisons, but de Haan really reminds me of now ex Leaf, Tomas Kaberle, in the way that he approaches things offensively and defensively.
#25 - Colin Suellentrop (Draft eligible in 2011)
There are a lot of quality defenseman available from the OHL this year, and Suellentrop is right in that mix. He was very good defensively on the night, and the Hounds just couldn't really get anything past him. With his size, above average skating ability, and physical willingness, I think he's definitely an NHL draft pick. The offensive game has improved as the season has gone on too, as he slowly increases his confidence in carrying the puck up ice and making good passes out of the zone (instead of chipping it out).
#27 - Christian Thomas (Drafted by the New York Rangers)
What a season Thomas has had for the Generals. He had another solid game on the night and has 10 goals in the month of February (in 8 games). Some people look at his size and question whether he can keep up his play at the next level, but I think he definitely can. He may be small, but he's very quick, he's aggressive and he's hard to knock off the puck. He also doesn't need much room to get his shot off. These are all critical qualities for smaller players to succeed at the next level IMO. He finished the game with a goal and an assist. The goal was off a cross crease pass by Lucas Lessio, which Thomas one timed to the back of the net. He was also fantastic on the penalty kill, much like the rest of his Oshawa teammates on the night.
#38 - Lucas Lessio (Draft eligible in 2011)
This was definitely one of the better games I've seen Lessio play this season. From what I've been hearing around the league, he seems to have really ironed out some of those consistency issues in the past few months and is playing harder every game. Right now, his game offensively still revolves around his speed. He's very quick (especially those first few steps) and he's aggressive in using his speed, either with the puck on his stick or in trying to beat defenders to a loose puck. He needs to work on improving his play around the boards and in using his teammates, but I still think he's got a lot of potential. He did make a very nice pass to Christian Thomas for his goal.