I decided to watch this one on the OHL Action Pack tonight...in hopes that I'd see a terrific goaltending match up between two of the league's top draft eligible netminders (Subban vs. Altshuller). Not to mention that sole possession of 5th place in the East was on the line too. But Kevin Baille started for Oshawa, ruining my initial hopes (although the goaltending match up was still solid).
Overall, the game wasn't very good. Not really a lot of solid scoring chances, some undisciplined penalties, and a general lack of pep. But the Bulls hung on to get the win in the shootout (thanks to Subban) and have now won 4 in a row and are suddenly one of the hottest teams in the East.
Some player reports:
#10 - Austen Brassard (Drafted by Winnipeg)
Liked what I saw from Brassard. I had heard he had become a lot more committed to his play away from the puck and had improved his consistency from shift to shift...and I saw evidence of that tonight. While he wasn't great offensively in terms of creating chances (what player was tonight?), he worked hard away from the puck and was up on the forecheck forcing a few turnovers, throwing some good hits and working well along the boards for loose pucks. He also made a couple of very nice plays on the backcheck. We know he's got offensive skill and can bury pucks around the crease, but the progression of his overall game is very encouraging for his NHL potential.
#14 - Luke Judson (Overage Free Agent)
I've always been a fan of Judson's and I'm at the point now, where I'm just not sure if he'll end up earning a professional contract (be it NHL, AHL, or what have it). But he's had a solid start to the year, in a season where he had a lot to prove as Belleville's captain...after last year's disappointment. Always a hard worker and one of the best two way wingers in the league...Judson has added an element of speed this season. This is promising for his future as a hockey player, because with the type of hard nosed game he plays, it was crucial that he improve his footspeed, which it looks like he has this offseason. He scored Belleville's lone goal (non shootout) by taking a pass from Brendan Gaunce, beating Colin Suellentrop to the outside with speed, and cutting back towards the net to tuck it under Kevin Baille's legs.
#16 - Brendan Gaunce (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
I've had some questions about Gaunce's ranking on my early season top 30. A lot of people just don't see him being as high as I have him. And that's fine. But he does so many little things well. He's not flashy, and perhaps that's the reason he doesn't get as much respect. He definitely needs to work on his ability to carry the puck at top speed and receive passes in motion. He's not going to dipsy doodle around defenders like Ryan Strome or Nail Yakupov. But he's just a very solid, power center. I think of a guy like Keith Primeau when I see Gaunce play. Just a very smart player. His passing game is very underrated. A lot of people talk about his ability to score close to the net...and his heavy shot. But he's a center for a reason...and he's very patient with the puck and he knows how to create offensive chances for his linemates. He's also a stalwart on the penalty kill and a terrific backchecker. He forechecks hard, finishes his checks and wears an A already. His skating isn't an issue like many are saying it is. Without the puck, he moves very well and is quick to close on defenders on the forecheck. With the puck, he moves a little slower because he isn't the world's most confident looking puck handler...which is perhaps where this lack of skating talk comes from (or maybe it's that his brother Cameron was never the world's most gifted skater from the blueline). I look at Gaunce and see a guy who'll probably play 1000 games in the NHL and make someone very happy.
#24 - Garrett Hooey (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
After the amazing preseason he had, I think a lot of people expected Hooey to really break out offensively. But he hasn't been terrific thus far...and was pretty unnoticeable in this game.
#26 - Stephen Silas (Drafted by Colorado)
He's having a very good season thus far and is really starting to blossom as a defensive leader. The Bulls were relying on him to be that last year, but I just don't think he was ready...and as a result...he took a lot of flak. But the Bulls are playing strong defensive hockey this year and Silas is right in the middle of it. He looked very solid tonight. Moved the puck quickly and efficiently. Covered off in his own end. He's increased his physical output this year too and seems more confident in pushing forwards around near the net (maybe as a result of improved conditioning?). He's not one of those guys you notice a lot, but on the back end that's a good thing sometimes. He needed a solid year to get signed by Colorado (in all likelihood)...and he's doing a great job of making an impression thus far.
#30 - Malcolm Subban (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
Since returning from that ankle injury that caused him to miss a month of action, Subban has been a brick wall. He's given up 5 goals in 4 games and hasn't lost. And that includes his solid performance in Oshawa tonight. He's definitely an unorthodox goaltender. One of those hybrid types of relies on his pure athleticism to stop pucks (not quite as wild as a Tim Thomas, but perhaps more like LA's Jonathan Quick). He's a fantastic skater in the crease, and that's one of the first things you always notice about him. He moves laterally, and north/south very effortlessly. And he's also very quick to get down in that butterfly...which combined with his flexibility and quickness, make him damn near impossible to beat along the ice (think former Bulls goaltender Mike Murphy). But he definitely cheats a bit at times and can go down early and leave space up high. It's obvious that this "scouting report" has gotten around the league because when teams play the Bulls with Subban in net, they spend all night trying to go high...just as the Generals did tonight. They finally beat him in the 3rd when Nicklas Jensen weighted him out at the side of the net, got him to commit to the butterfly and roofed a wrister over his shoulder. As he moves forward to the NHL level, they'll have to get him to stay up longer otherwise NHL forwards will feast on him. But the athleticism is the obvious draw. Nothing shows this off more than the shootout. Subban stopped all six shooters tonight and is now a perfect 9 for 9 this year. He moves so well in his crease that he's hard to beat one on one. With the way he's returned from his injury, it might be hard to argue against the fact that he's reclaimed his goaltending crown from Altshuller and Murray as the league's top draft eligible netminder.
#12 - Mark Petaccio (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
I saw the Generals play a few weeks ago when Petaccio first returned from injury and he was a lot better in that game...but he still wasn't terrible tonight. He played on a pretty effective third line with Sebatian Uvira and Cole Cassels. The line did well to work the cycle along the boards and even drew a penalty or two from their consistent pressure. As a guy with size, he's intriguing. I'm just not sure how much offensive potential he has.
#15 - Andy Andreoff (Drafted by Los Angeles)
I've heard some criticism about Andreoff's play since he came back from Kings (and Monarchs) camp (although I think Oshawa fans have been pretty disappointed by the play of most of their players this year). And to be honest, I wasn't incredibly impressed with him tonight. I loved the way Andreoff played last year. Simple, hard, and straight through people. His power game and tenacity generated his offensive scoring chances. Tonight he seemed to be playing too cute with the puck at times. And while he remains a solid two way forward, I felt like he was trying to do too much.
#17 - Nicklas Jensen (Drafted by Vancouver)
Jensen had a solid game. Generated a few solid scoring chances using his solid puck carrying/protection ability. Shook off a few checks while maneuvering behind the net with the puck, and put a pass right on Andy Andreoff's stick in front of the crease, but he rifled it high. Jensen scored on the powerplay to send the game to overtime. He took a pass from Andreoff at the side of the net, took his time, baited Subban to the butterfly and rifled it top cheese over Subban's shoulder. I'd still love to see him become more involved without the puck (on a consistent basis)...and more physical. But he's a solid goal scoring prospect for the next level.
#21 - Scott Laughton (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
Laughton had an excellent game and was probably Oshawa's most dangerous offensive player on the night (despite being held scoreless). He had a couple of very dangerous rushes, where he used his speed to beat defenders across the blueline and to the net. One in particular in the first period gave Oshawa one of its best chances to score on the night, when he grabbed the puck, flew past Brady Austin and put a snap shot on Subban who just got a piece of it. He was physical. He played well on the penalty kill. The criticism about Laughton I was hearing at the beginning of the year was that he was focusing too much on trying to put up points and as such was not as effective as an all around player. But he seems to have gotten back to playing a more straight ahead game, while keeping that intensity level high. If he continues to play hard, the points will start to come.
#38 - Lucas Lessio (Drafted by Phoenix)
Lessio has been great so far this year, one of the few players who hasn't underachieved on Oshawa to start 2011. He appears to have figured out how to harness his speed to his advantage and is finishing off his scoring chances with more consistency. Part of that comes from an increased willingness to play that dirty role in front of the net...the prototypical crease crasher. He had a couple of nice rushes tonight, although nothing that created a serious scoring chance. Although one did draw a penalty, as he got hauled down on a partial breakaway. As long as he continues to play with high energy every shift, Lessio will continue to be an impact player.
That's it for the game. Stay tuned this week as NHL Central Scouting will release their preliminary rankings...and I'll have the first version of the Media poll rankings I always do.