Made my first trip to the Powerade Centre of the season to watch the Majors and Battalion do battle. Interestingly enough, it was "Mandarin" day, complete with a spring roll eat off during first intermission. Thankfully, the game itself was entertaining and quite possibly the best game I've seen between the Majors and Battalion in quite some time (usually they can be snooze fests).
The Battalion took the game by a score of 5-2. They took the lead in the 2nd period and never looked back. It was definitely a chippy affair that saw a lot of spirited tussles post whistle. Barclay Goodrow was named first star thanks to a 2 goal, 2 assist effort, including the eventual game winner.
Some player reports:
#4 - Marcus McIvor (Draft Eligible in 2012)
McIvor impressed me a lot today. He and partner Dylan Blujus have tremendous chemistry and are definitely he Troops' top pairing. He played in all situations, including seeing a good chunk of action on the second powerplay unit. It was 5 on 5 where he excelled. On the defensive side of things, he's a rock. He's stocky, but he definitely moves well. The Majors just couldn't get by him on the rush. He was also more physical than I'd see him before, taking the chance whenever he good to finish his checks along the boards. A perfect demonstration of both of these skills was when Sergei Kuptsov tried to drive around him, but McIvor stayed with him, poked the puck away and finished Kuptsov off hard along the end boards. I've heard from quite a few people that he was quite the offensive defenseman in midget, but that part of his game hasn't really transferred to the OHL quite yet. At this point, he's most definitely a stay at home guy, but he's at least excelling in that role.
#6 - Dylan Blujus (Draft Eligible in 2012)
Blujus is such an interesting prospect for this year's draft. I just can't quite put my finger on him, despite seeing him multiple times this year. He does some things incredibly well. He's very smart offensively and is very adept at running the point on the powerplay. He does such a good job of getting his point shot through to the net and makes good decisions at the blueline. He scored a goal in the game by firing a wrister through a crowd to open the scoring on the powerplay. 5 on 5, he also sees the ice very well and makes very strong outlet passes, constantly finding guys up ice. This helps to push the pace of play. On the negative side, for an offensively oriented defenseman, his mediocre skating ability prevents him from being a primary factor off the rush. He isn't a Ryan Murphy, Dougie Hamilton, or Ryan Sproul. He really doesn't seem comfortable skating the puck up ice, and would rather make the pass out of his zone. And while this works for him in the OHL, will it work at the higher levels? Defensively, he's pretty solid and has progressed well this year. He wins battles along the boards using his long reach and body. But, again, his footspeed looks like it could really hurt him. There were a couple of times where he was caught in the neutral zone and got lucky because the Majors player couldn't coral the long pass to beat him into his own zone. I'd imagine that Blujus is one guy who has the scouts divided this year.
#9 - Brandon Robinson (Draft Eligible in 2014)
I'm telling you, this group of '95 forwards that has entered the league this year is among the best crops that I've ever seen. So many of these guys are consistently impacting their clubs in a positive way. And so many of them are well rounded players with high offensive upsides. Robinson won't be NHL draft eligible until 2014 (October birthday), but he's got a lot of upside. I've been consistently impressed with him this year. He played on the Troops' top line with Goodrow and Carrick today. While his skating needs some work, he's got the size and goal scoring mentality that could take him a long way. He scored a beauty of a goal to close out the night by taking a pass off the boards, cutting into the slot and firing home a laser of a wrist shot top shelf. He was also very engaged physically, twice causing after whistle skirmishes following his hits. By the time he's NHL draft eligible, he could very well be 6'4 and 200lbs with a terrific offensive skill set. The key will be improving his skating.
#16 - Sam Carrick (Drafted by Toronto)
Carrick has been one of the most improved players in the league this year for me. He's looked fantastic every time I've seen him. He got a couple of assists, and was generally very dangerous in the offensive end. It was a defensive play that really caught my eye. The Majors broke into the zone 3 on 2 after the Battalion got caught, and the Majors got a terrific set up for scoring opportunity. They ran the 3 on 2 well, and after a nice drop pass, they had a player wide open in the slot. But Carrick came out of nowhere to hustle back, lift the player's stick just before release and stole the puck back, pushing the play back the other way again. On the negative side, he did get himself a little too wrapped up in the after whistle extra curriculars and took some silly penalties.
#4 - Trevor Carrick (Draft Eligible in 2012)
Continues to get better and better. Now he's being paired with Stuart Percy since his return from a concussion and the two look tremendous together. He should have gotten an assist on the first Majors goal of the game on the powerplay, after making a terrific play to keep the puck in at the blueline, deking through two Battalion forwards and then putting the puck back into the corner. The Majors ended up setting getting possession of the dump and scored off it. Once the Majors got down 5-2, he made a couple of bad plays (got caught going for a big hit at the blueline leading to a two on one, and again missing a hit in the corner, leading to a scoring chance), but he was clearly trying to fire his club up by being physical.
#16 - Kristoff Kontos (Draft Eligible in 2012)
One of the best games I've seen Kontos play. He had a lot of energy and was skating with conviction. On one instance, he took the puck at his own blueline and went through nearly the entire Battalion team before getting stopped just before reaching the net. He did a great job of keeping plays alive and moved the puck well on the cycle. In previous viewings, I've been a less than impressed with his play along the boards for a bigger guy, but he was winning a lot of battles today. I'm still not sure how much upside he has, but with his size and improved skating ability, he's worth a selection in the later rounds.
#28 - Stuart Percy (Drafted by Toronto)
Easing his way back into the line up after missing a huge stretch of time with a concussion, Percy is starting to look comfortable again. He's looking much more engaged offensively, and defensively he was solid. It'll be a while before he gets his legs back, and before I'd expect to see him start playing physical again, but it's great to see him back.