Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Midseason Top 30 OHL Players for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft

This is the second of three lists that I will compile this season. The first one was completed/posted near the start of the season and can be found here.

Again, this list is meant to be the order in which if I were drafting for an NHL team, I would take these players. It is not meant to be a prognostication of where these players will go or should be ranked. This is my own personal opinion on seeing these guys play this year and last year.

Here is my midseason top 30 of 2009 draft eligible OHL players.

1. John Tavares - F - Oshawa Generals - 6'0, 198lbs - DOB: 1990-09-20

2. Matt Duchene - F - Brampton Battalion - 5'11, 196lbs - DOB: 1991-01-16

3. Ryan Ellis - D - Windsor Spitfires - 5'10, 173lbs - DOB: 1991-01-03

4. Zach Kassian - F - Peterborough Petes - 6'3, 205lbs - DOB: 1991-01-24

5. Peter Holland - F - Guelph Storm - 6'2, 190lbs - DOB: 1991-01-14

6. Nazem Kadri - F - London Knights - 6'0, 177lbs - DOB: 1990-10-06

7. Ethan Werek - F - Kingston Frontenacs - 6'2, 195lbs - DOB: 1991-06-07

8. Calvin de Haan - D - Oshawa Generals - 6'0, 170lbs - DOB: 1991-05-09

9. Taylor Doherty - D - Kingston Frontenacs - 6'8, 218lbs - DOB: 1991-03-02

10. Edward Pasquale - G - Saginaw Spirit - 6'2, 216lbs - DOB: 1990-11-20

11. Casey Cizikas - F - Mississauga Majors - 5'11, 184lbs - DOB: 1991-02-27

12. Alex Hutchings - F - Barrie Colts - 5'10, 179lbs - DOB: 1990-11-07

13. Michael Latta - F - Guelph Storm - 5'11, 197lbs - DOB: 1991-05-25

14. Marcus Foligno - F - Sudbury Wolves - 6'2, 202lbs - DOB: 1991-08-10

15. Taylor Beck - F - Guelph Storm - 6'1, 207lbs - DOB: 1991-05-13

16. Matthew Tipoff - F - Belleville Bulls - 5'11, 180lbs - DOB: 1990-10-04

17. Ryan O’Reilly - F - Erie Otters - 6'0, 205lbs - DOB: 1991-02-07

18. Jesse Blacker - D - Windsor Spitfires - 6'0, 190lbs - DOB: 1991-04-19

19. Peter Di Salvo - G - Barrie Colts - 6'0, 180lbs - DOB: 1990-11-14

20. Scott Stajcer - G - Owen Sound Attack - 6'2, 185lbs - DOB: 1991-06-14

21. Andrew Agozzino - F - Niagara Ice Dogs - 5'9, 188lbs - DOB: 1991-01-05

22. Peter Hermenegildo - D - Sudbury Wolves - 5'10, 196lbs - DOB: 1991-02-15

23. Phil Varone - F - London Knights - 5'10, 187lbs - DOB: 1990-12-04

24. Garrett Wilson - F - Owen Sound Attack - 6'2, 199lbs - DOB: 1991-05-30

25. Jordan Szwarz - F - Saginaw Spirit - 5'11, 186lbs - DOB: 1991-05-14

26. Tyler Randell - F - Kitchener Rangers - 6'1, 195lbs - DOB: 1991-06-15

27. Michael Fine - F - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - 6'0, 191lbs - DOB: 1991-05-10

28. Brett Flemming - D - Mississauga Majors - 5'10, 165lbs - DOB: 1991-02-26

29. Chris Perugini - G - Ottawa 67's - 5'10, 147lbs - DOB: 1991-06-02

30. Beau Schmitz - D - Plymouth Whalers - 5'10, 185lbs - DOB: 1991-03-26

Players to Watch, but NOT in the Top 30:

Taylor Carnevale - F - Barrie Colts - 5'11, 191lbs - DOB: 1991-03-15

Since a trade from Oshawa to Barrie in exchange for a 3rd round pick, Carnevale has been excellent. He's found a lot of success in mainly centering a line of Josh Brittain and Darren Archibald. He's an excellent playmaker and a solid all around player who's not afraid to get his nose dirty. If he can continue to produce at this clip in Barrie, he'll find himself on many NHL team's radar.

Simon Gronvaldt - D - Kitchener Rangers - 6'2, 179lbs - DOB: 1991-01-30

This Danish import has found some success as a two way defenseman for Kitchener. Has been running the point on the powerplay with Ben Shutron and seing his icetime increase as the season has gone along. Is currently playing for undefeated Denmark at 2009 WJC's, in Division 1B. When he returns to the line up, an increased confidence level from the international success he has experienced could elevate his game even higher.

Kyle Pereira - D - Brampton Battalion - 6'0, 186lbs - DOB: 1991-02-02

Smooth skating, puck moving defenseman who had a really solid month of November for the Battalion. Obviously this was during their win streak when the entire team was having success. But defenseman who can move the puck and skate it up ice have a lot of value in today's NHL. Has cooled down a bit lately, but the potential is there for him to be an above average powerplay defenseman.

Mathew Clark - D - Brampton Battalion - 6'3, 205lbs - DOB: 1990-10-17

Another Brampton blueliner, Clark is a bit of a different breed than Pereira. He's a big hulking, physical defenseman who is enjoying his first season in the OHL as a late 1990 born. But he's gotten better as the season has gone along, and scouts have to like the fact that he's a big guy who can skate well. He's shown flashes of offensive ability as well, with at the very least an ability to make a good first pass out of the zone. Reminds me of Adam Comrie last season, big and physical, yet smooth skating defenseman with raw offensive tools.

Marc Zanetti - D - Ottawa 67's - 6'0, 200lbs - DOB: 1991-05-20

Zanetti is what he is. He's a big, mean, physical defenseman who plays hard and will drop the gloves. His skating is average, and he's not a wizard with the puck, but as long as he plays a safe, defensive first game, he's fine. Big defenseman who can play the body and are good positionally rarely go through the draft undrafted.

Kyle Clifford - F - Barrie Colts - 6'1, 200lbs - DOB: 1991-01-13

He was just getting going offensively before suffering a freak injury. Clifford had 6 points in 8 games at the end of November before getting his hand sliced open by the skate of a linesman during a fight with Ice Dog forward Chris DeSousa. He just recently returned to action and can hopefully find his scoring touch again. Clifford is a big forward with a lot of hustle, fights and can hit like a truck. But besides being a solid energy player, he works the cycle well and looks to have a bit of offensive potential. We'll see how well he returns from injury after the Christmas break.

Luke Judson - F - Belleville Bulls - 6'0, 190lbs - DOB: 1991-02-14

Forward on a deep Belleville team who can play. He skates very well, drives hard to the net and plays a rough game. If he got more ice time, i'm confident his offensive production would be much more consistent. Could be a late pick who ends up breaking out next season.

Andy Bathgate - F - Belleville Bulls - 6'1, 175lbs - DOB: 1991-02-26

Another Belleville forward who's caught a bit in the numbers game. With Tangradi off at the WJC's, Bathgate has been playing a larger role and has been impressive. He has really good speed and skating ability and forechecks well. Seems like a relatively solid all around forward, but might have a somewhat limited offensive ceiling.

Ben Chiarot - D - Guelph Storm - 6'2, 205lbs - DOB: 1991-05-09

A very tough and physically imposing defenseman. Chiarot is very solid defensively and very hard to beat one on one. Has been receving increased responsibility as the season has gone along and is currently an impressive +10. As a midget player, he was much more involved in the offensive side of the game which suggests that when he gets more comfortable, we could see a greater offensive contribution from him.

Chris DeSousa - F - Niagara Ice Dogs - 5'9, 190lbs - DOB: 1990-10-19

An undersized mini might, DeSousa is a hustling forward who wears his heart on his sleeve. He's a solid all around player who skates hard, hits hard and plays well on the penalty kill. He's also got one heck of a shot which he's not afraid to unleash coming down the wing. Has 14 goals in his last 19 games.

Andrew Shaw - F - Niagara Ice Dogs - 5'11, 165lbs - DOB: 1991-07-20

Shaw, an incredibly talented inline hockey player, is playing his first season in the OHL. This guy is an absolute fan favourite in Niagara. He's a good skater, he's not afraid of anyone, and he's a very good playmaker who can create off the rush and in the cycle. Hasn't been playing big minutes in Niagara, but has been seing his offensive production increase every month. Shaw is a guy I'm pulling for to increase his point production to see if he can get himself drafted.

Tyler Brown - F - Plymouth Whalers - 5'11, 185lbs - DOB: 1991-04-04

Scrappy, hard skating forward who filled in really well for Plymouth when Chris Terry was out of the line up. His showing in the month of November alone might have got him noticed by scouts. He's going to need to continue to hit the score sheet with decreased ice time.

Brandon Foote - G - Brampton Battalion - 5'11, 164lbs - DOB: 1991-04-26

With Foote, it's all about consistency. He's off and on, and while his win-loss record is great, his play has been subpar of late. After starting the season so strong, he finds himself losing starts to Patrick Killeen as the season goes along. Needs to get back to where he was in the first two months of the season.

Michael Zador - G - London Knights - 6'2, 189lbs - DOB: 1991-05-08

Going the opposite way of Foote, Zador is a former first round OHL priority selection who has had very high expectations. Way terrible at the start of the season, but has been playing better of late in his starts. Still inconsistent, but he might be finding himself in this league.


Ethan Werek

Werek took a little while to get used to the OHL, but he's come on very strong in the last two months, averaging over a point per game, including three multi goal showings. He skates hard to the net and he's got good hands. A guy who's really starting to blossom and could find himself to be a 1st round NHL draft pick if he keeps playing well under Coach Killer.

Edward Pasquale

A big goalie who's been a huge part of Saginaw's success this season (3rd best record in the West). He moves well in his crease and has good fundamentals. I think he's definitely emerged as the top goalie from the OHL for his draft year.

Jesse Blacker

Blacker has seen his role in Windsor increase as the season has gone along, and subsequently his offensive stats as well. He skates very well and has confidence in bringing the puck up ice. He will also play a solid defensive game and will take the body. Needs to pick his spots better in pinching, but you can't deny his skills and progression.

Scott Stajcer

Large goaltender who has really stepped up his game in Owen Sound. Has found himself in a platoon situation with top draft pick Tyler Beskorowany, which is quite impressive, especially considering the fact that Stajcer has better stats thus far. He's actually a pretty similar goalie to Beskorowany, in that he covers a lot of the net, but also moves well side to side.

Beau Schmitz

Schmitz is an American defenseman who struggled terribly to start the season. He came to the OHL with pretty high expectations after opting out of his NCAA commitment. He's been meeting those lately. He's emerged as a leader of the Plymouth defense, and has 7 points in 9 games in December. Still takes some liberties defensively and can stand to get a little stronger in one on one plays, but he's stepped up his physical play. This at least shows his competitive nature and that he is teachable.


Ryan O'Reilly

I still have a lot of concerns over his skating ability. He's a good playmaker and he isn't afraid to drive to the net, but as a big body, I'd like to see him more involved with the cycle and infront of the net banging home pucks. I'm just not sure his skill set is great enough to compensate for his style of play and lack of skating ability. But I might be in the minority here since CSB and other scouting agencies seem to love him.

Michael Fine

After starting the season so well, Fine only has 8 points in his last 21 games. He was also a -9 in the month of December (thus far). He's a good player who can drive hard to the net and can be a bit of an effective pest, but the offensive production needs to become more consistent.

Bjorn Krupp

Scouting agencies still seem to like him, even though I've yet to see him play a good game this season in the three times I've seen him play. Treats the puck like a hand grenade and is a turnover machine in his own end. And while his one on one play is ok, his play along the boards is way to passive for a defensive first player. I wouldn't touch him with an NHL draft pick.

Daniel Maggio

Maggio is an offensive defenseman and a former high OHL draft pick. His defensive game can leave you frustrated, but that's not the reason he's falling per say. Maggio has missed a month with a knee injury and is still expected to be out until the new year, maybe more.

John Cullen

After starting to show signs of coming around, Cullen has been absolutely atrocious in the past month or so. He's athletic, but as of right now his goaltending mechanics aren't good enough for him to be a consistent puck stopper. He goes down to early and gets exposed, and he needs to challenge shooters more to count down the angle. He's got the raw athleticism you like to see in your goaltenders, so hopefully a goaltending coach can work with him.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

CHL Announces Rosters for 2009 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

Today, the Canadian Hockey League announced the rosters for the 2009 CHL Top Prospects Game. The game is to be played in Oshawa on Wednesday, January 14 of the new year. The rosters are co-selected by the 30 NHL General Managers and the Central Scouting Bureau.

The full rosters and link to the announcement can be found here.

The following OHL players managed to make the cut:

Edward Pasquale- Saginaw
Scott Stajcer - Owen Sound

Taylor Doherty - Kingston
Ryan Ellis - Windsor
Calvin de Haan - Oshawa

Matt Duchene - Brampton
Ryan O'Reilly - Erie
Peter Holland - Guelph
Michael Latta - Guelph
Taylor Beck - Guelph
John Tavares - Oshawa
Alex Hutchings - Barrie
Zach Kassian - Peterborough
Ethan Werek - Kingston
Nazem Kadri - London

I think that the OHL representatives went pretty much according to plan. The only guy I'm moderately surprised at being included is Alex Hutchings. I like him and have no problem with him being included, however I'm surprised he got the nod over Casey Cizikas, Marcus Foligno, or Andrew Agozzino. Of course, there are likely to be injuries occuring between now and January 14, and this means we could see one of the above guys filling in, or perhaps a defenseman like Jesse Blacker, or a goaltender like Peter DiSalvo.

One thing that I found incredibly interesting, if you were to look at the team distribution, you would notice that Holland, Latta and Beck find themselves on the same team. This means we could end up seeing an all Guelph forward line at the event.

This game always makes for great entertainment, and I'm sure that this year will be no different. For those that can't make it out to Oshawa to catch it live, check it out nationally on Rogers Sportnet.

My Thoughts on Belleville from December 18

Last night, the Belleville Bulls defeated the Niagara Ice Dogs 3-2 at home in Belleville. It was a high paced game that saw many scoring chances for each team. The Bulls managed to cling to a third period lead thanks to the remarkable goaltending of Mike Murphy, who made several highlight reel saves en route to preserving the lead and the win.

Again, oddly enough, Ryan was recently able to see Belleville, so one can make comparisons between what we saw.

Bjorn Krupp - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I've yet to be impressed with Krupp this season. He was probably at the worst I've seen him tonight. At least in the other times that I had seen him this season, he wasn't impressive because he was invisible. He was unimpressive tonight because he stuck out for the wrong reasons. Had two absolutely terrible giveaways infront of the Belleville net. One where he tried to make a pass from behind the net, but the pass was intercepted. The other where he tried to skate the puck out from behind his net and was driven off the puck by a forechecker. Luckily for him, neither time could Niagara capitalize. A lot of his trouble seems to be stemming from this inability to handle the puck. It's almost as if his confidence in doing so is low and he's making things too difficult for himself. On the plus side, he did make one nice defensive play on a one on one rush where a Niagara forward tried to drive around him, but was rubbed off the puck. In a sense, Krupp showed there why he is at least getting attention from NHL scouts (other than his last name). But in the end, his overall lack of many redeeming playing qualities should severely hold back his draft position. At least if I were drafting, and from the sounds of things Ryan as well, I wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole.

Cory Tanaka - Overager and NHL free agent

I think Cory Tanaka is going to get an NHL contract and I'm going to tell you why. He's a tireless forechecker, he's a great skater, he's strong on and off the puck despite his size disadvantage, and he's one of the best penalty killing forwards in the OHL, if not the best. His offensive skills aren't incredible, which is why he doesn't hit the scoresheet that often. But the other intangibles he brings, screams capable 4th liner/depth player. Every NHL team needs guys like Tanaka just as much as they need players who can score. He was all over the ice tonight, scored a goal, and was wearing the C in Eric Tangradi's absence.

Shawn Lalonde - Drafted by Chicago in 2008/68th

Lalonde was great tonight. He generally plays a more reserved game when paired with partner P.K. Subban, so it was great to see him taking more responsibility on offense. He scored on a beautiful end to end rush where he went through the entire Ice Dogs team and roofed it top corner on goaltender Mark Visentin. On this rush, he showed that extra gear and skating ability that he possesses. Defensively, he was rock solid too. He made a couple really nice plays to break up scoring chances, in particular using an active stick to break up a partial 2 on 1. Just a really smart player who I have no doubts will be an NHL'er in some capacity.

Stephen Johnston - Drafted by Detroit in 2008/181st

Despite the fact that he was a team leading -2 on the night and did not hit the scoresheet, he actually played a pretty solid game. Definitely one of the best skaters on the ice, and looks great on the big ice in Belleville. Attempted to drive to the net a few times using his speed on the outside, but ended up getting pushed off the puck. I think his strength is currently holding him back from being more involved on a consistent basis. I think he's still a really raw player who's only using his speed to try and generate offense as of now. But as he gets stronger and plays a larger role on the team, I think we'll see those offensive numbers climb because he has skill and he's not afraid to get his nose dirty.

Luke Judson - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I had never really noticed this guy before when seeing Belleville, but I thought he looked great on a line with Stephen Johnston. He matched Johnston's speed step for step, but was more successful in using his body to prevent defenders from getting to the puck. He was also aggressive on the forecheck and took the body a few times. Considering he's not getting a lot of playing time right now on a deep Belleville team, is he another diamond in the rough for Belleville? He certainly looked like a legit NHL draft prospect tonight.

Nick Palmieri - Drafted by New Jersey in 2007/79th

Is really excelling since the trade from Erie and is averaging a point per game for the first time in his OHL career. He was outstanding tonight, the best player on the ice for either team. Strength wise, and in the corners, he was a man among boys. I can't remember one time where he didn't come out from a battle in the corner with the puck on his stick. The most impressive thing about his game is how good a skater he is for a big man. When he gets going, there is almost no stopping him from getting to the net, at least at this level. In Erie, I never saw him use his size to his advantage as much as he did tonight, which has to be very promising to the Devils. His great play ended up paying off as he scored the eventual game winner on the powerplay off a nice one timer set up by Stephen Silas.

Andy Bathgate - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Bathgate was pretty good tonight. Showed a lot of hustle and was skating hard. He forechecked well and even forced a turnover on one occasion that lead to a scoring chance. He did a good job centering a line with Mashinter for most of the night and was able to play the cycling game that he likes to play. I'm not sure that I'd be using an NHL draft pick on him just yet, but I think he's a guy to pay attention to while Tangradi is away at the WJC's to see if he can step up his offensive production.

Bryan Cameron - Drafted by Los Angeles in 2007/82nd

I'm a big fan of Cameron's. And while he didn't have the greatest of games, he was still a factor. I think the thing that sticks out most for Cameron is his intelligence on the ice. He's a very slippery player who seems to always find himself in a position for a scoring chance in front of the net. It's almost like the puck and his stick are magnetically attracted to each other within 5 feet of the crease. He does a little bit of everything too, really solid all around player. He cycles well, he'll go to the net hard, and he's also pretty good defensively, as evidence by the fact that he was on the ice with 30 seconds left to help preserve the lead. I don't think he's ever going to be an NHL star, but I think he's going to find himself as a very useful secondary player who can be a consistent 20 goal scorer. Kind of reminds me a little bit of Andrew Brunette.

Stephen Silas - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Silas looked great tonight for a 2010 eligible defenseman. There is no wonder why he was named to the Ontario Under 17 team. He looked great at rushing the puck up the ice showcasing good skating ability. He also played the first powerplay unit with Shawn Lalonde and help set up the winning goal by Palmieri with a beauty pass right on the tape. Defensively, he didn't look out of place at all. He made smart decisions with the puck and wasn't getting outmuscled in the corners. He even made a great play on a rushing Chris DeSousa, using his stick and then his body to separate DeSousa from the puck, which is no easy feat. I think this guy is legit first round talent for 2010. For my money, he looked more comfortable than Erik Gudbranson in Kingston, although I'm not sure he's as good of an NHL prospect.

Matthew Tipoff - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

A late 1989 birthday, Tipoff has benefited greatly from this because he's been able to breakout offensively in his draft year. He looked very solid tonight. Was all over the ice, buzzing around and waiting for something to happen. He worked the cycle effectively and continuously found the front of the net waiting for a scoring chance. Even though he didn't hit the scoresheet, I've seen him do that earlier this season, so I know he can score. It's hard to gauge where he falls come draft day because of the fact that he's a late 89, but I'd harbor a guess and say he's at least an NHL mid rounder.

Brandon Mashinter - Overager and NHL free agent

Mashinter played in his first game after coming over in a trade from Kitchener that saw Tyler Randell leave the Bulls for the Rangers. Mashinter is a really big body who's been able to produce offensively this season. He drives hard to the net and is nearly impossible to separate from the puck in the corners. Thus he is an extremely effective player in the cycle and is ultimately a great addition by Bulls management. His skating is mediocore, but for the type of game he plays, I'm not sure it needs to be any better. As far as earning an NHL contract, I've seen less players get one, so I wouldn't be surprised if he did too.

Mike Murphy - Drafted in 2008 by Carolina/165th

What else can you say about Mike Murphy. It's funny because for the first two periods, he definitely wasn't having his best game. He was really fighting the puck and giving up some bad rebounds and looking awkward on a few other saves. But just when you think he's having an off game, he steals the show in the third period. To me, this is the mark that makes Murphy the best goaltender in the OHL. Belleville was badly outplayed in the last 10 minute of the game, but Murphy shut the door, including an absolute highlight reel save on Chris DeSousa with 7 seconds left. DeSousa was left all alone infront of the net, but couldn't beat Murphy who sprawled to make the save. I hear a lot of people criticize Murphy for his uncharacteristic style. Or should I say, his lack of conventional goaltending mechanics. But the bottom line is this, the guy can stop the puck. I also hear a lot of people say that he's lucky because he finds himself out of position a lot. But, someone can only be lucky so long before you have to start thinking they are good. The fact that Murphy makes so many of these highlight reel saves is a testament to his athleticism and his ability to read plays. Yes, before he gets to the next level, he's going to have to work on some things. He's going to have to not go down so early, and he's got to do a better job of controlling his rebounds. But I ask you this, what junior aged goaltender doesn't have something they need to work on? I then follow it up with the following question, how many of those goalies have the natural athletic ability of Murphy? If anything, I think this guy is only going to get better when a goaltending coach can really get him to fine tune some things. But what do I know?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on Belleville from December 13

Ryan Yessie was able to attend the Bulls vs. the Sting last Saturday. Sarnia returned the favour on Belleville from last month. Belleville got out to a quick 2-0 lead before Sarnia scored 4 unanswered goals to defeat the East leading Bulls 4-2. Belleville ran out of gas by the middle of the second after playing 3 games in 3 nights.

Here are Ryan's thoughts on the Bulls...

Bjorn Krupp - YOB: 1991 - 6’2” - 190 lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Dec/13/08: I have heard the good and the bad about Krupp, and I was able to see him first hand. He really didn’t impress me, he had good positioning defensively, and played his own zone very well, but no skating, puck movement or offensive abilities to really speak of. However between the good reports, and his last name he should hear his name called sometime in the late rounds of 2009. But keep in mind Uwe Krupp went late in the draft and went a few years before his name became known, so this may be the same for Bjorn as he really showed no glaring weaknesses.

Shawn Lalonde - YOB: 1990 - 6’1” - 190 lbs. NHL: 3rd Round - 68th Overall by Chicago in 2008
Report: Dec/13/08: Lalonde played fairly well he displayed some speed and ability to rush the puck on occasion. Lalonde was very good with his positioning, and what really surprised me was his big shot from the point. Lalonde doesn’t look like anything special out there, but at the same time if he continues his course, he could one day be a #5 defenceman that can help out in the mould of Mike Van Ryn without quite the natural talent Van Ryn entered the league with, or as much physicality, but you can tell Lalonde has put on some muscle since last year. (Lalonde had 4 PIM)

Stephen Johnston - YOB: 1990 - 6’1” - 185 lbs. NHL: 6th Round - 181st Overall by Detroit in 2008
Report: Dec/13/08: I’ll be honest I didn’t know what the hell the Red Wings were thinking drafting this guy, he didn’t look like anything special and he didn’t contribute much offensively. However the Red Wings have earned the right to draft questionable players, because they always seem to pan out. Johnston is starting to show why the Red Wings were so adamant about selecting him. He displayed great speed, possibly the fastest skater on Belleville on this night. His key to success seems to be the way he glides down the ice, he has effortless looking strides but travels so fast. He was effective in all 3 zones. He also distributed the puck very well throughout the game, especially early setting up Tyler Randell twice. (Johnston had 2A, 2 PIM)

Tyler Randell - YOB: 1991 - 6’1” - 195 lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Dec/13/08: Randell looked fairly impressive, he drove to the net, and made scoring chances happen, and they happened for him on this night. Two goals before the game was even 8 minutes in. Randell showed great patience on the first goal outwaiting the veteran Spence and had an open cage to put it into in the end, the second goal he just ripped a wrist shot past the net minder. If it wasn’t for a great save Randell would have had a hat-trick. He plays with an edge at times but that seems to get him into penalty trouble sometimes. His size and speed don’t exactly stand out, but he shows a willingness to drive to the net, and at 17 the way he plays he could turn into a project that pays off in the end for some team out there. (Randell had 2 G)

Nick Palmieri - YOB: 1989 - 6’2” - 215 lbs. NHL: 3rd Round - 79th Overall by New Jersey in 2007
Report: Dec/13/08: What can i say, this guy looks like a real NHL prospect. Considering his size I haven’t seen a big man skate like that since Anthony Stewart when he was with Kingston. To some Anthony Stewart might be a somewhat mediocre name to compare him to, but those who saw Stewart play in Kingston would know why I’m making this comparison. This was one of those games where stats didn’t tell the whole story. He drove to the net hard, protected the puck impressively well, and was willing to move the puck appropriately to set up the right play. He was reading and anticipating the play very well. He used his body more than I’ve ever seen him, and he certainly played bigger than his already imposing size. I liked the way Palmieri played and I seriously believe if he can continue to improve his game the way he has he could turn into a 2nd line power forward.

Matthew Tipoff - YOB: 1990 - 5’11” - 180 lbs NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Dec/13/08: Like Stephen Johnston; Tipoff went under most teams radar last year and didn’t produce too much. He as well could have landed a late round pick, however his birthdate was in October which left his first draft eligible year to be 2009. Tipoff played great, he showed off some solid skating abilities, always had his stick in the passing lanes, and played with a very high amount of energy throughout the game and was continuously a nuisance to whoever had the puck for the Sting when he was on the ice. He doesn’t have a great deal of positioning as he was noticeable because he was flying around the ice and didn’t stop moving his feet. I was impressed with this considering they played 3 games in 3 nights, and Belleville was not at their highest level tonight. Tipoff moved the puck well, and looks like a legitimate mid round prospect that may be worth taking a chance on. (Tipoff had 1A)

Philip Grubauer - YOB: 1991 - 6’0” - 165 lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Dec/13/08: With a late birthdate Grubauer won’t be eligible till next year, but with the way Mike Murphy is playing I was fortunate enough to see him play as he has only played 3 games in the past month. He played his best game in over a month, but still let in a soft goal. He looks like he may have some potential but it’s hard to tell as he did have a tired team in front of him, but makes you appreciate even more what Murphy has done on a nightly basis. Grubauer played fairly well positionally, but his biggest weakness seemed to be when players were driving or crashing the net, he appeared to become very nervous and that was the result of two of the three goals allowed. He needs to focus on the shooter first and not be distracted by whats going on around him if he wants to turn into a legitimate prospect. (Grubauer stopped 31 of 34 shots)

Video Flashback

Today's video flashback is the Rob Hisey skills competition goal. Hisey is a former top 10 scorer in the OHL and this goal came from the 2005 Barrie Colts skills competition.

In case anyone has ever wondered what has happened to Hisey since, he's carved out a very nice career playing professional hockey in Europe. He's bounced around between the Sm-Liiga in Finland, to the Swedish Elite League, to leagues in Austria and Germany.

He's kept the highlight reel goals going in Europe as well...

Here is one from when he played for Assat in the SM-Liiga in Finland

Here is one from when he played for Graz in the Austrian league.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Team Canada Announced for the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championships

Early this morning, head coach Pat Quinn announced his final roster for the upcoming 2009 IIHF World Junior Championships.

The roster breaks down as follows...

Chet Pickard
Dustin Tokarski

Keith Aulie
Ryan Ellis
Cody Goloubef
Thomas Hickey
Tyler Myers
Alex Pietrangelo
P.K. Subban
Colten Teubert

Jamie Benn
Zach Boychuk
Patrice Cormier
Stefan Della Rovere
Chris DiDomenico
Jordan Eberle
Tyler Ennis
Angelo Esposito
Cody Hodgson
Brett Sonne
John Tavares
Dana Tyrell

A link to a more detailed full roster can be found here.

So congratulations must be given to the 6 OHL players who managed to crack Team Canada: Ryan Ellis, Alex Pietrangelo, P.K. Subban, Stefan Della Rovere, Cody Hodgson, and John Tavares.

And tough luck for those OHL players released from the camp, including: Tyler Cuma, Taylor Hall, Jamie Arniel, Nazem Kadri, and Matt Duchene.

Just a few interesting notes...
  • This is the first time I can remember a Team Canada going with 8 defenseman and 12 forwards. Clearly the management felt one of a few things. Either a) They aren't comfortable with some of the defenseman they chose so they went with 8 in hopes that at least 6 step up, or b) That they weren't happy with the play of a lot of the forwards at camp and couldn't find a 13th forward that they were comfortable with. Or maybe it's a combination of both. Either way, with only 12 forwards, you might see one of the more offensive defenseman like Ellis, Subban or Pietrangelo playing forward if an injury occurs. I've heard some people criticize this decision simply based on the worry of injuries. However one thing people need to realize is that every single one of these players is a go to guy on their junior team and is used to seing a ton of ice time. If an injury occurs to the forwards and some players have to start playing more, I don't think they'll have any trouble in handling it.
  • It's interesting to see that team Canada went relatively old this year. Only one of the 5 1991 born players trying out, actually made the team (being Ryan Ellis). I'm sure Taylor Hall, Matt Duchene and Nazem Kadri have to feel disappointed in not making it, but they will have a much better shot at making the club next year.
  • Ottawa 67's defenseman Tyler Cuma was among the cuts, however I've heard that Pat Quinn wanted him to be a part of the team. It's just that Cuma suffered a mild knee injury during the camp and his potential impact was questioned. As a 1990 born player, he's another guy who'll have a shot at making the team next year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thoughts on the Mississauga Majors from December 13

The Ice Dogs had a home and home with the Mississauga Majors this weekend, losing both games. In this one, the Dogs blew a third period lead, and gave up the game winning goal with 22 seconds left, losing 4-3. It was a relatively unexciting game, which is rare for a match up between these two rivals.

Ryan Yessie reported on the Majors last week, so it's interesting to see how our reports match up on some of the players...

Tim Billingsley - Drafted in 2008 by Phoenix/189th

I've never been terribly impressed with Billingsley. He's rather invisible on the ice and this game presented nothing different. He doesn't play a lot on the powerplay, he doesn't rush the puck up the ice, and I've always felt his physical play was overrated. Often you hear of this being a compliment to a defenseman because it means they aren't screwing up. But I don't agree. To me, players who don't stand out above their competition at this level scream average to me. And while he made strides offensively last season, which likely earned him a draft selection, he's still pointless this season. Quite frankly, as harsh as it sounds, I don't see him as a significant professional player, if at all.

Brett Flemming - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

Was very impressive, I thought. Showed a really solid skating ability, in particular defensively. Moves around effortlessly on the ice and had a couple nice rushes into the offensive zone. Played on the top powerplay unit with Cameron Gaunce and these two showed pretty good chemistry. On the powerplay, Flemming was able to get the puck on net a few times with a good low shot. He also made one really nice slap pass to Jesse Messier who fanned on the shot attempt. If it was a more skilled player, it probably would have been in the back of the net, no offense to Messier. Defensively he didn't make any mistakes, nor did he look undersized at 5'11. I think this guy is definitely going to be an NHL draft pick come June, as I've been impressed with his play in every game I've seen of him this season.

Casey Cizikas - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I'm not sure what to make of this guy. Everytime I've seen him this season, he's impressed me greatly. But I keep hearing a lot of negative things about him, regarding his skill and effort level. So I looked, and Cizikas actually has over half his points this season against Niagara. Maybe that explains it! Regardless, I can only comment on what I've seen. Cizikas was all over the ice tonight. Showed great speed carrying the puck into the offensive zone. Was the first forward into the offensive zone forechecking hard. His line of Cizikas, Rinaldo and Smith-Pelly was the most dangerous on the ice. He scored a nice shorthanded goal after taking the puck off Dog defenseman Drew Schiestel at the blueline. He was physical, in particular along the boards during the cycle. He finished the game with 2 goals and 1 assist (same stat line in an earlier game this season versus Niagara). Even if he might have consistency issues, he's got that ability to be a big factor every night if he wants to be.

Michael Pelech - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009, but 1989 born

Never been a big fan of Pelech. He's only a mediocore skater which really holds his game back, since he likes to have the puck on his stick. I find him to be a very selfish player who tends to overhandle the puck in the offensive zone. I'm not sure how many times he coughed up the puck in the game trying to gain access into the offensive zone, instead of simply dumping it in. I don't think he is a serious professional hockey prospect.

Zac Rinaldo - Drafted in 2008 by Philadelphia/178th

Rinaldo is what he is. He skates hard, he hits hard, he'll drop the gloves and he's not afraid to drive to the net. While his offensive skills aren't quite at that level that permits him to be a big factor offensively, his work ethic ensures that he is at least highly involved in the play. His line (with Cizikas and Smith-Pelly) showed a ton of grit and were highly successful in playing the puck possession/cycle game. Rinaldo does need to work on his defensive game, though. If he wants to make the NHL, he's going to have to become a 4th line sparkplug, which means that all areas of his game have to be strong. If he's a defensive liability, he's not going to get those minutes at the next level. From all things I've heard, Philly has been happy with his progress this year, especially after he opened some eyes at their prospect camp.

Jordan Mayer - NHL Draft Eligible in 2009

I think that a lot of people, myself included, thought that Mayer would have been putting up better offensive stats so far this season. He became a big member of the Majors offense in the second half of last season after coming over from Tier 2 Kingston. But, those offensive numbers aren't really up from last season. He is however seing only 3rd line minutes right now, trying to provide secondary scoring for Mississauga. I did think he was very impressive in the game though. Showed a lot of speed, especially on the forecheck. Had a couple nice scoring chances too. If he were with some better offensive players (was seing a lot of time with Kyle Neuber last night), he might be putting up some better numbers.

Devante Smith-Pelly - NHL Draft Eligible in 2010

Smith-Pelly was the 8th overall pick in the 2008 priority draft and looked really good out there tonight. He was the third member of that highly effective grind line with Rinaldo and Cizikas. He looked quick on his feet and was not afraid to get his nose dirty, which is something you like to see from a 16 year old player. Strength wise, he never got overmatched either, and was able to work the cycle very effectively. Looks like he's on the way to becoming a solid prospect.

Cameron Gaunce - Drafted in 2008 by Colorado/50th

Gaunce is just a real steady defenseman. Solid in every espect of the game, but not outstanding or overwhelming in any area either. But don't associate the fact that he doesn't overwhelm you with that fact that he might be invisible. He's on the ice a ton, plays on the first powerplay and penalty killing units. He rarely gets beaten one on one, and he rarely loses a race to the puck. I think his skating and speed are a bit underrated. I've heard some people say they have concerns about his skating, but I think it's fine. He shows a willingness to lead the rush and once he gets going, his speed aids him in gaining entry to the zone. However, he also does a great job of protecting the puck with his big body. However, I do agree that he needs to improve his acceleration in order to play the role of puck rusher at the next level. The two things I always say about Gaunce are that I find he tends to fall asleep in coverage sometimes, and that I wish he was more physical with his frame. Tonight again, he was directly responsible for an Ice Dog goal where he lost Andrew Shaw infront of the net and he had an easy tap in goal off a rebound. I don't know whether it's that he's falling asleep in coverage, or whether he's reluctant to play physically and really overpower his man. Or maybe it's a combination. Gaunce was also uncharacteristically sloppy with the puck tonight too, but that's not something you normally see from him. I agree with Ryan Yessie in that I see Gaunce carving out a nice NHL career as a 4-5 defenseman who can play a little bit in all situations.

Chris Carozzi - Drafted in 2008 by Atlanta/154th

For some reason or another, I can't help but always feel underwhelmed by Carozzi. He's solid technically and always makes himself square to the shooter. His rebound control is good and he's aggressive in challenging shooters. His weakest area is definitely his five hole, as many of the goals I see scored on him are five hole. And while he doesn't have a lot of weaknesses, he's underwhelming in that I've never seen him flat out steal a game for his team. He gives his team a chance to win nearly every night, but I've never seen him turn in a dominant performance where he completely shuts the door. A lot of the time, you'll hear people say that about NHL goalies, and people will be happy with their play because while they may not be flashy, they give their team a chance to win. But in the OHL, I expect to see some of the top goalie prospects flat out steal games for their team. Some of the best goalies in the OHL like Mike Murphy, Thomas McCollum and Trevor Cann all do this. And that is what holds Carozzi back from being named at that level.


On another note, I've heard that Majors forward William Wallen has started skating again and is expected to start playing again after the new year. Wallen is a solid 2009 draft prospect who suffered a brain hemorrhage after the 4th game of the season and had successful emergency surgery to fix it. The Swedish import forward is an incredibly talented offensive player whom I hope shows no ill effects of his injury and can make a full return to hockey.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on the Mississauga Majors from December 4

Ryan Yessie brings us another report from the December 4 game between Mississauga and Sarnia. Mississauga defeated Sarnia in a shootout 3-2, thanks to some solid goaltending by Carrozzi. Sarnia managed to escape with a point thanks to a fluke goal by Arniel with 6 seconds left.

Here are Ryan's thoughts on a few of the Majors...

Brett Flemming - YOB: 1991 - 5’11” - 175lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Dec/4/08: Flemming looked fairly impressive out there. He looks smaller than his 5’11” 175 frame listing suggests, but he showed off amazing speed. He had be the second fastest skater on the ice this night besides Mark Katic, he actually beat Katic near the end of Mark’s shift which created a scoring chance, later in the game he was able to put one in on a breakout play. He showed good offensive instincts and a nice shot to put his first of the season past Spence. This is certainly a guy I‘d list as a player to watch as he‘s only 17. (Flemming had 1G)

Tim Billingsley - YOB: 1990 - 6’1” - 185 lbs. NHL: 7th Round - 189th Overall by Phoenix in 2008
Report: Dec/4/08: I hear a lot about Billingsley being a sleeper pick for the Coyotes, but to put it simple he was invisible out there to me tonight, certainly did not play like a top 4 defenseman for the Majors with physical edge on this night. Unfortunately I can’t give much of a report on him.

Michael Pelech - YOB: 1989 - 6’2” - 212 lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2009
Report: Dec/4/08: Pelech has put on some weight since the last time I saw him play, but he put it to good use. I think Pelech could turn into a very effective pro hockey player if he continues to get stronger and becomes more willing to use his body. Pelech skated better than I’ve seen him before which was nice to see. He showed off his ability to thread the needle with a few pinpoint passes tonight, both of which sprung breakaways for the two respective goal scorer’s for Mississauga tonight. If Pelech continues to improve 29 teams out there will wind up disappointed in not drafting him last year. (Pelech had 2A)

Zac Rinaldo - YOB: 1990 - 5’11” - 180 lbs. NHL: 6th Round - 178th Overall by Philadelphia in 2008
Report: Dec/4/08: How can anyone not love this guy’s game. He plays with a lot of heart, speed, and he’s just going every single shift, banging and crashing every chance he had tonight. He’s not very big but he was willing to drive to the net a few times and pay the price to no avail. Rinaldo plays a gritty game but may be looked at as a project by Philadelphia as he is only 180 lbs. If he can add 15-20lbs and still play his game, he will be a valueable 3rd liner on any NHL team. This guy reminds me of Steve Downie, you know.. without quite as much scoring touch, or mental instability. (Rinaldo had 2 PIM)

Devante Smith-Pelly - YOB: 1992 - 5’11” - 180 lbs. NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Dec/4/08: I was really impressed with Devante’s play. He showed off good speed, and yet another Mississauga player willing to drive to the net, which is exactly how he scored his goal. He received a breakout pass from Pelech and drove to the net, which forced Spence to back up alittle too much and picked the top corner; a sniper’s goal. Smith-Pelly showed a willingness to engage physically. Being only 16 this kid could still grow to 6’1”-6’2” and about 200-210lbs. As he gains confidence in his game he could become a dangerous goal scorer in the OHL. He’s got 18 months to go before he gets drafted (and he will get drafted) he isn’t someone you need to watch right away, but keep him on your radar for next year. (Smith-Pelly got 1G)

Cameron Gaunce - YOB: 1990 - 6’1” - 203 lbs. NHL: 2nd Round - 50th Overall by Colorado in 2008
Report: Dec/4/08: Gaunce played a solid game tonight for the Majors. Gaunce is not a flashy defenceman and he won’t overwhelm you with his speed. But he plays the position well. He reminds me a lot of Josh Godfrey with the way you don’t even notice him sometimes, and then he’ll make a great play look easy simply by being in the right place at the right time. Gaunce’s meal ticket will be that positioning, he shows great awareness and anticipation. Once again his skills aren’t flashy, he’s steady in his own end, he moves the puck well, and rarely gets beat in transition (no one got close to beating him tonight). He has the makings of a steady #4 defenceman in the NHL one day. To reach his full potentail Gaunce needs to work on his skating, and can improve on his his willingness to play more physically, as he has a close to an NHL ready frame at 6’1” - 203 he needs to use it just alittle more without putting himself out of position, which will make him that much more effective.

Chris Carrozzi - YOB: 1990 - 6’2” - 185 lbs. NHL: 6th Round - 154th Overall in 2008
Report: Dec/4/08: Carrozzi played fairly well for Mississauga tonight. Carrozzi had great positioning as he was always in the right spot for the shot, although it was more of the side to side movement that was really the only thing that caused him trouble, he made a couple good looking saves throughout the evening. Carrozzi really only got beat once, as the second goal was an absolute miracle fluke. Carrozzi still looks very raw, the talents are there, but hopefully Mississauga will play him the majority of the games this year because he can only benefit from a lot of action. (Carrozzi stopped 38 of 40 shots and was 3 for 3 in the shootout)

Jamie Arniel - YOB: 1989 - 6’0” - 190 lbs. NHL: 4th Round - 97th Overall in 2008
Report: Dec/4/08: Well Sting fans have been waiting almost a year to find out what all the hype has been about Arniel. They found out earlier this season when Arniel scored 8 goals in 9 games. He scored an absolute fluke of a goal with 6 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime, he whacked his stick at a lose puck the same time as the defenceman, their sticks came together shooting the puck in the air, everyone lost sight of in including Carrozzi, it came down on the goal line and took a Sarnia bounce to sneak over the goal line. Arniel was credited with the goal which gave him a goal in each of his last 3 games. Arniel would score the lone goal for Sarnia the following night in Niagara to extend his streak to 4. Arniel is the tale of two players On the one hand Arniel has great speed, and would have to be the second fastest skater on the ice for the Sting next to Katic. He has a willingness to drive to the net and has a great shot with a quick release, and great accuracy. Arniel is also one of the best face-off men in the OHL and is almost always the guy taking the draw in key situations. Whats the knock on this guy? One word gets thrown around. Soft. Arniel has shown a tendency to skate away when a scrum is occurring, or unwilling to engage physically. Star players aren’t required to show toughness, but atleast push them back? Also he isn’t exactly known for his expertise in the defensive end. Finally he has a tendency to shoot at horrible angles, or shots that won’t even get through, instead of choosing to pass to the open man who would in turn create a scoring chance. What it comes down to for Arniel is he needs to be willing to engage more physically, and with his speed he should have no problem working on his defensive game. As far as moving the puck, you expect your sniper to shoot, but he needs to become better at choosing when to shoot and when he should pass. If Arniel can complete these he has a great shot at having a very successful NHL career. (Arniel had 1G, 1A)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thoughts on Weekend Action Against Sarnia and Windsor

This weekend, the Niagara Ice Dogs took on a couple of non conference teams in the Sarnia Sting, and Windsor Spitfires. It gave me great opportunity to catch a glimpse at a few players that I haven't had a chance to see this season, at least in regular OHL play. On Friday night, the Dogs defeated the Sting 2-1 in a relatively boring game. On Saturday night, they lost 8-4 to Windsor. They played hard against Windsor and hung with them for two and a half periods until the Spits finally blew things out of reach.

Thoughts from Friday, December 5, 2008 against Sarnia.

Jamie Arniel
(Drafted in 2008 by Boston/97th)

Arniel was very good tonight. In fact, I was impressed with his play at the ADT Challenge as well. He appears to be on the right track to putting that whole Guelph situation at the back of scouts minds and really making his play the sole focus. In seasons past, I've always been critical of his effort and it's consistency. I thought he had a tendency to take shifts, or even periods off. But in the two times I've seen him this season so far, he seems to be playing much harder and could be evidence to why he's posting over point per game numbers for the first time in his OHL career. He works hard in the corners, he has good speed which he uses to carry the puck and he has relatively good hands in close. He also has been working on his defensive game and becoming more involved physically. He's starting to turn himself into a complete player, which is ultimately what he needs to do to succeed at the next level. I'm not sure his offensive skills are good enough alone for him to succeed in the NHL. I see him as a future 3rd liner who works hard for his goals and is an asset to his team in all areas. His addition to the Team Canada selection camp roster is a testament to his coming of age and his improvement as a hockey player.

Michael Neal (Drafted in 2007 by Dallas, 149th)

After being drafted by Dallas (obviously same team who has his brother James), Neal missed the entire 2007-08 season, save a few playoff games, due to a knee injury. That really hurt his development. The season after a player is drafted is often the season where they take the biggest steps forward and learn to work on the things that they need to improve upon to become NHL players. Getting a taste of the show at prospect camps often gives players that final motivation to get better. Neal unfortunately did not have that chance, until before this season. He's not really putting up many points, and nor do I think he ever will. But he's actually a pretty similar player to his brother. He appears to be a great skater, he takes the body hard and he has solid puck carrying ability. The only difference really appears to be James finishing ability and offensive hockey sense is/was much higher. Neal was actually very good tonight, perhaps Sarnia's best player tonight for me. I'd say it's probably borderline for Dallas if they sign him this offseason, but with James in Dallas thriving, they may not want to upset one of their core young players by not retaining his brother. If he does end up getting a contract from Dallas, I think he could actually be an NHL player. With the game today being built on speed and the forecheck, Michael Neal could have a place as a 4th liner/depth player.

Mark Katic (Drafted in 2007 by the New York Islanders, 62nd)

Katic was alright tonight. I've actually never been the biggest fan of his play, but I'm starting to come around. It's not that I don't like him as a player, it's more that I've always felt he was overrated and that ultimately his NHL potential was overrated too. I think his defensive game has come leaps and bounds, and that he's proven now to be a very smart defender who has good positioning and uses an active stick to break up plays. And he's obviously an outstanding skater who can lead the rush. However, I'm not sure his offensive abilities will translate to him putting up a lot of points in the NHL. Maybe it's just me, but I've always looked at him and thought he could be hitting the scoresheet more often, but he doesn't really. To me, I think that offensively he doesn't think the game at the same level as guys who are able to step into the NHL and start putting up the points in a faster and more aggressive game. An example tonight was near the end of the game, Sarnia is trying to get the puck up ice to try and tie the game and Katic is spending the entire time skating around in his own end, moving around the forecheck. He could have beat the attack by simply making a pass to a teammate or gaining the line and dumping it in, but instead was skating around aimlessly. I think that ultimately, Katic will find his role in the NHL, as one of those steady, yet non flashy number 4 or 5 defenseman. Does a little bit of everything, but never really puts up the big points.

Justin DiBenedetto (Drafted in 2008 by the New York Islanders/175th)

DiBenedetto was invisible for me tonight. I've seen him better obviously, but tonight he did not make an impact. As I mentioned before, it was a pretty boring game and neither team could really get anything going off the rush. He's obviously taken a big step forward this season without Stamkos and shown people that he's not the next Dany Roussin (off collar reference for some of you out there). Not much more to say here.

Matt Martin (Drafted in 2008 by the New York Islanders/148th)

Similar to DiBenedetto, Martin didn't make much of an impact for me. He was aggressive on the forecheck and he was playing physical, but didn't have the puck on his stick very much tonight. I think the Isles have to be happy with the fact that he's taken the next step offensively this year and that he's apparently cut down on some of those undisciplined penalties. Again not a lot to say here.

Miroslav Preisinger (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

I had heard a lot of good things about Preisinger from our contributor Ryan Yessie, but he was pretty disappointing for me tonight. He did have one very nice hit and showed a willingness to get involved physically, which is something you like to see from European finesse players. But Preisinger showed me nothing offensively. I can't say I even remember him touching the puck in the offensive zone tonight. Judging by his offensive stats, he's been quite the enigma this season. To get drafted, he's going to need to show a lot more than 2 goals in the second half of the season.

Gregg Sutch (NHL Draft Eligible in 2010)

Sutch was another guy who was completely invisible tonight. As a recently named member of Team Ontario for the Under 17's, I was expecting a more involved showing for Sutch. But he looked relatively soft in the corners and was outmuscled easily by the Ice Dog defenders. As such, he was another guy who didn't really make any noise offensively tonight.

Thoughts from Saturday, December 6, 2008 against Windsor.

Taylor Hall (NHL Draft Eligible in 2010)

What else is there to say about this kid. He's unreal. Everytime he was on the ice tonight, he controlled the play. It was almost as if his linemmates were along for the ride. He skates effortlessly with the puck and makes defenders miss nearly every time he touches the puck. The encouraging thing about him, is that everytime he has the puck on his stick, he's looking to drive to the net for a scoring opportunity. Pretty much no one could touch him tonight. It's almost unfair that this kid has another year of OHL hockey to play before his draft year.

Ryan Ellis (NHL Draft Eligible in 2009)

I was not impressed by Ellis tonight. After coming away impressed with his play in the OHL last season, and at the Under 18's, I've found him generally underwhelming this season. I think the main difference is defensively and physically. Last season, in particular at the Under 18's, I saw him taking the body with authority and being involved physically. This season, I've yet to see that same aggressiveness. Tonight he was completely passive, and often times it looked like he was waiting for defense partner Rob Kwiet to make the play so that he could get open for a pass and lead the rush. He was also completely ineffective at rushing the puck tonight and was often left out of position defensively because he was taking liberties with the puck. He's still a treat to watch on the powerplay and his shot is an A+. He gets it through everytime. But the last few times I've seen him play now, I find myself asking the question. Is he only a future powerplay quarterback? He needs to find that aggressiveness in his play again in order to find success in every situation at the next level.

Rob Kwiet (Overager and NHL free agent)

Many believe Kwiet to be the best available overage player in the OHL this season. He sure plays a lot for Windsor, at times it seems like he never leaves the ice. He's a great skater and he makes a very good first pass. Defensively, he engages the puck carrier and does a relatively good job with coverage for a mainly offensive defenseman. The big question is, does he have a future at the next level? I'm just not quite sure. He has some good intangibles, but nothing has ever screamed, NHL player to me. I've seen Kwiet play a lot in his OHL days, due to his time with the Majors before. I think he's still got a shot to get himself an NHL contract, but I'm not sure he's ever going to be more than a depth player.

Adam Henrique (Drafted in 2008 by New Jersey/82nd)

Henrique was quite good tonight. He's quite the speedster and has outstanding acceleration. At one point, he blew by and Ice Dog defender coming off the wing, and put a good shot at goaltender John Cullen. He was also very aggressive at driving to the net, picking up two goaltender interference penalties. At this point, I think the Devils have to be very happy with his progression this season, as he's producing at over a point a game.

Jesse Blacker (NHL Draft eligible in 2009)

Blacker was ranked 19th on the CSB's preliminary draft list for the OHL, which was surprising to me. He was however relatively impressive in this game. He showed very good speed in rushing the puck and a willingness to jump up into the attack. He was almost too aggressive in that respect. A few times he was caught up ice, which lead to an odd man rush for the Ice Dogs. However, as a young and inexperienced player (only 47 OHL games under his belt to date), he's going to learn to pick his spots better. I liked how he was not afraid to engage his man in the corner and how he came away with the puck nearly everytime in those one on one battles. I think that because he and defense partner Mark Cundari are playing second fiddle to Ellis and Kwiet right now, his offensive stats are a little bit underwhelming. But he's clearly got talent and I think someone is going to take this kid in the first three rounds on draft day.

Richard Greenop (Drafted in 2007 by Chicago/156th)

I think that it's needless to say that the Hawks did not draft Greenop for his offensive ability. He is what he is. He's a big gu, who skates reasonably well for his size, and who can throw his body around and be aggressive on the forecheck. He's also a pretty good fighter who's not afraid to drop the mitts. That being said, I'm sure they'd be lying if the Hawks told you they were happy with his offensive progression. Even a 4th line scrapper, in this day and age, needs to have some offensive skill to survive in the NHL. With the decreasing role that heavyweights are playing, you need to bring other things to the table besides fighting in order to see more than 2-3 minutes of ice per game. Personally, I don't think Greenop is an NHL player, at least not a regular one, for that reason.

Justin Shugg (NHL Draft eligible in 2010)

I think that a lot more has been expected of Shugg, considering he was a top 10 Priority selection in 2007 by Oshawa. Especially considering that he was playing well for Oshawa in his rookie season before the trade to Windsor. In this game, Shugg skated on the top line with Taylor Hall and was actually relatively impressive. He showed good skating ability in keeping up with Hall, and a willingness to go into the corners for the puck. He also made a nice play on his goal, as he showed good anticipation. Ice Dogs goaltender attempted to clear a rebound out of his crease, but Shugg cut out from behind the net and knocked the puck down in mid air and put it fivehole on Cullen as he was still down in his butterfly. I think that he has some skill and he has potential. Since his draft year isn't until 2010 because of a late birthday, he's still got a shot to bring up his game and get himself on the scouting map. A trade (which has been much rumoured), to a team with less scoring depth might not hurt either.

Mark Cundari (Signed by the St. Louis Blues as a free agent)

Cundari earned himself a contract by playing very well at the Blues prospect camp this past offseason. I felt that he was very impressive in the times I saw him last year, and in the ADT this season. But he did not have a great game. He does take the body very well and has an underrated ability to move the puck, but tonight his one on one play was exposed a little bit. He was made a fool by Alex Pietrangelo on one rush, where he tried to play the puck instead of taking the body and Petro deked him out of his skates (Cundari actually got so crossed up, he fell over). On another occasion he tried for a big hit as a player crossed the red line, missed and took himself completely out of position as the Ice Dogs came back on a 2 on 1. But one thing that impressed me was that I think he realized what he had done wrong earlier. Later in the game, Ice Dog forward Chris Desousa tried the same move Petro did, but Cundari this time played the man and sent Desousa to the ice, voiding the scoring chance. I think he was a solid signing by the Blues, even if he does have some things to work on.

Austin Watson (NHL Draft eligible in 2010)

This kid is going to be a great player. For a 1992, his strength on the drive and in the corners is unreal. He worked the cycle well all night and showed great speed as he drove hard to the net. He also wasn't afraid to take a beating in front of the net to cause a screen. While he didn't hit the scoresheet, I thought he was definitely visible. I think he's going to be a very high pick in 2010, thanks to his combination of size and skill.

Greg Nemisz (Drafted in 2008 by Calgary/25th)

Nemisz was good tonight. I think his skating and first step are much improved this season, and he now skates fairly well for a big man. He's always aggressive on the forecheck and is often the first opposing player in the zone to work the cycle. Still though, and maybe I have unfair expectations, I want to see him use his big body more offensively. I think he could stand to use his size more as he drives to the net, shielding the puck with his body. I also think he needs to become more involved in front of the net, screening the goal and looking for rebounds. He has good puck skills and he has good hands, I just want to see him taking that next step. I'm not saying he needs to start playing like the next Brendan Shanahan. But at the same time, I don't think his offensive skills are good enough for him to play a more finesse game at the next level. He needs to get start getting a little more dirty.

Dale Mitchell (Drafted in 2007 by Toronto/74th)

Mitchell is always a fun player to watch. He's like a little wrecking ball of energy. Always keeps his feet moving, always attacking, and is a relentless forechecker because of it. Is also an aggressive body checker who is constantly looking for someone with their head down. He's got above average speed which he uses to come off the wing, and actually has a very hard, and often accurate shot. Likely is going to be one of those fan favourite type energy players in the NHL, as long as he can continue to play his style without injury.


Just something else to mention. Windsor's goaltending was terrible in this game. Engelage was pulled entering the 2nd period after giving up two real softies, and Gleeson wasn't a whole lot better as he gave up a real softie too. There has been a lot of talk about Windsor trying to improve in net, and now I see why. If they want to be serious Memorial Cup contenders, they've got to do something.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on the Plymouth Whalers from November 28

Ryan Yessie brings us a report from the November 28th game between Plymouth and Sarnia. It was a hard fought game that saw Sarnia outshoot the Whalers, yet the Whalers came out on top with a 4-3 victory thanks in part to a two goal effort from Ryan Hayes.

Here are Ryan's thoughts on a few of the Whalers...

Ryan Hayes (NHL: Eligible in 2009), 1989 born
Report: Nov/28/08: I wasn’t aware of his age (19) when I was watching him, so it might be too little, too late, but I did notice this guy had some excellent speed and great moves with the puck, also a solid shot, didn’t notice him on defense much, but fact is he displayed some good speed and skills and his name really isn’t one that is known around the league, and he deserves credit for the way he played tonight. (Hayes got 2G)

Tyler Seguin (NHL: Eligible in 2010)
Report: Nov/28/08: Seguin played fairly well, he created a few scoring chances, displayed great speed especially for a 16 year old, and was effective in all three zones. Seguin is definitely a player to watch over the next 18 months. (Seguin got 1A)

A.J. Jenks (NHL: Florida’s 4th Round - 100th Overall pick in 2008)
Report: Nov/28/08: Jenks looked very improved from last year, he unleashed a huge shot with Spence out of the net to cut down the angle. He doesn’t throw the body as much as you’d expected but he was very effective in all 3 ends. Jenks looks like he could turn into a very effective 3rd liner in the NHL who can do a little bit of everything while using his big frame. His skating requires some improvement.

Matt Hackett (NHL: Eligible in 2009), born in 1990
Report: Nov/28/08: Hackett was passed over in this year’s draft, which must have motivated him as he appears to have taken the starting role away from Jeremy Smith atleast for the time being. His positional play for the most part was very impressive, cuts downt he angles good, doesn’t have standout reflexes but he knows where he needs to be on the ice, his defence broke down late, but he was able to hold off a comeback from Sarnia on this night. (Hackett stopped 30 of 33 shots)

I think that it is interesting that Ryan was incredibly impressed by Ryan Hayes. In the times that I've seen Plymouth play (which has not been a lot in recent years), Hayes has also impressed me. He's an interesting story actually. In 2005-06, he actually outscored James Van Riemsdyk on the US National Under 18 team. He finished second on the team in scoring behind Patrick Kane. He continued his strong play in the 2006-07 season for the Under 18 team, where he averaged just under a point per game again and was among the teams leaders in all offensive categories. He also was a member of the 2006 gold medal winning, and 2007 silver medal winning team USA at the IIHF Under 18 championships. So needless to say he came out of the NDTP with high expectations as he was set to attend Boston College. He played 6 games for BC last season before leaving to sign with Plymouth, with virtually no fan fare. He finished last season with 22 points in 27 games, and it certainly looked like he was setting himself up for a nice breakout season this year. This year so far, he's made minor improvements in the scoring department, but for a guy with his skill set, you have to think he's underachieving slightly, especially considering anyone I know who has seen him play in Plymouth has come away impressed. I still think he's a guy to really watch, as one of these days he could really explode offensively and start hitting the score sheet every night.