Monday, September 28, 2009

Ryan Yessie's OHL Draft Sleepers

In lieu of Brock's great 10.. er.. 11 sleeper picks in the OHL, I have decided to throw together a list of 10 MORE excellent sleeper picks. Basically the method is if I already consider them a prospect for the 2010 draft, then they can't make this list. This looks like one of the best crops to come out of the OHL in years.. maybe ever. I can easily assemble a list of 50-60 players that could all be drafted this year.. so here's 10 more sleepers to add to your potential list of soon to be NHL prospects. This is in alphabetical order, not necessarily the order of talent.

Patrik Andersson - D - Kitchener Rangers
Info: Andersson has size at 6’2” but also is a smooth skater with good puck movement skills including an excellent first pass. Andersson comes over from Sweden and despite being a 19 year old rookie, may very well interest a lot of scouts by the end of the year.

Brandon Archibald - D - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Info: Archibald is a big 6’3” 200lb. Defenceman, and will get a lot of action on the blueline for the progressing SOO team. Physical but also is moving the puck well has opened the season with a 5 game point streak despite only putting up 8 assists all last year.

Jeff Braithwaite - D - Peterborough Petes
Info: Braithwaite is a reliable defenceman, who can move the puck well and is a decent skater.

Nathan Chiarlitti - D - Sarnia Sting
Info: I’m breaking my rules a little bit but although I consider him a prospect for this draft, he appears to be flying well under the radar for everyone else, which qualifies him as a sleeper. Chiarlitti has near ideal size at defense for a 17 year old. Chiarlitti scored the first goal of the season for Sarnia. He’s been playing a defensive stay at home style most of the time, and has excellent positioning, and patience beyond his years as well as good decision making under pressure. Chiarlitti has some untapped offensive skills that may be unleashed this year on a weak Sarnia blueline.

R.J. Mahalak - LW - Plymouth Whalers
Info: Mahalak is unliked by many outside the Plymouth fan base, but Mahalak shows the size and the skill of a potential prospect. Unsure going into this year if he’d have the points to go with the physical edge that would make him an intriguing prospect, Mahalak has started strong putting up 4 points in his first 4 games.

Petr Mrazek - G - Ottawa 67’s
Mrazek who was brought over from the Czech Republic apparently may have won the job from Chris Perugini in Ottawa. If this does indeed occur expect Mrazek to get a lot of attention from scouts.

Ben O’Quinn - C - Sarnia Sting
O’Quinn who was a 4th liner + PK specialist until midway though last season, didn’t produce enough to get drafted. So far he’s Sarnia’s leading scorer. Despite 3 losses O’Quinn contributed offensively in all 3 games. O’Quinn will be counted on both sides of the puck this year, and could legitimately be Sarnia’s top scorer as well.

David Quesnele - RW - Peterborough Petes
Info: Quesnele already had some potential going into this year, but has put up 2 goals and 4 points in his first 5 games. Built solid at 5’10” 195 he should only get stronger from here on in.

Justin Shugg - RW - Windsor Spitfires
Shugg got lost between all the prospects from last year, as well as all the talent that surrounded the Windsor team last year despite putting up 17 points. The late 1991 birthdate makes Shugg eligible in 2010 and he will one again be a name lost behind teammates and potential 1st overall picks Taylor Hall, Cam Fowler and sure fire NHL draft pick Austin Watson. But make no mistake, Shugg will get drafted and will likely be a pleasant surprise to whoever lands him.

Ivan Telegin - C - Saginaw Spirit
Telegin comes over from Russia with great size (6’3”) and apparently the ability to put the puck in the net, evidence of this is the 3 goals in his last 2 games for Saginaw. A rookie in the OHL and entering his first year as a NHL draft eligible prospect, expect Telegin to get a lot of attention later this season.

Two other guys i felt had potential to make this list, but may already be too established as potential NHL prospects..
Josh Shalla - RW - Saginaw Spirit
Michael Sgarbossa - C - Barrie Colts


A Couple Highlights For You

The Kingston/Niagara game on Sunday was quite an entertaining game. Kingston won the game 4-2, but there was a lot of action in the contest. One of which was an outstanding shorthanded goal scored by the red hot Michael Farrell. The other an outstanding hit by recently named sleeper (see the latest Top 10), Matt Petgrave.

Here is the hit by Petgrave on Erik Gudbranson.

Here is the goal by Farrell.

Some pretty stuff right there!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - "Sleepers" for the 2010 NHL Draft

Completely inspired by The Scouting Report's "OHL Sleepers to Watch" (found here), I've decided to mold the theme of today's Top 10 in a similar fashion. I'm going to take a look at 10 players you may not have heard of right now, but by season's end you likely will have. These are NHL Draft prospects in their first year of eligibility (you've got to draw the line somewhere!). Thus a lot of them are OHL rookies, or guys who saw limited time last year. These are also guys who come June, could be hearing their name called at the 2010 NHL Draft, even though they are on few scouting lists right now.

I didn't rank them because at this point I think that defeats the purpose. It's too early in the season to determine what order these players should be ranked in. However, it's not too early to identify them as players to keep an eye on, and that is my purpose with today's Top 10.

Here they are...

Domenic Alberga - Brampton Battalion
Alberga led the OPJHL's Villanova Knights in scoring last year and is currently centering the Brampton Battalion's all rookie "92" line (with Phil Lane and Ian Watters). Scored his first OHL goal the other night and I think it's only a matter of time before that line starts to get comfortable. Alberga is strong on the forecheck and he appears to love to drive the puck to the net. He's also a budding physical player who might just have power forward potential. His skating looked only average, but he has lots of time to improve it.

Brandon Alderson - Sarnia Sting
Alderson played mostly midget AAA last year with the Oakville Rangers and is entering his first season in Sarnia. He has good size and appears to have a good nose for the net. He's been seeing some action on a line with Kale Kerbashian, who might be Sarnia's best offensive player, and he ended up scoring the game winner in Erie the other night. Sarnia's going to need some players to help fill the net this year and Alderson looks like a candidate to do so early in the season.

Chris Buonomo - Peterborough Petes
Buonomo split last season between the Petes and Peterborough in the OPJHL. He's not the biggest defenseman in the world at 5'11, but he's definitely aggressive. He gets right in there in the defensive end and is a really hard nosed player. He's been getting a fair amount of ice time thus far, even seeing some time paired with Jamie Doornbosch. Offensively, he appears to be no slouch either, scoring in Peterborough's first game of the season. If he can continue to show a physical two way dimension, he could be an attractive option on draft day.

Michael Houser - London Knights
Don't look now, but the Knights have found their goaltender of the future. Houser played for the atrocious Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL last season, where he performed admirably under the conditions (considering the other goalies on the team had SV% nearly .50 lower than his). The Knights found him and signed him this offseason, likely before he could make a decision on an NCAA scholarship. He was outstanding for London throughout training camp, and he has carried that over into the season. He got his first start of the season against Windsor last week (talk about throwing him into the fire) and he made 42 saves for the victory. London was horribly out shot in the game and he kept them in the game. He's not likely to get a lot starts this season behind the solid Michael Hutchinson, but it should be enough to catch scouts attention (ala Steve Mason behind Adam Dennis in 2006). He's also barely eligible for this year's draft, born September 13. That has to make him one of the youngest, if not the youngest, player available for the draft.

Philip Lane - Brampton Battalion
While yet to hit the scoresheet, Lane is bound to do so eventually. A budding power forward, Lane played last season for Buffalo of the OPJHL where he excelled. He's a high profile American player who has previously attended U.S. development camps. He signed with the Battalion this offseason and is likely to eventually make a big impact in the league. He's got great size, great wheels and a good attitude. In the game I saw, he was all over the ice, throwing hits, forechecking, causing turnovers. In a similar situation to a guy like Austin Watson, he'll take his time getting used to the league.

Dalton McGrath - Barrie Colts
One of the stars of the OHL preseason, Mcgrath has yet to start a game in the regular season for Barrie. But the late 1991 born goaltender is definitely one to keep an eye on. He was a rookie of the year in the OPJHL last season while playing for the Couchiching Terriers and didn't lose a single game during the regular season. Taking nothing away from Peter Di Salvo, I could see Mcgrath slowly taking starts away from him as the season progresses, similar to the way Di Salvo did to Michael Hutchinson last year. I'll be curious to see how McGrath fairs in his first start.

Matt Petgrave - Niagara IceDogs
A free agent acquisition by the IceDogs this offseason, Petgrave seems to have the potential to develop into a quality two way defender. He played last season for the Toronto Titans midget AAA team (and sparingly for Bramalea of the OPJHL). Throughout the two games he's played for the Dogs this season, he's been active at both ends of the ice. A solid skater who's capable of carrying the puck up the ice, but also a potentially strong defender. He also seems to have a penchant for throwing the big hit, although he needs to be careful in not taking himself out of the play defensively. Once he gains more confidence, we could see big gains from him on an arguably wide open Niagara blueline.

Charles Sarault - Kingston Frontenacs
Even though Sarault played for the Frontenacs all of last year, he's a player who saw limited ice time and produced very little in the way of offensive stats. This year, he's playing a larger role and is starting to see playing time with some of Kingston's better offensive players. He had a three assist night last night against Peterborough and appears to be poised to breakout. Sarault, only moderately sized at 5'10, is a real spark plug. He brings a lot of speed into the offensive zone and keeps his legs moving in attacking the puck carrier. He's got some offensive creativity too, although needs to be careful in getting too fancy.

Geoffrey Schemitsch - Owen Sound Attack
Another player signed as a free agent this offseason, Schemitsch is a two way defender who played midget AAA in Mississauga last year. He's got adequate size at 6'1, 180lbs and he has been playing in all situations for Owen Sound thus far. He brings the puck up the ice confidently, he runs the powerplay well and he even does a good job positionally on defense. He had a goal and an assist against Windsor last night and now has 4 points in 5 games to start the season. Seems like a really good find for Owen Sound and potential NHL draft pick.

Dalton Smith - Ottawa 67's
Saw little time with Ottawa last year, instead playing closer to home for Whitby of the OPJHL. But he did excel towards the end of the season and into the playoffs for the 67's. A big forward, Smith actually uses his size to his advantage, parking himself near the crease. He's got good hands in close, as evidenced by his 4 goals already this season. A real power forward prospect. Definitely one to watch this season.

Cameron Wind - Brampton Battalion
Wind played sparingly for the Battalion last season, but this year is taking on a much larger role, playing in all situations for the Battalion. He's a strong two way defender who has excellent size at 6'1, 200lbs. He's composed with the puck, does a good job of getting shot through to the net and he's a willing combatant in the defensive zone. He skates well for a big man too. While he hasn't put anything up on the score sheet yet, I'd say it's only a matter of time.

Whoops, was that 11? My bad!

All jokes aside, I do seem to have trouble sometimes keeping these lists at 10.

Anyone have any additional comments about these players, or for that matter, any players you've felt I missed?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thoughts on Ottawa from September 25

I caught the 67's in action against the Niagara IceDogs last night. The Dogs were looking for their first win of the season after two close losses to Kingston and Barrie, while the 67's were trying to get their 2nd win of the season.

The big boost to the 67's line-up was the return of captain and Minnesota Wild first rounder Tyler Cuma. Cuma hadn't played for the 67's in over 9 months after injuring his knee at the World Junior camp last season. On the downside, Ottawa did not look good tonight. With Corey Cowick already out until at least Christmas with a shoulder injury, the team recently learned that fellow first line forward Anthony Nigro will also be out for a little while. He has contracted mononucleosis and will be out for at least a few weeks. Losing those two guys hurts, and it showed tonight. The 67's just don't have the depth at forward to sustain two major losses like that. The inabilities of their third and fourth lines were a major reason for their loss. They were a combined -3 and were on the ice for every even strength goal scored against the 67's (save the empty netter). In the absence of scoring depth, you need to ensure that your 1st line is really rolling and they were off tonight too. Tyler Toffoli and in particular Ryan Martindale did not have strong games.

Their defense also struggled mightily tonight. They looked very disorganized and the communication was not there. Turnover after turnover occurred. Even the pairing of Julien Demers and Travis Gibbons was out of sync, which is odd considering how much time they spent together last year. Much like the depth of their forward lines, their depth on defense hurt them also, with the third pairing of Cody Ceci and Derek Hartwick being responsible for two goals against. While Ceci played OK, Hartwick's inability to make quick and smart plays really hurt the team.

The Dogs ended up winning this one 5-3. They were leading 4-1 going into around the halfway point of the third period, but the 67's battled back to get within one. Their sudden burst of intensity was too little too late.

Here are my thoughts on some players performances for the 67.

Thomas Nesbitt (2010, but 1990 born)
Nesbitt was part of the one scoring line that actually was working tonight (with Dalton Smith and Matias Sointu). After such a strong preseason, Nesbitt has carried that success into the regular season. He was all over the place tonight. He works hard in the offensive zone, he works the cycle well, he comes off the wing with speed in order to drive to the net. He was also very responsible defensively tonight. I think he has about as much pro potential as Corey Cowick does, and Cowick managed to get drafted in 2009. If Nesbitt can continue to produce and play the way he has, he could have a shot of being drafted too. He finished the game with 1 goal and 2 assists.

Marc Zanetti (2010, but 1991 born)
Don't really have much to say about Zanetti, but just wanted to point out that he was playing forward tonight. I'm not sure whether this is a permanent thing, or a part time thing to help cover the Cowick and Nigro losses. He was part of that poor third line with Jon Carnevale and Andrew Merrett. Considering what I saw from the 67's defense tonight, I'd say they are better off putting him back on defense, where he has the potential to be a physical and relatively quiet presence.

Matias Sointu (TBL)
I was really impressed with Sointu tonight. He centered the powerful Nesbitt and Smith line. He's a little spark plug out there. Good skater, good stickhandler. Despite his size, he wasn't getting pushed off the puck. On the contrary, he was winning loose puck battles. He showed a lot of playmaking ability, in particular on the second period Dalton Smith goal. He won the battle for the puck behind the net, made a nice back pass into the slot and the puck eventually found Smith's stick. He was constantly creating plays, and surprisingly, he was also coming back defensively. Despite only registering an assist on the night, I thought he was Ottawa's best player. Reminds me a lot of a Buffalo prospect by the name of Felix Schutz, who used to play in the QMJHL and had a solid rookie year in the AHL last year.

Tyler Toffoli (2010)
Toffoli didn't have his best game tonight, but he did show some effort. If not for the inabilities of his linemates (Martindale and Cody Lindsay), they might have been more effective. He set up Lindsay and Martindale numerous times for scoring opportunities, only for them to fumble the puck or fail to corral it. Intriguingly, he was playing some center tonight, which I've never seen before. It seemed that he and Martindale were trading taking the faceoffs while on the same line. Once Chris Byrne shuffled the lines in the third period, he took over full center duties after Martindale was moved to another line. Toffoli is a good playmaker, but I'm not sure I like him at the center position. He seems more dangerous when he can work the slot and come off the wing.

Julien Demers (SJ)
It was his first game back after suffering a mild knee injury during San Jose's camp, and he was covered in rust tonight. He and partner Travis Gibbons were not in sync all night. He was directly responsible for the 4th IceDog goal by Chris DeSousa. Due to a lack of communication, and just a poor read, Demers threw the puck behind the net from the corner. But Gibbons wasn't there, he was starting to head up ice looking for the breakout. Instead, Andrew Agozzino was there, receiving the nice pass from the opposition, to which he put it out front to DeSousa in the slot (where Andrew Merrett failed to take his man to the net) . DeSousa roofed it top shelf and the Dogs were up 4-1. I say he was covered in rust because he just didn't look comfortable all night. He rushed plays with the puck and was not the calm presence he usually is.

Dalton Smith (2010)
I think I was right to have confidence in his ability to break out this season (see the Big Guy Breakouts Sunday Top 10). Was part of the strong Nesbitt and Sointu line. He's a big body and he uses it. Parks himself right in front of the crease, which is where he scored both of his goals. He's got good hands in close, as the first goal he dug the puck from the IceDog defender's skate, pulled it back and roofed it top shelf on Mark Visentin. I liked how he used his size to create room for his linemates too, and he was a physical presence on the forecheck. One thing that particularly impressed me was his penalty killing effort. Went down and blocked a shot from the point, got up quickly, and dove for the loose puck to tap it over the blueline. That showed a lot of gumption. He's quickly becoming a player to watch for 2010.

Tyler Cuma (MIN)
After returning from Minnesota's camp (where his play was apparently rusty), he did not look good tonight. It takes nothing away from the level of prospect he is, because I've seen him at his best. But he's definitely not 100% comfortable and confident yet since returning to the ice from that injury. He had a lot of trouble with the puck tonight, just couldn't create plays or handle passes. Whether it was bad ice, or nerves, he was fumbling it all over the place. Defensively, he was pretty solid, however he seemed too intent in trying to take the body and as such was putting himself out of position. The couple of nice plays he did make defensively, were as a result of a poor decision making, and he had to come back hard into the zone to erase the scoring chance. In those instances, he showed how dynamite a defender he can be, where he used his strong closing speed to come back and push his man off the puck. He's nearly impossible to get around when he's on his game. He's going to take time before he's back to playing the way 67's fans are used to, but when he does, the defense should be fine.

Ryan Martindale (2010)
Martindale did not have a good game tonight. The puck was jumping all over his stick and he just couldn't find the handle on anything. My biggest concern with Martindale is the fact that he's 6'3, but he plays like he's 5'6. I didn't seen any evidence tonight of a big guy using his size to his advantage. You take a look at a guy like Dalton Smith, who's using his big frame to shield the puck or to win battles. And then you see Martindale who's even bigger, but was soft on the puck, wasn't involved physically and looked generally passive. He didn't skate very hard tonight either. In a draft year filled with excellent OHL players, in particular forwards with size (Austin Watson, Andrew Yogan, etc), Martindale isn't doing himself any favors right now in terms of his draft stock. He finished the night with an assist.

Cocy Cedi (2012)
You'll be hard pressed to find a younger player in the OHL right now. Ceci is still 15 and will be until December 21. Considering his age, I thought he played a pretty good game tonight. Unfortunately for him, he was paired with Derek Hartwick who was handling the puck like a hand grenade. He didn't really make any plays that made him stand out in a bad way, which for a young defender like him is a good thing. He's got a long way to go before he's NHL draft eligible and he'll definitely grow into a more prominent player during that time.

Petr Mrazek (2010)
Chris Perugini is apparently a little banged up from a collision with first overall pick Daniel Catenacci, so Mrazek is starting all the games this weekend for the 67's. He was their first round selection in this year's import draft. I liked a lot of what I saw from him. He's not a big goaltender (5'10), but he was really aggressive in challenging shooters. He was coming right out passed the blue ice to cut down angles. Despite giving up four goals, I'd say he could only be faulted on one of them. This was the Dylan Wood wrap around goal. He didn't put his stick down to cover his five hole and Wood slid it in. He also had trouble with one long shot that snuck through his equipment and nearly into the net. But he's apparently playing with borrowed equipment, and thus he may be a little uncomfortable. Mrazek is definitely very agile in the net and moves side to side very well. On one occasion, he stoned a Dog forward point blank in the slot after a pass came out from behind the net. He reacted quickly and got to the middle of the net to block it. His rebound control was excellent tonight too. Other than a few shaky things, I think he impressed. It'll be interesting to see if he battles Perugini for ice time as the season goes along.

That's it folks. As usual, I welcome your comments if you saw the game or have any questions.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

School Your Pool

Not sure if I've mentioned this or not, but I'm now writing for a fantasy hockey website called School Your Pool. I'm covering the OHL for them as part of their "CHL Superline," with the QMJHL's Nathan Fournier and the WHL's Gregg Drinnan. Both of their blogs can be found to the right on my blog reel.

My most recent article is on the Windsor Spitfires and their now difficult overager situation. Be sure to check it out.


Also here is an article I wrote to link with my interview of Alessandro Seren Rosso, in case you want to check it out, which I'm hoping you do!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thoughts on Owen Sound and Sarnia from September 23

Bored on a Wednesday night and tired of watching the 4th place Toronto Blue Jays (yes...I, I decided to throw on the Owen Sound/Sarnia game on the Action Pack. Nothing like watching two winless teams fight for their first victory!

All joking aside, it was actually a very entertaining game; albeit a sloppy one. Both teams had their share of troubles defensively, with penalties (both teams had 6 powerplays) and with turnovers. Thanks in part to three powerplay goals, the Attack came out on top by a score of 5 to 2. First time I've really seen both of these teams this season. My general thought is that Sarnia will be in for a long season, as expected. They work hard and they've got some young talent, but this year will not be pretty for them in the standings. Owen Sound, despite the win, needs to be A LOT better if they want to finish better than last year. Turnovers in the defensive end and undisciplined penalties could have been the end of the them against a better and more talented team. They'll be playing Kitchener and Windsor on the weekend and if they play like that defensively, it'll be a long weekend (and not the good type of long weekend).

One thing I've really noticed is how much Owen Sound misses David Kolomatis. Obviously it didn't show on the powerplay, but I think it shows a lot 5 on 5. He's such a good skater and generally has little trouble bringing the puck into the offensive zone. I noticed tonight that most of the Owen Sound turnovers occurred as Attack defenseman tried to force the puck up ice on a rush (hello Curtis Crombeen and Paul Bezzo). As such, Attack forwards were generally responsible for bringing the puck up across the red line. Also, Kolomatis is a vastly underrated defensive player, who really solidifies the back-end. He's been out with mono and as such I really expected him to be back in Owen Sound due to circumstances beyond his control. But instead the Kings (who drafted him in 2009) recently sent him to the AHL's Manchester Monarchs training camp. Since he's returning from mono, he's not likely to be ready physically for AHL action anyway, but none the less, his demotion to Manchester and not Owen Sound has to be troubling to Attack management.

Enough with the rant, here's some of my thoughts on Attack and Sting players...

Owen Sound Attack

Keevin Cutting (2011)
Played a quietly effective game tonight. To be honest, I didn't really notice him that much on the ice. He had one bad turnover that I remember, where he tried to get too cute with the puck, but I also remember him bailing out Paul Bezzo on a few occasions defensively. One thing I do feel the need to mention is how small he looks on the ice. He's listed at 6'1, 177lbs, but he doesn't really look 6'1. Perhaps because he's so slim in comparison to his teammates. As one of the younger 1992 birth dates in the OHL, he's got a lot of time to put on weight and size before the NHL comes calling in June of 2011. I'm interested to see how talented he is offensively, once he starts to gain more confidence in doing things with the puck.

Curtis Crombeen (2011)
Curtis Crombeen is going to be a good player in the OHL, but he doesn't look ready yet. Admittedly he did get better as the game went on, but he's still too careless with the puck for my liking. Made a couple bad pinches and turned the puck over trying to cut through the opposition with the puck. He also makes Keevin Cutting look like Paul Bezzo. He is very talented though and you can see that in the few successful rushes he did make. Elite skater with potentially elite puckhandling skills. Just needs to continue to adapt to the speed of the OHL game.

Garrett Wilson (FLA)
The best player on the ice for me tonight. It's obvious as to what Wilson worked in this offseason. His skating looks much better. He's still slow getting going, but because he's got good size, once he hits that top gear, he's hard to handle. He appears to have turned himself into more than the crease crasher and slot target he was last season. His line (with Shipley and Josh Moes) was the most effective for Owen Sound. He really appears confident in his ability to take the puck hard to the net and in so, created several scoring chances. He also made a really nice touch pass to Joey Hishon for the 2nd Attack goal, where he used his body to shield the defender going hard to the net. He's still a physical presence on the ice too. Looks much improved to me. He finished the game with 1 goal and 2 assists and was named the first star.

Joey Hishon (2010)
Hishon played a solid game tonight. His speed and puck control wreck havoc on opposing defenses. I do have one criticism though. I feel like he and his linemmates didn't really connect tonight. They were dangerous, but they did so on accord of their own individual efforts, more so on cycling and working as a cohesive unit. The line (Myles Doan and Bobby Mignardi with Hishon) and it's speed really gave the Sting defense fits. I felt like some of that connection problem came from Hishon himself, who tried to do a little bit too much. He's a great puckhandler, but I felt like he had already made up his mind a few times as to where he was going with the puck. While some teams love to see a guy like that, I think most prefer those types on the wing. As a center, and as a great playmaker, I think Hishon needs to use his linemmates more than he did tonight. But I suppose that is nitpicking on a night where he had a goal and an assist and was one of the game's most dangerous players. His powerplay goal off that nice Wilson feed really showcased Hishon's ability in close to the net where he made a nice move to cut back to the middle and out-waited the Sting goalie for the goal.

Steven Shipley (2010)
Shipley is a bit of an enigma. At times he was a dominant force on the ice and other times he appeared content to play a background role. I think it may be a confidence thing that will slowly allow him to become an impact player. He skates very well for a big man, accelerating to top speed in only a few strides. He used this skating ability on a few occasions to blow past a Sting defenseman on his way to the net. I also think he uses his size really well when he doesn't have the puck, making room for his linemmates. Truthfully, I'd love to see him on the wing where he'd be more fit to use his size and speed coming down the wing. One thing I don't want to see him doing is quarterbacking the powerplay like he did tonight. In my opinion, it's a total waste of his size and hands. Shipley finished the game with 2 assists.

Geoffrey Schemitsch (2010)
Liked what I saw of this OHL rookie tonight. He was probably the most effective Owen Sound defender at rushing the puck up the ice and he appears to have the confidence of the coaching staff as he played in all situations. He did have one very bad turnover where he panicked and tried to force a pass to the wing and it led to a near goal (if not for a post and his effort to come back and clear the puck from the goal line). But he was generally very solid and smart with the puck. Decent size, if he can have a good year, he might get NHL draft attention. He finished the game with 2 assists.

Scott Stajcer (NYR)
Stajcer was very shaky in the first period, but really settled down as the game went on. The two goals he gave up in the first were a direct result of very poor rebound control. That being said, the rebounds would have been a non issue had Owen Sound defenders tied up their man. He does have a tendency to give up bad rebounds on low shots to his pads. Stajcer needs to learn how to direct his rebounds to the corner and away from the slot. On high shots, he's excellent though and does a very good job of controlling shots to his chest. Another thing I'd like to see from Stajcer is for him to be more aggressive in challenging shooters. He rarely leaves the blue ice of his crease and got caught deep in his net a few times. He got lucky with a couple posts too. But you have to give him credit for shutting the door in the second and the third. He finished the game with 32 saves on 34 shots, got the win and was named the game's 2nd star.

Sarnia Sting

Nathan Chiarlitti (2010)
He's already matched his goal scoring total (and point total for that matter) from last season. Chiarlitti is also wearing an A this year, which proves that Dave McQueen and the coaching staff have a lot of confidence in him. He finished the game -2, but I'm not necessarily sure he deserved that fate. He looks pretty poised with the puck and did a good job at keeping the puck in the zone. He also was smart in his pinches. Defensively, he looked pretty solid. Did a good job with the rush and was hard to beat one on one. On the negative side, and perhaps part of the reason he was -2, he needs to work on his zone coverage. But he appears to have a pretty good head on his shoulders and has the makings of a steady two-way defender.

J.C. Campagna (2011)
One of those highly touted draft picks that the Sting managed to sign, Campagna had a solid game. He's got really great wheels and seems to have a nose for the net. His goal was scored as he jumped on a juicy rebound and put it top shelf. I really liked the energy he brought and he even got involved physically. Seems like a really talented 1993.

Brandon Francisco (2011)
Another of the highly touted draft picks from the 2009 priority draft, Francisco was supposed to be one of the most talented players available and a surefire top 10 selection. However, due to the same old NCAA connections, he slipped to the third round. You can see why he was so highly touted. Similar to Campagna, he brings a lot of speed and energy to the ice. He's got great hands and nearly scored off a nice rush. However, he appears a lot more physically immature than Campagna. At only 5'10, 155lbs, he was getting pushed around out there and got leveled twice with hits. He was really only noticeable on a couple occasions, as his body just isn't ready for a big role in the OHL. He'll be a good player though once he gets bigger and stronger.

Joe Rogalski (2010)
I thought Rogalski was less impressive than his defense partner, Nathan Chiarlitti. He got exposed a few times defensively, especially off the rush. He appears to be mobile and a solid skater, but he needs to keep his feet moving. He also had some trouble in the defensive zone with coverage. Offensively, he looked poised with the puck and did a good job rushing it and moving it up ice. But he's got to be better defensively. With his size and potential offensively, he'll definitely get a look from the NHL. Rogalski also finished -2.

That's all folks. I know there are quite a few Owen Sound fans who read the blog and obviously some Sarnia ones (Ryan Yessie I'm looking at you!), so I'd love to hear what you guys thought on the game too.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thoughts on Mississauga and Brampton from September 18

I TiVo'd this one on the weekend and was recently able to watch it. Nothing like a good ol' fashioned battle of Peel (the district that both teams lie in). It was a chippy game that saw a lot of back and forth action. There weren't an abundance of scoring chances for either side, but it was still an exiting game due to the high tempo of play. The Majors ended up taking it by a score of 3-2. Brampton looked a lot better than I figured they would against the Majors. As the season goes on and their young players get better and more comfortable, they could end up making more of a playoff push than people imagine.

Thoughts on both sides...

Mississauga St. Michael's Majors

Tim Billingsley (PHX)
He's going to have to play a lot better than that if he wants to earn a contract from Phoenix. All last year, Billingsley struggled, failing to show the level of potential he did in his first two seasons. I'm sure the Majors expected him to right his ship, but if this game is any indication, he's going to have another long year. Not the biggest defender, Billingsley was once a physical defender. Now, he seems passive and unwilling to engage physically. I saw him win maybe one or two battles along the boards the entire night. He's also careless with the puck, giving it away on several occasions due to poor reads. He's a good skater and he shows glimpses of a greater capability, but he really needs to get his act together. The pairing of he and David Corrente (who was even worse than Billingsley) was a disaster for the Majors tonight. Me thinks that Dave Cameron won't be keeping that one together much longer.

Brett Flemming (WSH)
Flemming was probably the Majors best defenseman tonight. He's an elite skater who uses that ability to play a solid two way game. He can rush the puck up ice and does a good job of establishing his teams offensive tempo. He also uses his closing speed to break up plays defensively, and does a good job on man to man coverage. On the downside tonight, he did have a couple of bad turnovers due to poor decisions on when to rush the puck. If he's able to pick his spots better, he'll obviously limit those mistakes. The first pairing of he and Cameron Gaunce are going to see a lot of ice time for the Majors this year.

Casey Cizikas (NYI)
Cizikas is looking to turn over a new leaf this year after a forgetful 2008-09 season. He and Jordan Mayer were the two best Majors forwards tonight. Cizikas is especially effective on the penalty kill where he uses his great speed to forecheck the opposition. Kept the puck in the Battalion end for around 20 seconds on one PK occasion. He also forced a turnover that lead to a 2 on 1 (and a poor finish by Dustin Ekelman on a great pass from Cizikas). Five on five he was a factor as well. His 2nd period goal ended up being the game winner, after he took a pass from Blake Parlett in the slot, made a defender miss and roofed it top shelf on Patrick Killeen. His ability to make plays at top speed is definitely impressive. I think he really establishes himself as solid OHL player and NHL prospect this season. Cizikas finished the game with a goal.

Jordan Mayer (2010, 1991 born)
Jordan Mayer would have definitely been the most impressive player on the ice, had he not faded a bit into the third period. But he brought a ton of energy tonight through the first two periods, crashing, banging, dangling, and scoring. He's an excellent skater with explosive acceleration and flew by Brampton defenders on a few occasions. He was active on the forecheck, won battles in the corners and laid a few really nice hits. On top of this, he created several solid scoring chances off his speed and ability to stickhandle through the defense, finishing one of these off by going five hole on Patrick Killeen for the Majors second goal of the game. While undersized, if Mayer can develop into a sandpaper type offensive spark plug, he could eventually get NHL consideration down the line. Mayer finished with a goal.

William Wallen (2010, 1991 born)
Wallen didn't have a very good game. The only times he was really visible was when he coughed the puck up in the offensive zone. He tried to do too much with it himself on a few occasions and this led to odd man rushes for the Battalion. The Majors are going to need him to step up offensively this year, especially if they continue to play him on the top line with Casey Cizikas.

Devante Smith-Pelly (2010)
Smith-Pelly is a solid crash and bang forward. He was very active on the forecheck and is exceptional along the boards. While he's not overly big, he is strong and rarely fails to win a loose puck battle in the corner. Because of this, he's a very valuable player on the cycle. He's also a fairly good skater who seems to like creating offensive off the rush, putting the puck on net with a hard slapper down the wing on several occasions. I think it's a bit up in the air as to how high his offensive ceiling is, but he's a player who should get drafted come June.

Cameron Gaunce (COL)
Gaunce did not have his best game tonight. He seemed to have a lot of trouble out there, especially with the puck, which is highly uncommon for him. The puck was bouncing on him a lot and he gave it a way on a couple of occasions. Just not sure his head was in this one. On the positive, he does appear to be playing more physical, which is a plus. However, some of that could have been frustration due to his lackluster play tonight. Take this performance as worth a grain of salt.

J.P. Anderson (2010)
He was solid between the pipes for the Majors tonight. Big things are expected of Anderson this year after his incredible playoff performance last year. He's an undersized goaltender, but he plays a lot bigger than he is. He always get square to the shooter and he's aggressive on challenging and cutting down the angles. He controls his rebounds well too. One thing I really like about Anderson is the somewhat hybrid style that he plays. As a small goaltender, going fully towards the butterfly can be dangerous as you expose the top half of the net and make it harder for you to control the rebounds off high shots. Anderson will sometimes stand up for high shots, rather than drop to the butterfly, making it easier for him to trap the rebound, and to take away more of the net. He's got a real handle on his position, and lack of size be darned, I'd say he deserves first round consideration in June. Anderson stopped 27 of 29 for the win, and he had little chance on either of the two goals against.

Brampton Battalion

Cameron Wind (2010)
Really liked what I saw of Wind tonight. He saw little ice and game time as a rookie last season, but he's got a much larger role this season. He has good size at 6'1, 200lbs, but he moves well for a big defenseman. He seemed calm and composed with the puck, usually opting to make the safe play. I say usually because he turned the puck over twice when he tried to force plays up ice. When he made the simple play, or when he carried it up himself, he was a lot more effective. He was also impressive in getting his hard, low point show through to the net. Looks like Stan Butler has some confidence in him too, as with the Battalion trailing in the last minute, Wind was on the point following a time out. Defensively he was solid too. Hard to get around one on one, won the battles in the corners, was physical. Seems to be a player who could have NHL draft potential. Wind finished the night +2.

Philip Lane (2010)
Held off the scoresheet, but not because of poor play. Lane was a factor all night. He seems like a really complete offensive player. Solid skater (although not tremendous), who was active on the forecheck and forced several turnovers (one off Brett Flemming). He was physical and laid a huge hit on Majors rookie Joseph Cramarossa. He drives hard to the net with the puck on his stick. Lane just couldn't finish off any of his offensive opportunities. If he keeps playing like this, the offense will come for the somewhat under the radar Rochester native.

Sam Carrick (2010)
Carrick had a solid game. He's not a flashy player but he's a hard working centerman who contributes at both ends of the ice. Offensively, Carrick was excellent on the cycle and the forecheck and showed some good bursts of speed as he closed in on the puck carrier. Defensively he was solid and was often the first forward back for Brampton. He played very well on the penalty kill and also had a good game in the face off circle. Seems like a really solid two-way center, who despite not having great size, could be an effective NHL'er down the line. Carrick finished with an assist.

Dominic Alberga (2010)
Another of the Battalion rookies, Alberga played a solid game. He was aggressive and showed a desire to drive to the net. He was physical and active in the corners for loose pucks. He also showed some solid glimpses of offensive ability, especially while on a line with Philip Lane. We'll see how he progresses as the season goes along.

Barclay Goodrow (2011)
The Battalion 2009 first rounder and there preseason leading scorer, Goodrow was impressive. He's a really big kid who's stronger than your average 16 year old rookie. He was constantly in the crease trying to disrupt J.P. Anderson and he showed some grit in getting into a few after the whistle altercations. His skating looks like it could use some work, in particular his acceleration. But it's always tough to determine skating ability on t.v. He looks like he'll be a factor for the Battalion this year offensively and could end up having a really solid rookie campaign.

Patrick Killeen (PIT)
Much like Tim Billingsley, Killeen needs to have a good year in order to earn a contract from the Penguins. With Thomas McCollum gone, the starting position is Killeen's to lose. He played a really solid game against the Majors. Already a big goalie, Killeen makes himself even bigger by challenging shooters and cutting off angles. He has pretty good mobility for a goaltender of his size too. He did a great job of keeping the Battalion in the game in the third period by closing the door. He still needs to work on his rebound control though as he can tend to give up some juicy ones, in particular on low shots. He made 25 of 28 shots and took the loss.

That's it for that game and wraps up my thoughts on the first weekend of the season. Comments? Questions?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thoughts on Barrie from September 19

Fresh off a 9-1 spanking of the Owen Sound Attack, the Barrie Colts took their offensive juggernaut to the Garden City Saturday night. The Colts ended up defeating the Niagara IceDogs in overtime by a score of 5-4. It was a hard fought game that saw momentum swing back and forth, and it was a tough one for the Dogs who played their second straight game against a much improved Eastern Conference opponent. The Colts got their offense from Luke Pither and Alex Burmistrov. Pither had a hat trick for the second straight game (now with 7 in his 2 game total), including the game winner in overtime. Burmistrov had 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists). The Dogs got the majority of their offense from Alex Friesen, who had 2 goals and an assist.

The Colts are a high octane team and definitely one that is going to be fun to watch this year. Here are my thoughts on some of the Colts last night...

Alexander Burmistrov (2010)
He was outstanding tonight. A stand out in the first two games of the season, this Russian import has been everything as advertised. It's not often that an import makes such an immediate impact in the CHL. There is usually an adjustment period, even for the most talented ones. Evgeni Grachev didn't score a goal until his 7th game in the league last year. Burmistrov seems like the total package. Solid skater who looks to have an extra gear. He's very elusive on the ice and seems to find the scoring lanes with ease. On one of his goals, he snuck in quickly to the slot and buried a quick pass from Alex Hutchings (who was behind the net). The puck was on his stick for less than a second. Nearly the entire game, he used his strong puck handling ability to cut through the Niagara defense with ease and created numerous scoring chances for himself and his teammates. I say he appears to be the complete package because he also took shifts on the penalty kill and helped to hold Niagara to 0 for 5 on the powerplay. He also appears to have a bit of feistyness to his game, not afraid to give a shove here and there. Colour me very impressed. By the way, on his blog, Alessandro Seren Rosso conducted an interview with Burmistrov and there are some interesting tidbits in it. You can find it here. Burmistrov had 2 goals and 3 assists.

Luke Pither (Overager)
Fresh off an apparently impressive showing at Rangers camp (although he hasn't earned a contract as of yet), Pither looks poised to make a run at the scoring title. Every time he was on the ice, he made something happen. He's an elite level skater and he's so deadly from in close. Definitely one of the better shots in the league, his wrister especially, which is both accurate and hard. Like Burmistrov, his puckhandling ability left Niagara's defense in the dust all night. He's obviously still not much of a complete player, but you can't deny his offensive abilities. If he doesn't a get a contract from someone this season (someone being an NHL team), I'll eat my hat. Pither had 3 goals.

Alex Hutchings (TBL)
After falling to the 4th round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Hutchings has to have a bit of a fire lit under his belly this season. He was apparently incredibly impressive at Tampa's camp and I think a lot of teams will be kicking themselves for passing on him. While he hasn't scored a goal yet this year, there's no cause for alarm. He played a good game, constantly involved offensively with Burmistrov and Michael Sgarbossa (his linemmates). He produces offensively in any situation, whether it be using his speed off the rush, or controlling the puck in the offensive zone. He's undersized, but he's also strong on the puck and a strong two way player who backs down from no one. Hutchings finished the game with 2 assists.

Michael Sgarbossa (2010)
Sgarbossa has had a very impressive start to the 2009-10 season. He was one of Barrie's offensive leaders in the preseason and he's carried it over to the regular season thus far, with 2 goals and 2 assists in the first two games. Sgarbossa had a very underrated rookie season in Barrie and I think that as the season goes on, he'll start to make a name for himself. He seems to make things simple offensively and is really meshing well with Alex Burmistrov thus far. Like Burmistrov, he's an elusive player who reads and reacts to offensive situations well in order to put himself into scoring positions. He's also a really solid playmaker. Sgarbossa isn't as good of a skater as his linemmates, but I wouldn't say he's terrible either. It'll be interesting to see the type of season he has. Sgarbossa finished with 2 assists.

Ryan O'Connor (2010)
O'Connor didn't have a great game last night. The undersized puck moving defenseman is definitely a solid offensive player, but is he good enough to overcome his size disadvantage. I've heard a lot of people compare O'Connor to Ryan Ellis, a natural comparison on paper. But Ellis was a first rounder for a reason, despite his size. His offensive instincts are out of this world. He thinks the game at another level and anticipates the next move. O'Connor, while a skilled puck carrier, does not seem to possess that elite level vision or creativity that Ellis does. He's also not as fearless and willing to throw his body around and in that sense he can play small at the defensive end. Like he did last night, when Niagara's forwards did a good job in winning one on one battles against him. I was impressed with him last season, but this year he really needs to step up defensively. O'Connor had an assist and was -2.

Mitch Bennett (2010)
Tall and lanky rookie defenseman, Bennett was fairly impressive tonight. He's got great size and he moves fairly well. He's also not afraid to use his size and was a physical aggressor all night. He had a really strong preseason offensively, however I didn't really see any significant offensive skills tonight. Perhaps as he becomes more comfortable, we'll see them. Would love to see him play again.

Josh Brittain (ANA)
Brittain did not look good. Just returned from NHL camp, Brittain looked completely uninspired during the game. Perhaps he was just tired, but he never appeared to be skating at full speed. Even defensively he was poor and a non factor and allowed Niagara players to beat him for pucks and get around him for scoring chances. Another factor that maybe lead to a lackluster performance, are the trade rumours surrounding him. Barrie is apparently shopping him for an elite level stay at home defenseman (likely to pair with O'Connor). He needs to step up.

Bryan Cameron (Overager)
I think it's safe to assume that Cameron has to be disappointed that he didn't receive an NHL contract offer this summer, after he failed to come to terms with LA (the team that drafted him in 2007). He attended Phoenix's training camp, but failed to make a significant impression. Cameron is the type of forward who can do a little bit of everything and it'll be interesting to see how he fits in in Barrie this year. With the depth that they have, he may have to take a bit of a smaller role than he's used to offensively. But he did see some powerplay time with the big guns and was his normal self, winning battles for the puck and playing a solid puck possession game. I'm pulling for him to have a big year and to earn a contract. He finished the game with 1 assist.

That's it folks, anyone else have any comments about the game last night?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thoughts on Kingston from September 17

The OHL season officially kicked off last night. Eight teams were in action, including the Kingston Frontenacs who took on the Niagara IceDogs in St. Catharines. Since most of my reports will come as teams take on the IceDogs and the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, I'll hold off on my thoughts of those two teams until a later date.

It was a solid first game in the Garden City last night; a lot of energy and a competitive game. Kingston looked considerably better than last year, even without the services of Ethan Werek (who was only cut from the Rangers today). The Fronts are more physical and faster than last year. With Beskorowany in net and Lashoff, Gudbranson, and Doherty on defense, I just can't see Kingston missing the playoffs again this year.

For the record, Kingston won this one 3-2. They were originally down 2-0, however half way through the second period they turned it on. The Fronts scored three straight goals to finish out the 2nd, and held on in the third to preserve the victory. Recent free agent acquisition Mike Farrell scored the game winner for Kingston.

Here are my thoughts on some Kingston players...

Taylor Doherty (SJ)
Doherty was the best player on the ice tonight. He looks way more comfortable out there. He was rushing the puck and involved offensively in ways we haven't seen since his promising rookie season two years ago. That confidence with the puck was what he was missing last season and it was a major reason for his struggles. Defensively, he was great too. The biggest positive was that he was able to be physical without taking any stupid penalties. The IceDogs had a very tough time getting passed him all night. His backwards and lateral mobility also looked improved from last season. It's obvious he's been working hard. The only thing I want to see him really improve on is his board play. For such a big guy, he often has trouble winning battles when the puck goes to the corner. Instead of using his size and reach, he can be eluded as he failed to engage a few IceDogs tonight. I think that just comes with having the confidence to engage hard physically and win battles without taking a penalty.

Erik Gudbranson (2010)
Had a pretty solid game. Was involved at both ends of the ice and appears to be really growing into his size. He led the Kingston rush on a few occasions and looks comfortable on the point on the powerplay. For such a big guy, his forewards and lateral mobility are excellent. At one point Alex Friesen (possibly the Dogs best skater) was trying to lose him in the corner by skating back and around with the puck. Gudbranson stayed with him the whole way and sealed off his opportunity to get by him and to the slot. Backwards, he still needs some work. He got blown by for a two on one as he couldn't get back fast enough. He played with a lot more physicality than I saw last year and showed a mean streak, of which I fully expected him to develop this season. As the year goes along, I'm hoping he becomes more dominant. Gudbranson registered one assist tonight.

Brian Lashoff (DET)
Just recently returning from Detroit, Lashoff looked sluggish and sloppy in the first half of the game. He was tentative in rushing the puck, was careless in his passing and was soft on his man. The second IceDog goal by Andrew Agozzino was a direct result of his inability to clear the puck. The Dogs turned the puck over to him in the slot, but he bobbled it and then forced a pass, to which Agozzino picked off and fired it home. But the second half of the game was a different story. It was almost as if he woke up. He began to rush the puck with confidence and every time he had the puck, he made something happen. He's such an effortless skater and has tremendous acceleration. Defensively, he was a rock the second half. He used his solid mobility to play tremendous one on one defense and to beat players to pucks in the corner. If you've read my blog before, you'd know I expect big things from Lashoff this year. Lashoff registered one assist in the game.

Alan Quine (2011)
I didn't notice Quine all that much to be honest. The 2nd overall pick in the 2009 Priority Draft was pretty invisible save his 2nd period goal that really got things started for the Frontenacs. Off a Shayne Rover turnover, Quine picked up the puck and roofed it top shelf on Mark Visentin. The shot was very impressive and I think it caught Visentin off guard too.

Clark Seymour (2011)
The Frontenacs 3rd rounder from 2009 is a big hulking defenseman who really looked impressive in taking the body tonight. His puck skills and skating look like they could use some improvement, but when I see a big (6'3) defenseman at 16 taking the body the way he did this game, I find it impressive.

Nathan Moon (PIT)
If Nathan Moon would have played the whole game on the penalty kill, he would have had one heck of a game. Moon was sensational in killing off all four of Niagara's powerplay's, including one in the last 5 minutes of the game. He can be a tenacious forechecker and plays the puck possession game very well. While penalty killing, he was relentless in attacking the puck carrier and at one point kept the puck behind Niagara's net for a good 20-30 seconds. The rest of the game, he wasn't as visible. Had a couple nice moments in puck control, and created a few scoring chances, but he needs to be a more consistent scoring threat on the ice. Moon finished with an assist.

Charles Sarault (2010)
Slightly undersized forward, Sarault was all over the ice tonight creating scoring chances. He has good speed and was active on the forecheck. He's very elusive on the ice and at times I felt like he surprised the Niagara puck carriers with his closing speed. He attacked the net and was constantly buzzing. On the negative side, he needs to be more careful with the puck and his passes. He had a couple really bad giveaways that led to scoring chances, this was in part of him trying to do too much. But he did impress me with his effort tonight.

Michael Farrell (2010, 1990 born)
Farrell, a former Owen Sound Attack forward, was signed as a free agent this offseason. He played last year with Kingston's tremendous OPJHL team and was an impact player. He was probably the best Kingston forward tonight. He was all over the ice, crashing the net, getting in the Dogs faces. He showed great puck control on a few instances where his moves created scoring chances for Kingston. And he scored the game winner at the end of the 2nd period. If he can make an impact every night for Kingston, whether it be physically or on the scoresheet, he'll have a place in this league for the next two seasons.

Tyler Beskorowany (DAL)
Was very solid between the pipes for Kingston tonight. Made some huge saves at the end of the game, including a knob of the stick save on an Andrew Agozzino wrist shot from the slot. He challenges shooters, using his size to his advantage and I think he's vastly improved his reflexes and lateral mobility. His biggest strength is the way he takes away the bottom of the net with his pads. He still needs to work on his five hole and his rebound control, but the skill level is there. He completely shut the door in the third period, when it mattered most, and proved that his acquisition was an intelligent one by Kingston.

That's all folks. Be sure to check back all season for similar reports, as well as the player archives found on the right side of the page, which will link you to previous reports on players.

Anyone else catch Kingston in action last night and have thoughts?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Pipeline Show - September 15th - Eastern Conference Preview

Last night I was lucky enough to appear on "The Pipeline Show," which is a hockey prospect radio show out West, hosted by Guy Flaming and Dean Millard. These guys are the best in the business and they've got a tremendous show. They invited me on to do an Eastern Conference preview for the 2009-10 OHL season.

It was a blast and you can check out/download the clip at their website, here.

You can listen to their show regularly on Tuesdays from 9-11 EST, and be sure to check out their blog here. Lot's of great stuff on there.

Thanks again to Guy Flaming for having me on and I hope they have me back!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Performers of the Preseason

With the OHL Preseason concluding today, only two games lie in the way of the start of the 2009-10 season. While the preseason itself can often be misleading in terms of predicting success (due to various reasons), that doesn't mean that strong performances from players and teams should go without notice.

First let's take a look at the nearly final preseason standings for 2009-10 (minus the 2 games today)...

1. Barrie Colts 5-0
2. Peterborough Petes 3-2
3. Niagara IceDogs 2-0-2
4. Mississauga Majors 3-1-1
5. Ottawa 67's 2-2-1
6. Kingston Frontenacs 2-2
7. Oshawa Generals 2-2
8. Brampton Battalion 2-3
9. Belleville Bulls 1-2
10. Sudbury Wolves 0-6

1. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 5-0
2. Kitchener Rangers 4-1
3. Windsor Spitfires 3-2
4. London Knights 3-2
5. Erie Otters 1-1-2
6. Guelph Storm 2-3
7. Plymouth Whalers 2-3
8. Saginaw Spirit 1-3
9. Sarnia Sting 1-4
10. Owen Sound Attack 0-4-1

It's great to see Barrie and Sault Ste. Marie playing so well. Barrie absolutely demolished opponents in the preseason, outscoring them 33-13. That's 6.6 goals per game. I mean, I knew Barrie was going to have an explosive offense this year, but that's outrageous. Sault Ste. Marie got it done at the other end, keeping teams to 11 goals against. The Hounds have a really great defense this year and could really surprise some people. On the negative side, you have to wonder what's going on in Sudbury and Owen Sound; the only teams to go winless in the preseason. Bigger things are expected of them this year so they've got to get their act together.

Now on to today's top 10. If you hadn't guessed already, I'll be profiling the top 10 performers of the 2009 Preseason. There were A LOT to choose from. Many players stepped up their game, including a lot of younger players in larger roles.

One thing I would like to mention is how difficult it was to gather all the stats of the preseason. The QMJHL keeps up to date stats for the preseason, just as they would the regular season. I fail to see why the OHL can not do the same. Checking game recaps on team sites can be quite time consuming, especially considering some teams do a better job of reporting (Mississauga) than others (Barrie). So with that, please keep in mind that the stats I'm going to give you are completely unofficial.

Let's see em...

10. Taylor Carnevale and Michael Sgarbossa - Barrie Colts
As previously mentioned, Barrie's offense was firing on all cylinders this preseason. These two were right in the thick of it. Both finished with 4 goals and at least 1 assist. Carnevale was very solid after coming over from Oshawa last year, while Sgarbossa put in an even better rookie season after being selected in the third round of the 2008 Priority Draft. Barrie's offense is already stacked, and if these two can continue their strong play into the regular season, Barrie is going to be able to ice three lethal scoring lines every night. Nevermind the question marks about the team's defense. If they score 6.6 per game, it's lights out.

9. Thomas Nesbitt - Ottawa 67's
With Logan Couture and Thomas Kiriakou gone, and Corey Cowick injured (and possibly gone), the 67's badly need a secondary scorer to step up this season. Nesbitt, a 20 goal scorer last year, did that in the preseason. He lead the team with 5 goals and 1 assist and looks poised for an even bigger break out season than he had last year when he increased his goal production from 9 to 23. Nesbitt also happens to be one of the teams best defensive forwards, thus with increased offensive production, he should have no trouble filling the shoes of a guy like Thomas Kiriakou.

8. Nick Esposto - Oshawa Generals
As a rookie last season, this 1991 born winger had an unspectacular year. The former 4th round pick finished the year with 7 goals and 14 points. This preseason, Esposto has nearly surpassed that mark in only 4 games. With 5 goals, Esposto has paced the Generals offense and looks poised to have a serious breakout season. With the return of goal scorer Brett Parnham (either to pro or another OHL team) in doubt, having a sophomore like Esposto step up will be essential to the Generals getting back to the playoffs.

7. Barclay Goodrow - Brampton Battalion
The 17th overall selection of the 2009 OHL Priority Draft, Goodrow has quite possibly been Brampton's best forward this preseason. He leads the team with 5 goals and is showing no effects of transition troubles from the York Simcoe Express to the OHL. The 6'3, 210lbs winger certainly has the size for the league. If Brampton is going to compete for a playoff spot without Hodgson, Grachev, and Duchene, they are going to need young players like Goodrow to step up.

6. Jordan Mayer and Devante Smith-Pelly - Mississauga Majors
Don't you hate when I cheat like this? Now it's a top 12, not a top 10! And in case you didn't notice, the Mississauga Majors are currently the 5th ranked team in the CHL according to the Mastercard CHL Top 10 for Week 1. Mayer and Smith-Pelly were both solid players for the Majors last season, however they were never consistently involved offensively. The 1991 born Mayer and 1992 born Smith-Pelly are both former first round selections in the Priority Draft and will need to become consistent offensive producers this season. And they have done just that in the preseason, with 3 goals and 3 assists each.

5. Bryce O'Hagan - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
When the Greyhounds drafted Robin Lehner in the Import draft this year, I think it raised a lot of red flags to people regarding what they thought of Bryce O'Hagan. Not without talent, O'Hagan did not have a good season last year. The still highly thought of prospect was vastly inconsistent, even if he did get blistered with shots night in and night out. This preseason, O'Hagan looked to prove to the team that he is a number one netminder. With Lehner away at the Senators camp, O'Hagan took over earning the teams final 4 victories. This includes a shutout of the Sudbury Wolves in the Hounds final preseason game. With a solid defense and great goaltending, the Hounds could be a team to watch out for this season.

4. Michael Whaley - Windsor Spitfires
I implore you to tell me where the Spits keep finding these guys. Whaley, the clubs 13th round selection in the 2009 Priority Draft, has been the most impressive 1993 born player in the preseason. He's done it all for Windsor, scoring, playmaking, blocking shots, playing both ways, fighting. The diminutive winger from London (ironic eh?) has scored 3 goals and added 4 assists in the preseason and has forced himself on to the Spits roster for the coming season. Even if he's not likely to continue this pace in the regular season, you have to commend him for his efforts and remember him as a name to watch.

3. Tim Campbell - Guelph Storm
An OHL rookie last season, this 1991 born defenseman played a relatively small role for the Storm. This season he's looking for a bigger role and I think he's earned it. With 3 goals and 6 assists in the preseason, Campbell has led the Storm in scoring and looks poised for a mega breakout season. He may be the smallest guy on their mammoth blueline, but he's got a chance to make the biggest impact.

2. Richard Panik - Windsor Spitfires
Every bit as advertised thus far, Panik has been a beast for the Spitfires. He's paced the team with 3 goals and 5 assists and looks to be an impact OHL player in similar fashion to the way Evgeni Grachev was last year. The Slovakian winger will step right into a top 6 role on the Spits and at this point, has to be considered a front runner for the Emms Family Award (Top Rookie). Check out this beauty of a goal he scored the other night against Sarnia. Shades of Rick Nash.

1. Jeff Skinner - Kitchener Rangers
He has absolutely destroyed the preseason thus far. It hasn't even been fair. With 9 goals and 4 assists in 5 games, Skinner looks poised for a run at the scoring championship. His motor never stops running and he just has a nose for the net. Kitchener is going to be one heck of an enjoyable team to watch this season.

Honorable Mentions

As I said earlier, this was a hard list to make. A lot of solid performances this preseason. Here are some guys who just missed the list (organized by position and not in order)...

Barrie's Dalton McGrath has been very solid this preseason, earning at least three of the teams victories. McGrath is coming off an excellent season in Junior A and has the potential to push Peter Di Salvo for starts as the season goes on.

While Tim Campbell's been stealing the spotlight in Guelph, the newly acquired Adam Comrie has been great too. He's got 4 goals in the preseason and looks poised to breakout offensively. Comrie has one of the most lethal point shots in the league and I wouldn't be surprised if he pots 15 from the back end this year. Another defenseman with 4 goals this preseason is London's Steve Tarasuk. On paper, London's defense is looking pretty thin (especially with the injury to Harrington), making Tarasuk's possible emergence as an overage star important. Kitchener Rangers rookie and third overall pick Ryan Murphy has had a solid preseason with 1 goal and 3 assists. He looks like he can be an immediate contributor. Peterborough Petes defenseman Jamie Doornbosch is one of the most underrated players in the league and I'm hoping he has a solid season to enlarge his star. He had a great preseason with 3 goals and 2 assists. Another Petes defenseman, Adam Sedlak was very solid in the preseason. The Czech import had a bit of a disappointing season last year, but if his 3 goals in the preseason are any indication, he's ready to take that next step. Fresh off a solid performance at Carolina Prospect Camp, Whalers defenseman Beau Schmitz looked great with 3 goals and 2 assists in minimal games. And finally, Spitfires defenseman Cam Fowler looks to be everything he was hyped to be. With 1 goal and 5 assists, Fowler's offensive ability is undeniable.

London forward Dominic DeSando has been outstanding for the Knights this preseason. As a 1990, DeSando had yet to break into the league full time, but his 5 goals in the preseason should assure him a permanent spot. Majors rookie and former 3rd round selection Joseph Cramarossa has been great this preseason with 2 goals and 2 assists. The Majors needed some young and inexperienced guys to step up and he's one of them so far. Another guy with 2 goals and 2 assists is Peterborough Petes first rounder Matt Puempel, who looks capable of jumping right into a scoring role as a 93. Another 1993 born first rounder, Plymouth's Garrett Meurs has scored 2 goals and added 4 assists and looks to be another rookie capable of filling a scoring role. Another Plymouth rookie, Austin Mattson, has also had a great preseason. Mattson is a 1991 who played in the USHL last year and if his 3 goals in the preseason are any indication, he's a keeper. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Import Tomas Rachunek had a disappointing 2008-09 season, however he's looking to turn things around. The Hounds need him to put more pucks in the net and he did that with 3 in the preseason. Finally, even if the Sudbury Wolves are winless thus far, former first overall pick John McFarland had a solid preseason, notching 3 goals.

That's it folks. Anyone you think I missed?

Can't wait for the season to start on Thursday!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ryan Yessie's Sarnia Sting Season Preview

After a season that surprised many outside of the Lambton County area, the Sting are once again predicted to become basement dwellers. They will be without the firepower or Arniel, Martin, DiBenedetto, Katic, and the stellar goaltending of Dan Spence. Some questions are still out there such as which OA's will Sarnia use? Will Adam Courchaine show up to steal a few games, or is he taking the AHL route? Although standings wise the Sting are less than 50/50 to so much as take the 8th spot in the Western Conference, there are some interesting prospects on the horizon. Sarnia could logically see anywhere from 2-5 players drafted in the 2010 NHL Entry draft. They already have 3 players to watch for the 2011 draft, as well as a potential 1st rounder in the 2012 NHL draft, that should all be in their line-up this season. This will be a trying season for Sting fans, but the future looks very, very bright.


Ted Brithen - was one of the best players in the Swedish junior ranks. Turning 19 it's no secret Brithen would like to take a shot at the NHL, why else would a good 19 year old swede want to play in the OHL? Brithen has shown explosive speed and offensive skillset so far in camp, and is a question mark but after all the 19 year old players drafted this year, it should be interesting to see how Brithen's skillset translates to a top 6 forward spot on an OHL club.

Kale Kerbashian - has shown flashes of NHL draft worthy skills, unfortunately his size combined with his inconsistencies have prevented him from getting drafted thus far. Needless to say 2009-2010 the year before Kerbaishan becomes an overager is a critical year if he wants to pursue a professional career, and Sarnia's lack of offensive talent this year may be exactly what Kerbashian needs to get every opportunity to show what he's capable of.

Michael Neal (DAL) - Neal's potential OHL status is still up in the air. He will be an OA, which Sarnia has several of, and at the end of the year he didn't look like he'll be sticking around. Working during the summer with his older brother NHLer James Neal, has apparently proven invaluable. Shockingly Neal has reportedly been one of Dallas' top prospects in the Traverse City tournament. This could mean a potential spot on the Iowa Stars in the AHL, or if he returns to the OHL this massive improvement from just 5 months ago could secure him a spot on the Sting.

Miroslav Preisinger - Preisinger showed flashes of NHL potential during his rookie year in the OHL, but not enough to get drafted. That didn't stop Preisinger from reinventing himself during the later part of the season. Once timid, afraid of contact and playing without intensity, Preisinger has shown amazing passing skills, as well as some ability to finish. Also he seems to be a gifted hitter, something sting fans would have never expected watching his first few games. Evidence of this is when he layed out gritty forward Michael Latta with a clean open ice hit, that left him down for several minutes. If he can take his added ice time and show off his offensive skills while still playing with an edge, NHL teams might be willing to line up to draft this Slovak.

Ben O'Quinn - No one player improved during the 2008-2009 season than Ben O'Quinn. Mostly a marginal player with PK time to start the year, O'Quinn took advantage of some injuries, suspensions and World U-17 tournament as an opportunity to show his talents back in the OHL. O'Quinn finished the year paired with Arniel most of the time and either Justin DiBenedetto or Matt Martin. It should be interesting to see if O'Quinn can show off his skills again without quite as talented linemates. If so, and combined with his great defensive awareness O'Quinn could see himself drafted next summer.

Brett Ritchie - He won't be eligible untill 2011 but Ritchie already has power forward size at 6'3" - 190. Ritchie will be interesting to watch, and should show off some great talent. He has goal scoring prowess and is willing to play very physical. In fact he could be a step up from a similar player Sarnia took in last year's 1st round, Greg Sutch.

Brandon Francisco - A sure fire first rounder, Francisco isn't eligible to be drafted untill 2012 but he's certainly got to be highly regarded for that draft. Francisco shows off amazing speed and arguably has the best hands of anyone drafted in this year's OHL draft. Francisco was a goal scoring machine and it should be very interesting to see how Francisco can contribute as a major part of a rebuilding team in Sarnia.

Joseph (J.C.) Campagna - Not a name that jumps out, but Campagna left Ohio to play for Sarnia this summer. So far in camp he's played amazing showing decent speed, good awareness in the offensive zone, and on a small team this 6'1" 16 year old centerman brings some much needed size to the line-up. Campagna isn't eligible untill 2011 but he's certainly a player to watch for this upcoming season.


Nathan Chiarlitti - Going into the 2010 draft Sarnia has two defencemen who are prett much locks to get drafted if not in the top 60. Chiarlitti is one of those two, and personally i think has the edge at this point on Rogalski. If you live in Sarnia and see the press conferneces, posters, pocket schedules you'll notice that with Stamkos, Martin, DiBenedetto, Arniel and Katic gone from this recent Sting era that Nathan Chiarlitti is now the face of this franchise. Although he only put up 1 point last year, Chiarlitti put up multiple points in the short U-17 tournament last winter. I should be noted that Chiarlitti was behind several veterans on the depth chart and was not a lock to make the Sting. Chairlitti made the team as a 3rd pairing defenceman due to showing poise and patience beyond his years, as well as being very coachable in terms of his role on the team. Chairlitti was primarily used to play a safe defensive game. Now as a top 4 defenceman on this team, Chiarlitti is expected to produce much more offensively, and still be a rock on the defensive end. Chiarlitti doesn't posess the speed that Rogalski does, but he has outstanding positioning at all times on the ice and willingness to do what it takes to win.

Joe Rogalski - Rogalski has been considered for a while to be one of the top 5 defenceman to be drafted out of the OHL. That may become top 6 depending on how you look at it with the addition of Cam Fowler to the O, but Rogalski has ideal size (6'3") and has amazing speed, sometimes looking Katic-esque on the rush (litearlly, becasue their numbers were similar at 71 and 74 sometimes you couldn't tell). This speed, and size will be Rogalski's ticket to the NHL as he is a lock to get drafted. The only knock on Rogalski is that even with all these skills he's played 2 seasons and hasn't stood out on a consistent basis. That may all change this year, Rogalski is expected to be the #2 defenceman teaming up with physical and solid defensive overager Jordan Hill on the top defensive pairing, which will really allow Rogalski to show off his talents.


Adam Courchaine (BOS) - Courchaine is expected to make the AHL Providence Bruins, however if he returns he will be the starting goaltender for the Sting this season. If he returns the Boston prospect will have alot to prove as an overager with this team.

Shayne Campbell - Campbell was a late pick in the 2008 OHL Priority selection, but suprised many by making the team. Campbell will rely on his lightning quick reflexes, and his ideal size. Some feel Campbell doesn't have what it takes to be a full time starter in the OHL but Campbell has shown the potential last year at times to not only to be a starter, but to be a guy who could steal games on a consistent basis. Personally he reminds me alot of Atlanta goaltending prospect Chris Carrozzi in style and skillset. Campbell is not eligible untill 2011 so he has plenty of time to show what he's capable of.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Interview with Alessandro Seren Rosso on OHL Russian Imports

Recently I had a chance to talk to Russian hockey expert Alessandro Seren Rosso, regarding the Russian imports coming to the Ontario Hockey League this season.

Seren Rosso is definitely an expert when it comes to Russian hockey prospects. He writes for the long running Russian Prospects, as well as for HockeysFuture and Mckeen's. He now also runs his own blog covering Russian Junior hockey, which can be found here.

Seren Rosso helped to shed a little light on what to expect from our new Russian players this season. We also chatted about the Import concept and his general philosophy about talent development.


OP - Alessandro, how do you feel about this year’s crop of Russian players, in comparison to last years (Loktionov, Grachev, Korostin, Molotilov)? Is it better, worse, on par?

ASR - I think that last year the OHL was lucky enough to get two big stars in Loktionov and Grachev, while the likes of Korostin and Molotilov are more good players than stars. Though this year the history might repeat itself thanks to Alexander Burmistrov and Stefan Stepanov. Even though they are younger than Loktionov and Grachev were. This year it looks like there are more players, but we’ll see if they will repeat Loktionov’s and Grachev’s success. The most promising guys are still young and have to face a lot of pressure, even if Stepanov already played in North America last year.

OP - Last year, the Import draft gave us two legitimate OHL stars (Loktionov, Grachev). Who do you feel has the potential (of this year’s group), to mimic that success and become impact OHL players and why?

ASR - As I said earlier, Stepanov and Burmistrov are the best players of the crop. Alexander Burmistrov, whom I will soon have a translated interview on my blog, is a playmaking center with a very good shot. If people think about Loktionov as a little Larionov, than Burmistrov is a bit more similar to Malkin, but without Evgeni’s size and dominant play. Unfortunately his size won’t help him in North America, but he has the technique and the skill level to make it through. I like him a lot, he is great with his passes and he can put it in the back of the net as well. I’m sure that he can have a big year in Barrie, even though he has to grow up physically and has to be consistent throughout the whole season. It will be hard for a player who played less games, with less pressure. Regarding Stepanov, well, who doesn’t need an offensive defenseman with size and vision? Add to that his excellent skating and you’ll be convinced that he can become not an OHL impact player, but an NHL impact player. We’re talking about a 1992-born player who played first pairing hockey with 1990-borns.

OP - Conversely, every year, import players come in with a lot of hype, but ultimately fail to achieve success, such as Edgar Rybakov did last year in Erie. Why do you think that is? Why do some players have such trouble in the OHL, and more generally, the CHL?

ASR - To be completely honest I don’t know who considered Rybakov a player with a lot of hype. Yeah, he scored some goals in the Russian juniors, but I don’t think it was realistic expecting big things from him. Players have trouble in the CHL for many reasons. And every player is different. But usually it’s because of two things: their level of play isn’t good or they don't adapt enough and aren’t ready to move overseas so young. Regarding the first thing, let’s remember that Russian hockey is a lot less physical, you have to be quick, yes, but there aren’t too many hits and such play. In the CHL you’re going to face a lot of hard, and let’s admit, sometimes dirty play, and some players aren’t physically prepared for that. That being said, I still prefer junior players to be trained with technique just as usual in the Russian school. Names like Ovechkin, Malkin, and Datsyuk never played in the CHL. I’m not saying that the CHL isn’t a good group of leagues, they are the best of course, but they are a lot different, and if a player might be a star in Russia, he might fail in North America. And well, there are a lot of examples on the other way around. Regarding the second point, often these players are too young to leave home, family, friends and even school to go to a whole different world. North America is a lot different and not all the Russians like it there too much. And even if you like it, it’s hard to learn a new language, to adapt to a new life, to live in a different environment and in the meantime be a hockey star at 17 or 18. Not all of them can take that.

OP - Perhaps it’s a difficult question, but if you could guess as to which players could have trouble with the adjustment to the OHL (from this group), who would they be and why?

ASR - As I said, it’s a personal thing. I can’t know who will have personal adjustment troubles, but I expect the best players out of this crop not to fail. I’m sure that Burmistrov and Stepanov will do very well, while I’m not sure about Guskov and Kniazev, who weren’t stars at home (Kniazev played in Czech Republic though) and I don’t think they are going to be that in North America. I also expect Sadikov to have a bit of a hard time. Not because I don’t have confidence in him, he’s a good goalie, but if Janus won’t return back from another year it will be very hard to take the starting goalie duties straight up. He’ll have a lot of pressure. But if he’ll be the backup then he has a good chance to develop not at too high speed, especially if he can be tutored by an excellent junior goalie like Janus. Goalies need more time.

OP - A few players have yet to report, Berdnikov, Klementyev, and Perezhogin. Can you give us an update on these guys and whether they might be coming any time soon?

ASR - About Berdnikov, all I know is that he was reporting. He was injured this summer and didn’t skate in the Ivan Hlinka memorial tournament and I don’t think that his home club, Jagr’s Avangard Omsk, is waiting for him and he didn’t start the season in Omsk’s MHL team (junior team). About Anton Klementyev, I think that his reporting has been a rumor in North America. I haven't heard anything about him in Russia. He skated with Lokomotiv’s MHL team this summer and thus I don’t think he’ll report. I doubt Perezhogin will report also, simply because Erie has already two imports, Janus and Sadikov, but I know that the coach in Erie (Robbie Ftorek) is waiting for him and he is in talks with the FHR (Russian hockey federation) to release him as he has no contract. So after all he might be there for the end of the preseason.

OP - Do you feel that in general, coming over to play in the OHL is actually beneficial to these kids or is it a case by case basis, with it depending on the player coming over?

ASR - It’s a case-by-case thing. Frankly speaking, I’m not a fan of players going so young to North America, mainly because Russia (and Europe in general) is a better place for these players to develop. There is less pressure, more technical training, and so on. And if this way worked well for Ovechkin and Kovalchuk, then there must be a reason. But still going to North America might be a good option as the leagues are very good and more demanding. For the star players it’s probably better to go there as they will go to North America anyway so they might start adapting early. But as I said it’s a case-by-case thing. But nowadays the world is smaller and thus there are less problems.

OP - Do you feel that in the future, more or less Russian players will make the jump to the OHL, and CHL, and why?

ASR - This is a hard question. I expect the number of the Russian players jumping overseas to increase a little bit, for many reasons. The first reason is that the CHL is a short track for the NHL. The players still want to go there and they are convinced, or advised, that it will be great for them. It’s not always like that, but it still isn’t a wrong thought. The second reason is similar to the first. If they’ll go to America they will have easy times in getting allowed to leave for the NHL. Nowadays the KHL is trying hard to prevent this, not without rights, but still it’s not always good for the young players to be pressured like that. Saginaw’s Ivan Telegin had to buy out his contract to report. I’ve talked about the third reason in the last question. Today the world is smaller and it’s easier to adapt to different environments.

OP - Lastly, could you give us a quick scouting report on each of the Russian players to play in the OHL this year?

ASR - Of course. This is a crop of good players, even if historically the better Russians played instead in the QMJHL. But let’s see the players:

Alexander Burmistrov – Barrie

As I said earlier, he’s a playmaking center with a good nose for the net. He’s not big, but is relatively strong for his weight and isn’t too hurt when the things get tough. He isn’t an exceptional skater and isn’t particularly quick, but he's not slow either and has good stability. I expect big things from him this season already.

Roman Berdnikov – Owen Sound

Berdnikov is another kind of player. He’s more a scorer. He’s quick and makes things happen with the puck on the blade. He knows how to put the puck in the back of the net with his good shot or with his play without the puck. He’s not on the same level of Burmistrov, but he can get consistently on the score sheet.

Ramis Sadikov – Erie

Talking about goalies is harder. Sadikov is a tall, big goalie who plays mainly a stand up style. I like how you called him earlier, a “behemoth” goalie. Well, he’s huge and can cover a big part of the net, not much is known about him as he played only junior Russian hockey not in the big teams, but with HK Rus, which is a small, but productive school in Moscow. Dmitri Kulikov, who has been just drafted by the Florida Panthers, played there.

Stefan Stepanov – Sudbury

You already know that I like the guy. He’s an offensive defenseman with good size (but still can and has to bulk up a lot) who can skate effortlessly like a gazelle and who loves to join the rush. He isn’t an overly physical player, but he knows how to put himself back in the zone and thus isn’t a defensive liability. He also can make very accurate opening passes. Yes, you can say that the passing game is his best feature, with his skating, but he also knows how to carry the puck up. Sudbury fans are going to enjoy him a lot this winter and I envy them.

Ivan Telegin – Saginaw

Ivan Telegin is an underrated player. He’s (was) the first line center of Team Russia 92, playing with Kuznetsov and Kabanov (currently the top 2 rated 1992 Russians by most scouting agencies). This says anything to you? He is mainly a set up player with very good skating, but he has good size and can defend too as he is often played in the PK units with Russia. I expect him to be the season’s surprise.

Valeri Kniazev – Brampton

Unfortunately I don’t know much about him, he played in Czech Republic and I had no chance to see him.

Anton Klementyev – London

If he’ll report, he can be a force for a good team like London. Klementyev is a positional, defensive defenseman who plays with an edge and cares mainly about defense. Though he has to work a bit on his skating and speed. He has a good conditioning, but he needs to become more consistent and the OHL might help him on that.

Vadim Guskov – Guelph

Guskov is a player who came out almost of nowhere, which Larionov described as a “diamond in the rough”. I guess you’ve got to trust Igor Larionov more than me. He’s a right winger who shoots left with okay size, we’ll see this year what he can do. For Guelph it was kind of the same last year with Molotilov, and it paid off.

Victor Perezhogin – Erie

Perezhogin is a versatile player who can play both at wing and center and who has an interesting size and lots of room in front of him to develop. He’s still young and his potential is still unclear. We’ll see what he can do if he reports.

OP - Thanks a lot for this Alessandro, it was quite informative. I'll be sure to update you on their progress this season!

Again, I want to thank Alessandro for chatting with us about our Russian Imports. He knows his stuff. I also invite you to check out his blog, which can be found here.