Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thoughts on Owen Sound and Brampton from February 28

I've been itching to catch a Battalion game since Cody Hodgson returned to action, and was finally able to watch this lunchtime affair (time changed due to the Olympic Gold Medal game) between Brampton and Owen Sound. The game was largely controlled by the Battalion, who out shot the Attack 36-20 and used a two goal game from Hodgson to defeat Owen Sound by a score of 5-2.

This Brampton win extends their win streak to 3, and gives them a 6-3 record in their last 9, with those three losses all by only one goal. After a slow start (as expected), Hodgson has 8 goals and 9 assists in his last 8 games. With a healthy Cody Hodgson and a solid defense, I certainly wouldn't want to play Brampton in the playoffs. They look poised to be able to push any team (Barrie and Mississauga included) to the limit.

Meanwhile, the Attack continue to be one of the league's most inconsistent teams. One night they look great, the next they look like the worst team in the league. With the expectations the team had going into this season, you have to think management (Dale Degray, Mark Reeds) could (and should) come under heavy scrutiny from the ownership in Owen Sound.

Here are some thoughts on players from both sides...

Owen Sound Attack

Roman Berdnikov (2010)

Was completely invisible and a disappointment. At times he looked behind the play and I question his ability to accelerate as he had visible trouble creating space for himself.

Garrett Wilson (FLA)
Wilson had a good game, which seems to be par for the course this season as one of Owen Sound's most consistent performers. I've talked at length previously about the strides he's made this season, so I won't go there again. He had a really nice drive to the net in the second period that saw him beat the Brampton defenseman to the outside, then throw a pass into the slot to teammate Steve Shipley who missed the net high on a wrist shot. Also in the second, he came up with a steal off a poor Ken Peroff breakout pass, cut towards the middle and rifled a slap shot on Patrick Killeen who kicked the rebound right to Bobby Mignardi for the tap in. Obviously, Wilson drew the primary assist. Next year will be really interesting for him as he could have a really big year, with even larger improvements to his skating and strength.

Joey Hishon (2010)
Hishon had an excellent game, definitely the best one I've seen him play this season. He scored a highlight reel goal at the end of the first period, as he stepped out of the box shorthanded, gloved a clearing attempt, took two steps to reach max acceleration and blew by Brampton defenseman Ben Alavie for a partial breakaway. Hishon then went backhand and roofed it over Patrick Killeen. His speed and acceleration made him a threat nearly every time on the ice, even if Brampton's defense did a largely solid job against him. I would still like to see Hishon use his teammates better though. Too much of the predictable inside/outside move coming down the wing. It's good to see him generate chances with his speed, but he needs to have less of a one track mind. One thing I was particularly impressed with was his play without the puck, or at least his determination towards it. While Cody Hodgson largely got the best of him, Hishon was fighting him all game long in the corners and along the wall and showed a dedication to play without the puck that has been a criticism of most.

Steven Shipley (2010)
I continue to be impressed with Shipley. While his acceleration may not be amazing, I think the knocks towards his skating are unfounded. I think he moves quite well for a bigger forward, and once he does get going, he's got the leg strength and balance to be able to get past defenders one on one. He missed a glorious chance off a feed from Garrett Wilson, as he roofed it over the net in the slot. All game long, he worked hard on the penalty kill and in the corners, and was having some success being able to bring the puck into the offensive zone. On the downside, I'm not sure what the deal is with him continuing to be on the point on the powerplay. Owen Sound went 0/5 and whenever Shipley was on the ice on the point, the team had trouble even gaining the zone. Not a knock against Shipley, but he's much more effective offensively as he gets closer to the net. Please Mark Reeds, stop this madness!

Geoffrey Schemitsch (2010)
Schemitsch did not have a strong game at all. Absolutely the weakest I've seen him play all season. He had a lot of trouble defensively in coverage, as he was on the ice for 3 goals against. On the first Cody Hodgson goal, he and partner Milan Doczy must have gotten mixed up because somehow Hodgson wound up wide open in front of the net 5 on 5 for an easy goal. On the third period Stephon Thorne goal, Schemitsch was very passive in playing the puck carrier and allowed Thorne to pick up a loose puck off the wall and go right to the net for the shot on Stajcer, whom he beat over the shoulder. Not only did he fail to engage Thorne, but he provided a perfect screen on his own goaltender. On the positive defensively, Schemitsch remains a strong one on one defender, as he uses his solid mobility to prevent forwards from beating him to the net. Offensively, he failed to get anything going. Two bad turnovers as he tried to move the puck up ice by throwing it through the center of his own zone. He just had a lot of trouble with a strong Brampton forecheck and appears to be struggling to play the role of puck rusher, unless he has time and space.

Scott Stajcer (NYR)
Despite giving up 5 goals on 36 shots, I didn't feel Stajcer played THAT poorly. He had a lot of bad bounces go against him. Deflections, screens, and just terrible defense left Stajcer out to dry. In the first and second period, he made a few really big point blank saves to keep his team in the game. At this point though, he's still not technically sound enough to be the type of goalie who can consistently steal games for his team. With how poor Owen Sound's defense has been this season, could we blame this on a lack of confidence?

Brampton Battalion

Matt Clark (ANA)
Simply put, Clark may be the best defensive defenseman in the league. He's nearly impossible to beat one on one, as his size, strength and mobility make him as close to a rock as you can find. His positioning is exceptional too, as he consistently wins battles in the corners or anticipates the direction of loose pucks. On the penalty kill he played a particularly strong game, holding Owen Sound to 0 for 5. Offensively, he'll never be an elite player, but he makes a good first pass and can actually do a decent job of running the powerplay, getting his shot through to the net. This guy is ready for professional hockey next year.

Cameron Wind (2010)
In the battle of under appreciated defense prospects for this years draft (between he and Schemitsch), Wind easily won today. He played a very strong game and it's easy to see why Central Scouting continues to be high on him. Wind possesses good size, good mobility, a developing aggressive nature and an untapped offensive potential. Having seen Wind more earlier this season, I can appreciate the improvements in his offensive game. He looks much more confident in his ability to move the puck up ice and completed several successful rushes into Owen Sound's zone. He also made a few very nice defensive plays, cutting off the passing lane and winning lose battles in the corners. He laid a beautiful hit on Bobby Mignardi around his own blue line too, as Mignardi tried to gain access with his head down. With Brampton receiving more and more attention, Wind could slowly start to see his draft ranking rise.

Sam Carrick (2010)
Carrick started the year so well, but proceeded to go through a tough stretch during the middle part of the season. He's played much better this month though and had a very strong game today. Carrick, anchoring Brampton's second line, demonstrated a solid all around game and a good ability to take the puck strong to the net. Despite being only averaged sizes, Carrick is quite strong and at one point on the rush, skated the puck up ice with one hand as he used the other to fend off would be attackers. He scored his goal on a slapshot from the blueline in the first period, as he perhaps fooled Scott Stajcer. He later added an assist in the second period on Cody Hodgson's second goal of the game after winning a puck battle in the corner and getting it to Hodgson. I think Carrick has an edge to his game that will only be elevated as he gains confidence. He threw a couple checks, ran Scott Stajcer, and hit an Owen Sound player from behind. That edge may be the key that gets him drafted higher than many may expect.

Cody Hodgson (VAN)
Ladies and gentleman, Cody Hodgson is back. He was head and shoulders the best player on the ice this afternoon. Played just a tremendous game. Every time he was on the ice or touched the puck, it seemed like he was close to scoring or setting up a goal. His conditioning looked excellent as he played a good majority of the game, and even in the late stages was impossible to strip the puck from. Strangely enough (and perhaps speaking volumes about Owen Sound's defense), Hodgson scored both of his goals by being absolutely wide open. His first, by stopping a point shot and finding himself wide open in front of Scott Stajcer. He proceeded to make a move and went backhand to the top of the net, leaving Stajcer on his stomach. His second goal was scored he took a loose puck from the corner, walked right out into the slot and ripped one over Scott Stajcer's right shoulder. On the penalty kill, Hodgson was excellent too. Looks like the back problems are behind him for the time being.

Patrick Killeen (PIT)
No goalie in the league has been hotter than Killeen in the recent months. In 2010, he's got a .925 SV % and four shutouts through 23 games. It was a big year for Killeen who needed to prove to Pittsburgh that he was worthy of being signed as one of their 2008 draft picks. Needless to say, he's made great strides this year. A big goalie, Killeen has really tightened up his technical skills. He controls rebounds better, he's reacting to plays quicker, and he's playing the angles more effectively. I think the biggest thing might just be an increase in confidence, as Killeen's become the team's number one goaltender for the first time in his career. The one goal scored by Owen Sound's Bobby Mignardi was a bit of a soft one though, as he kicked out a soft shot right into the slot for Mignardi to put home into the open net. While the rebound control has improved, rebounds off low shots still require improvement. Killeen made 18 of 20 saves for the win.

Anybody else with thoughts on this matinee?

Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on Sarnia and Owen Sound from February 19

Ryan returns with his thoughts on the Owen Sound/Sarnia game from February 19th

"Owen Sound returns to Sarnia for the 2nd Friday in the last 3 weeks. A Shayne Campbell breakdown lead to Owen Sound stealing the win 2 weeks ago, but Campbell comes back strong with the first Shutout of his OHL career. Combined with a highlight reel goal by Craig Hottot, Sarnia wins 5-0.

Keevin Cutting - #2 - D - YOB: 1992 - 6‘1” - 177lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2011
Report: Fe
b/19/10: Cutting played decent tonight. He wasn’t noticeable most of the game, but he was, he was either throwing a couple decent hits, or moving the puck effectively, minus one bad turnover. In a 5-0 loss, and with a -3 rating not being noticeable most of the game was probably a good thing for Cutting. Cutting would greatly benefit from adding some muscle to his frame, as he has an extra year compared to most 1992’s and the game he appears to play would improve with that.
(Cutting had -3)

Cameron Brace - #7 - RW - YOB: 1993 - 5‘9” - 160lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2011
Report: Feb/19/10: After watching Brace two weeks ago, I decided to pay more attention to him tonight. His size may limit his ability as a pro, but for a 16 year old rookie his skating, and puck handling abilities are noticeable even after a handful of OHL games. He’s getting about 3rd line ice time, but he is certainly making the most of it and may be able to land a spot on the 2nd line next year.
(Brace had -1)

Jesse Blacker - #12 - D - YOB: 1991 - 6‘2” - 185lbs.
NHL: 2nd Round - 58th Overall by Toronto in 2009
Report: Feb/19/10: Blacker was pretty disappointing tonight. He was easily consuming the most ice time, but he made several turnovers, many which either resulted in goals or scoring chances. Of the 5 goals tonight, Blacker was on the ice for 3 of them. Blacker moved the puck up the ice well on a couple occasions but turned it over more than he advanced the play on the big passes. Blacker is a decent skater but could certainly improve in that department. Blacker’s frustrations peaked when he missed a hit, which resulted in him fighting the much smaller Hottot of Sarnia, however despite the size, Blacker did lose that fight. Unfortunately a game to forget for the Leafs 2nd round pick in ‘09.
(Blacker had -3, 7 PIM)

Steven Shipley - #19 - C - YOB: 1992 - 6‘2” - 204lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Feb/19/10: Steven Shipley has been great both games over the last couple weeks. He produced a lot less this time around, but played the exact same effective game, however was just stopped by a hot goaltender. Shipley protects the puck as well as anyone in the OHL this year. You see a little bit of Greg Nemisz in his puck protection abilities. However where Nemisz is stronger along the board, Shipley can protect the puck and create offense from anywhere inside the blueline, and has a lot more offensive upside in terms of making a team better offensively, because of that ability to directly turn a puck protection play into a set up for a scoring chance, where as Nemisz generally appears to protect the puck for possession for the purpose of controlling a play rather than having him create an offense chance. Shipley‘s skating is decent for someone at his size, if he can improve it slightly, it should be enough for him as a pro, but should he really work on it, it should make him that much more dangerous as an NHLer. Shipley is a player I would like to see a top winger beside. He sometimes tries to do too much and doesn’t get enough support, where as if he had a pure 1st line offensive talent beside him, it could really make him that much better. Overall these last few weeks I see a lot of potential in Shipley.
(Shipley was -1)

Geoffrey Schemitsch - #26 - D - YOB: 1992 - 6‘1” - 180lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Feb/19/10: Schemitsch played much better today, but still his assets and flaws seem to be magnified on the ice. Schemitsch is a guy who can be forced into turnovers. When he’s only had a very short time with the puck, a panic seems to set in and he can make some pretty bad turnovers. However if Schemitsch is given enough time (just a few seconds) he’s nearly flawless in his puck movement. When there was no forecheck, he could thread the needle sending the puck from his own zone to the opposition blueline. However with a strong enough forecheck, Schemitsch usually gave up posession of the puck. His shot from the point looks decent, but could improve and make him that much more effective, as his puck movement skills on the powerplay looked very good. Defensively Schemitsch looks reliable, not a guy you would want as your top shutdown guy, but someone who is going to be steady enough. His one on one play seems to be the best asset to his defensive game. A few times Schemitsch looked out of position defensively, but would really only require minor altering. Schemitsch should be a reliable draft pick for a team in the second half of the NHL draft.
(Schemitsch had 2 PIM)

Kyle Flemington - #6 - D - YOB: 1992 - 6‘7” - 227lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Feb/19/10: One of the key acquisitions in the Jordan Hill trade; Flemmington is starting to make his impact with the team. It’s hard to believe I’m actually talking NHL Entry Draft about a guy who spent a quarter of the season in Jr. B, but Flemmington may just be the exception. He uses his massive 6’7” - 227lb. Frame to physically punish his opponents. He has thrown some of the biggest hits in Sarnia this year, and has looked his strongest defensively along the board and behind the net. A low risk, low reward type defenceman, he’s in no way going to be the next Tyler Myers, but his skating is respectable for a 17 year old at his size, if he can get a little better, it could really help him out. He doesn’t appear to have much in terms of offensive potential, instead is safe making minor plays with the puck, and doesn’t attempt big break out passes nor does he try to push offense. He appears to be a player who understands his role, and what his strengths are and plays into them. Flemmington has quickly become one of the most feared fighters in the OHL, and has layed down a beating onto several who have opposed him, although it is difficult to find someone who can match his size in a junior league. Being behind Sol, O’Connor, Hermenegildo, Underwood, Walsh and Lepkowski on the depth chart, Saginaw did the right thing for his development in sending him to Jr. B and letting him get 20-25 mins/game, and it‘s clearly benefiting him now. Flemmington plays a safe enough game, along with a clean physical style to make him a very desireable player in the final 2-3 rounds.
(Flemmington had 5PIM tonight)

Shayne Campbell - #1 - G - YOB: 1992 - 6‘2” - 175lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2011
Report: Feb/19/10: Sting fans have been waiting a long time for Shayne Campbell to put it all together for 60 minutes straight, and tonight it finally happened. Shayne already displays great quickness and reflexes, as well as a great ability to recover back into position, and a really fast glove hand. His raw skills are impressive. Campbell also has the ability to make the big save. Some goaltenders have that ability to make a big save on what looks like a sure goal, despite Campbell’s record he has shown many times he can take away an open net, and steal goals away from the opposition. Campbell’s issues come from his lateral movement which has been improving a little, but his consistency is clearly the biggest battle so far in his junior career. Campbell has a tendency to allow at least one bad goal per game. Not only does this bad goal count against him, he appears to lack the ability to regain composure, and most of the goals he allows are in bunches. The next 3 minutes after a goal scored on Campbell are the most crutial, and unfortunately playing on one of the worst teams in the CHL this season, more times than not Campbell will face scoring chances within a minute or two after allowing a goal, and a lot of the time those shots also turn into goals. However on this night Campbell stood tall and stopped all 28 shots from Owen Sound, some of which were great scoring chances, including a penalty shot midway throught he 3rd period. Two weeks ago Owen Sound was in Sarnia, and he lost that game 5-4, giving up 4 of the 5 goals. 3 of the 4 goals he allowed occurred within 26 seconds, so if you strike those 26 seconds, Campbell would have stopped 57 of 58 shots in two games vs. Owen Sound. Fortunately for Campbell he has a late 1992 birthdate, so he will still have one more season to prove himself as a legitimate NHL prospect, but if his raw skills, as well as his performance tonight are any indication, Campbell has some realistic NHL potential.
(Campbell stopped 28 of 28 shots)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Top 10 - Draft Eligible Players to Watch the Rest of the Way

Every year, draft eligible players use a buzz worthy finish to their CHL seasons to earn a higher selection at the NHL Draft. The one example that I can really think of in recent years was Brent Burns in 2003. Burns' improved every month, finished the season with 16 points in his last 12 games, then posted a ppg in the OHL playoffs and wound up getting drafted in the first round by Minnesota. It happens folks'

So who are the draft eligible players to really keep an eye on over the last month of the regular season and into the OHL playoffs? I've tried to select a few that I think can have positive impacts and really raise their draft stock.

10. Roman Berdnikov - Owen Sound Attack
A highly touted Import selection who missed the beginning of the season thanks to a rehabbing shoulder injury. Came back slow but was just starting to get hot (15 points in 14 games through the end of December and January) before getting injured again. Now he's returned and looks to try to regain that momentum he left with. The one Attack forward who's shown great chemistry with Joey Hishon (when he's been healthy too), Berdnikov has a high level of skill and could put himself back on the scouting map with a solid performance down the stretch for Owen Sound (who desperately need it).

9. Ivan Telegin - Saginaw Spirit
While most Imports tend to pick up steam over the course of a season, Telegin has done the opposite. He exploded out of the gate and looked like a really solid player whose size and skill combination made him someone to watch. But since struggling at the World Juniors and then getting injured, Telegin has not been the same player. Even through February, since returning from injury, he's got only 4 points in 9 games. The forward who once looked immovable in front of the net and whose size and speed made him tough to handle, now looks tentative and unimpressive. Telegin will need to regain his earlier season form if he wants to get back in the hunt for a top 60 draft position. With Saginaw competing for the playoffs, they really need him to regain that form too.

8. Freddie Hamilton - Niagara IceDogs
With the IceDogs trying to battle back in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference, Hamilton has been a huge reason for the team's recent surge. He's improved his consistency greatly and is starting to become a goal scoring threat every time on the ice. While I'm still a little bit uncertain as to his role in the future, he's looking more and more comfortable while playing the power winger spot. With a point per game over the last two months, he's got to be drawing attention to himself. If he can take his game to an even higher level and help the Dogs get into the playoffs, he'll be even more highly regarded.

7. Philip Lane - Brampton Battalion
It seemed like Lane was so close to fully breaking out in December, but then he lost his momentum going into the break. Then at the beginning of February, he again looked poised to really explode only to fade yet again. Offensive consistency has been the name of the game for Lane this season. He's got the tools, but just can't string together consistent weekly performances. With Cody Hodgson back, the Battalion could start to make a little bit of noise in the East and Lane is bound to draw more attention if he can tag along for the ride and start burying more of his chances. A strong finish to the season for Lane could mean the difference between a Top 3 round selection and a mid-late round selection in 2010.

6. J.P. Anderson - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
The Majors are struggling right now, going through their worst stretch this season (losers of their last 4). Anderson and Chris Carrozzi continue to split playing time as the playoffs approach, which begs the question...who starts game 1 of the playoffs? Is it Anderson, who was absolutely dynamite last year? Or is it Carrozzi, the veteran who has been largely more consistent this season? Tough call, and really it probably depends on who finishes the year stronger. Anderson has been getting better as the season has gone along and is starting to show flashes of the type of play many expected from him this season. If he can string together a strong March and manage to take control in the playoffs, Anderson could really cement himself as an NHL draft selection.

5. Mark Visentin - Niagara IceDogs
While I think it's pretty clear that Mark Visentin has established himself as the top goaltender available from the OHL this year, I think he's still got lots to earn the rest of the way. It would appear that the WHL's Calvin Pickard is the consensus top Canadian goalie available and a potential first round pick, but Visentin proved at the Top Prospects Game that he's not that far off. His play down the stretch run has been excellent as Niagara has clawed back into the OHL playoff race, and he's potentially a goalie for the Under 18 Canadian team. Not only is he playing to help the Dogs get into the playoffs, but he's playing to earn a spot in the Top 60 in June.

4. Ryan O'Connor - Saginaw Spirit
Not many defenseman in the OHL had as good a January as Ryan O'Connor did. He had 9 goals and 15 points in 14 games and finally showed the Spirit fans as to why he was the centerpiece to the Brodie/Crawford trade. While undersized and slightly one dimensional at this point in time, O'Connor still has a chance of being drafted in June. His rocket point shot and offensive instincts make him an intriguing player for the new NHL. That being said, he's struggled into February thus far and will need to get back into the groove he had last month if he wants to really bring attention to himself.

3. Philipp Grubauer - Windsor Spitfires
For good or for bad, Grubauer is going to make a name for himself as the CHL season comes to a close. Acquired to be the Spits number one goalie during their run for a second consecutive Memorial Cup, Grubauer has struggled through the month of February and is starting to draw a lot of criticism from Windsor fans. Grubauer started the season with a lot of promise while in Belleville and was drawing a lot of NHL draft attention. He's got even more to gain now going forward, but just as much to lose. If he can be the backbone to another Windsor championship, he'll likely end up being a pretty high NHL draft pick. If he falters and the Spits fall in the playoffs, Grubauer's draft stock will likely take a fall. Either way, he's going to have the spotlight on him.

2. Greg McKegg - Erie Otters
Not to many players have had the success McKegg has had in the past four months, without the recognition. After a disappointing rookie season and a slow start to this season, a lot of people seemed to write off McKegg. But he's since exploded and has 61 points in 42 games since the beginning of November. Playing on an incredible line with Zach Torquato and Mike Cazzola, McKegg has turned his season around, was an OHL all star and is now the 4th highest scoring draft eligible forward from the OHL after Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, and Jeff Skinner (company all expected to be first round picks). How long until McKegg is mentioned in the same breath?

1. John McFarland - Sudbury Wolves
You really have to many scouts are just waiting until the Under 18's occur in order to see McFarland play against the best in the world? How many have simply written off his performance for Sudbury the rest of the way? The Wolves continue to plummet in the East standings (although have won 2 straight, but only 3 of their last 10) and look to be soon passed by the IceDogs in the Central Division. Even if they inch into the playoffs, they won't escape the first round, making McFarland eligible to play for Canada yet again at the Under 18's. He played great in last year's tournament and would likely be expected to be one of Canada's top offensive producers. For as many scouts who sit patiently and wait, how many have already written off the former first overall pick after his incredibly disappointing OHL season? I think the intrigue facing the close of McFarland's season and the potential for draft decline makes McFarland number one on this list.

Honorable Mention:
Just a few names to mention as honorable mentions. Two are big power forwards who've fought injury all season long and thus have been unable to get their offensive game into a groove. Mississauga's Gregg Sutch and Plymouth's R.J. Mahalak came into the year as potential high end draft picks, but currently sit as long shots. Both need a strong finish to their season offensively to get themselves back into serious draft consideration. Peterborough's Adam Sedlak is another guy who came into the year with high expectations. A former high end Import selection, Sedlak disappointed last year but was expected to take massive leaps forward this year. While he's an atrocious -28 on the year, Sedlak has actually looked much better offensively recently and has 7 points in 8 February games. Is it too late for him to show NHL scouts that he's worthy? Lastly, Ottawa's Dalton Smith started the year so strong and really looked to be a prospect on the rise. But then he faded as the holiday months came into full swing, and got moved to the team's third line when veteran Corey Cowick returned. But he's since found himself back playing alongside Tyler Toffoli and has had an excellent February, as he looks to average over a point per game in a month for the first time this season. Smith could also have a very strong playoffs for Ottawa and really make himself an attractive NHL selection.

Anybody you think I missed?

Ryan Yessie's Thoughts on Several Games

Ryan returns with thoughts on several OHL teams and players...

"With only a few weeks left in the OHL season I will be busy. Not only will I be catching the remaining 7 home games in Sarnia I will be traveling to Guelph and London to catch a few road games, so expect plenty of info on the Storm and Knights to round out the season, also I may be making a trip or two to see some playoff action at one of the cities in my area. So no Sting playoffs doesn't mean no playoff action for myself in one or more of Windsor, London, Kitchener, Guelph
I was able to catch some action on Sportsnet as well as Cogeco this afternoon January 17th. So here's just a few thoughts on a couple player performances i felt were worth noting.

John McFarland - #18 - C - YOB: 1992 - 6‘1” - 195lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Jan/17/10 - McFarland seemed to float a lot in this game. He made a few pretty bad plays with the puck, but seems to have some decent skating skills. Saw him last year and wasn’t overwhelmed with his talent either. Also he appeared to be more focused on getting back on defence rather than engaging in battles for the puck several times.

Marcus Foligno - #71 - LW - YOB: 1991 - 6‘3” - 216lbs.
NHL: 4th Round - 104th Overall by Buffalo in 2009
Report: Jan/17/10 - Foligno seems focused on doing all the little things right. This may have been his issue this season in terms of producing points as he may just not have got the right bounces. That does speak well for his NHL potential as he’s likely to check in as a 3rd line
winger anyways, but it would be nice, and would bring more confidence if he is able to start producing at the OHL level.

Ben Chiarot - #7 - D - YOB: 1991 - 6‘3” - 222lbs.
NHL: 4th Round - 120th Overall by Atlanta in 2009
Report: Jan/17/10 - Chiarot seems a lot more confident carrying the puck out, than he did last year. He seems content with making the smart/safe play every time, however last year when he was put under pressure he made several mistakes. He seems to be a lot more confident when handling the puck overall this year.

Sam Carrick - #16 - C - YOB: 1992 - 6‘0” - 188lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Carrick scored a beautiful goal while fighting off two Sting defencemen, then banging home his own rebound. It’s a “take it for what it’s worth” kinda goal for me personally because this is the 3rd time I’ve seen Carrick play this season, and the first time he’s made a play that has impressed me.

Philip Lane - #10 - RW - YOB: 1992 - 6‘2” - 194lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Lane seemed to try to force the play a few times when it wasn’t there. He played Hard in all 3 zones. However he got away with a clear hit from behind on a Sarnia player who was already on his way down and vulnerable
Guelph traveled to Sarnia on January 21st Sarnia put up a fight for a while but eventually it was Guelph's big 3 that put the game away in the 3rd period.

Peter Holland - #13 - C - YOB: 1991 - 6‘2” - 195lbs.
NHL: 1st Round - 15th Overall by Anaheim in 2009
Report: Jan/21/10 - Holland looked impressive out there, continues to be better at skating and won a few races. Holland was very responsible defensively, and good in the faceoff circle tonight. Holland contributes with an assist on the game winning goal. Again Holland doesn’t shoot as much as I’d like him to, and when he does release it, it’s an absolute laser every time I see it. If there’s one thing in his game that needs to be worked on, it’s his willingness to shoot the puck from more angles.
(Holland had 1A, 2 PIM, +2)

Michael Latta - #17 - LW - YOB: 1991 - 5‘11” - 205lbs.
NHL: 3rd Round - 72nd Overall by Nashville in 2009
Report: Jan/21/10 - Latta was very inconsistent tonight. At times he was good at getting involved in the play along the walls, or carrying the puck out, but then he’d disappear for about a period or so. He came out again when the game had already seen it’s winning goal, but scores the insurance marker and then an empty net goal with only seconds left to give himself 2 goals. Latta is hard to predict going forward, however he does appear to have several transferable skills to the NHL the fact that he’s under 6 ft. and inconsistent may take him a while to get to that level.
(Latta had 2G)

Taylor Beck - #19 - RW - YOB: 1991 - 6‘1” - 202lbs.
NHL: 3rd Round - 70th Overall by Nashville in 2009
Report: Jan/21/10 - Beck is a guy I take a little credit in picking up on. A lot of people knocked him for his skating, but personally I didn’t find it to be that much of an issue. Sure enough he’s having a breakout season this year in the OHL. Although it is his one area that needs the most work, he seems to be improving by baby steps, but hopefully they keep him in Guelph through his junior career as Guelph has an excellent skating coach, that has already done wonders with Peter Holland. The one area I actually want to see Beck improve more so than skating would be for him to add a nasty side to his game. He’s a decent checker, but if he can really get a mean streak going that would make him that much more effective in the power forward role.
(Beck had 1G, +3)

Cody McNaughton - #22 - RW - YOB: 1992 - 5‘9” - 172lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2011
Report: Jan/21/10 - Undersized, but with a lot of pure talent McNaughton is a bit of a disappointment to me nearing the end of his 2nd OHL season. I really saw McNaughton as eventually becoming a go to guy for Guelph. He plays with a great edge which is nice to see out of player his size, but ultimately reminds me of former Sting player Daniel Lombardi who was another undersized player that played with an edge, and was able to produce just not up to the level that would legitimize him as an NHL prospect. McNaughton is slowly entering that territory, but fortunately for him he’s a late 1992 birthdate so he will not enter the draft until next year. But there is no question a strong finish this year, combined with a big season next year is absolutely critical if McNaughton wants a professional hockey career. Of note McNaughton was the only Storm player who finished the game with a minus rating.
(McNaughton had 2 PIM, -1)
Jordan Hill returned to play in Sarnia one last time. The former hometown captain of the sting lead the Saginaw Spirit into Sarnia and assisted in demolishing his former team 7-2.

Anthony Camara - #15 - RW - YOB: 1993 - 6‘0” - 179lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2011
Report: Jan/29/10 - If there is a Milan Lucic type player coming out of the OHL anytime soon, I would think Anthony Camara would deserve some serious consideration. He looks much biger than his 6’0” - 179 listing and he had one of the best fights of the year against Brent Sullivan of Sarnia, then came out and despite being 16 went after overager and one of the toughest players in the league in Kyle Neuber. Although he may have regretted the decision to go after Neuber during/after the fight, the fact remains that this is a 16 year old rookie playing like a tenacious 18 year old. Camara drove the puck well, as well as driving his body through anyone that got in his way. Also he made a few smart plays with moving the puck over the course of the game. Camara is an interesting player going forward in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
(Camara had 1A, 10PIM)

Ryan O’Connor - #21 - D - YOB: 1992 - 5‘9” - 179lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Jan/29/10 - Again, before every time I watch him play, I think to myself.. Ok look closely, because I must be missing something. There has to be a reason why I have him ranked so high, and everyone else doesn’t rank him. Yet every time I watch O’Connor play, he is just outstanding. O’Connor’s problems stem from his size which he is only 5’9” and his consistency which I must describe for you to get a handle on how up/down his consistency is. He started out with 5pts in 3games, then later 3pts in 14games. Immediately following that he put up 6pts in 5games which was succeeded by 8 games where he went pointless with a -10 rating. Then in January he got 9 goals, and 15 pts. in 16 games. He is currently pointless in 3 games now. O’Connor is basically this year’s version of Ryan Ellis. He has a monster blast from the point, he’s in my opinion a better skater than Ellis was last year at this time, and he throws the body like he’s 6’2 - 210, and has actually made some devastating hits this year despite his size. O’Connor is a guy who I can understand the low ranking, but the possibility of all 30 teams passing on him if he’s there in the 6th or 7th round would be hard for me to believe.
(O’Connor had 2G, +1)

Josh Shalla - #25 - LW - YOB: 1991 - 6‘1” - 187lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Jan/29/10 - Shalla basically took off where he left off the last time I watched him play. His shot comes off his stick like a bullet from a gun, his release is impressive, and overall there’s not too many OHL net minders that would be able to stop Shalla point blank if he’s given enough time. While his ability to shoot the puck is extremely impressive, his skating is the absolute opposite. He lost races to players who were exhausted from a long shift, or guys who are just not very good skaters at all. He had trouble jumping into the play, and although his play along the boards was good, he was only able to get into a battle for the puck on a few occasions because of how weak his skating ability is. Shalla should get drafted this year, but don’t expect it to be very high as he’s a bit of a project
(Shalla had 1G, +1)
Sarnia appeared to be en route to their first win in 12 games. Jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, and controlling the crippled Owen Sound team that was without 3 key forwards, as well as 2 of their top 4 defencemen. However after Campbell allowed 3 goals in 26 seconds during the 2nd period, the doors opened for a 5-3 victory for the Attack over the Sting.

Steven Shipley - #19 - C - YOB: 1992 - 6‘2” - 204lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Feb/5/10 - Shipley is a guy who last year I projected higher than the offensive Hishon. The often injured Hishon was out of the line-up tonight and Shipley took over. Although he protected the puck well, and had some decent skating abilities for someone his size, he really looks like someone, who if he had a highly skilled winger he could be very effective in all areas of the offensive game. Shipley did a lot of the work himself with the puck, and netted a hat trick. Although the last goal was with an empty net and 1.6 seconds on the clock. He did manage to score the 3rd goal in 26 seconds on Campbell that put Owen Sound back into the game, and then scored short handed to give Owen Sound the lead midway through the 3rd. I’m going to see Shipley again on the 19th and will be interested to see if I see the same dominant force that played on the 5th.
(Shipley had 3G, +2)

Geoffrey Schemitsch - #26 - D - YOB: 1992 - 6‘1” - 180lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Feb/5/10 - Schemitsch is a player I wanted to keep a close eye on. Considered as this year’s Calvin De Haan, Schemitsch when given space and time is a very effective puck mover, however he made a decent number of mental errors when under pressure, or needing to move the puck quickly. Whether this is just him still adjusting to the OHL, or if he has legitimate issues when being put under pressure is still a question, but he is another individual I’m looking forward to seeing on the 19th and seeing how he does.
(Schemitsch had 1A, +2)

Cameron Brace - #7 - RW - YOB: 1993 - 5‘9” - 160lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2011
Report: Feb/5/10 - I wanted to make a quick note on Brace as he was not someone I was paying much attention to. However he made himself known by carrying the puck and displaying some outstanding speed. He moved the puck as well as he carried it, and was a critical factor in Owen Sound’s victory. He should be interesting to watch heading towards the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
(Brace had 2A, +2)
Finally after losing 16 straight games, the lowly Sarnia Sting were able to lay down a beating on the Sudbury Wolves. Jesse Stoughton starred scoring two highlight reel goals, and sparked the Sting offensive that eventually scored 4 goals in 5 minutes on the Wolves to start the 3rd period to solidify a 6-2 victory.

Justin Sefton - #3 - D - YOB: 1991 - 6‘3” - 199lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2011
Report: Feb/15/10 - Sefton was effective defensively as well as physically. He was basically exactly what I expected him to be. Defensive first, physical with good selection of when to hit and when to remain in position, and was a reliable defenceman for Sudbury. He was decent in moving the puck, although it appears pretty obvious his future potential does not lie in the offensive part of the game.
(Sefton had 2PIM)

Ben Chiarot - #7 - D - YOB: 1991 - 6‘3” - 222lbs.
NHL: 4th Round - 120th Overall by Atlanta in 2009
Report: Feb/15/10 - Chiarot has developed well. He moves the puck a lot better, and seems to have developed a little more of an offensive game. Also his skating is pretty good for someone his size. However the biggest knock on Chiarot is his puck handling when under pressure, as well as not only the penalties he takes, but the timing of them. Both minor penalties were very unnecessary and either directly or eventually resulted in goals for Sarnia at critical parts of the game. Chiarot however did make up with the first with a goal of his own a minute later, a smart shot on a bit of an aggressive move from the point, but overall there is a lot of good and a lot of bad in his game still.
(Chiarot had 1G, -2, 4 PIM)

John McFarland - #18 - C - YOB: 1992 - 6‘1” - 195lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2010
Report: Feb/15/10 - McFarland showed just where his top 10 potential came from in this game. Although he did disappear a little when the game was over, McFarland showed great athleticism on a number of plays, and showed that he has breakout speed which I didn’t expect out of McFarland. He has an excellent shot, and his awareness of what was going on looked good. It seems to me that his game to game involvement may be the major issue with McFarland, seeing as I watched him play earlier this year on Sportsnet and he didn’t show nearly the heart and determination showed in this game. If this was the everyday John McFarland I’d say he might belong in the top 10 despite the fact he didn’t put up any points.

Jared Staal - #27 - RW - YOB: 1991 - 6‘4” - 198lbs.
NHL: 2nd round - 49th overall by Phoenix in 2008
Report: Feb/15/10 - Staal had a decent game. He was protecting the puck well, he threw a few decent hits along with one pretty big hit. He wasn’t much of a weapon in terms of producing offense, but Jared is not your typical Staal forward. Jared is typically most effective when he’s working hard along the boards, or if he was parked in front of the net, that would be a good place as he has the size of his brothers Jordan and Eric but not the pure offensive talent. There’s no doubt he’s got NHL potential, but it would be as a bottom 6 grind line player.
(Staal had 1A, -1)

Daniel Maggio - #55 - D - YOB: 1991 - 6‘3” - 202lbs.
NHL: 6th Round - 170th Overall by NY Rangers in 2009
Report: Feb/15/10 - I was not really all that impressed with Maggio when I watched him play last year, and that continues into this year. Maggio was used on the power play, and was effective physically and cutting off angles for approaching forwards, but he was a penalty machine. He only received 4 minor penalties, but could have had 3x that amount with the way he played. A lot of the time it appeared he didn’t want to skate and would rather just hook or hold, and would have been an effective defenceman in the old NHL. Maggio seemed uninvolved or frustrated at several points of this game, which peaked with 2 seconds left when he threw a massive two hander at a Sarnia rookie which drew the attention of 6’7” Flemington who attempted to fight Maggio, and Daniel was not willing to oblige.
(Maggio had 1A, -1, 8 PIM)

Marcus Foligno - #71 - LW - YOB: 1991 - 6‘3” - 216lbs.
NHL: 4th Round - 104th Overall by Buffalo in 2009
Report: Feb/15/10 - Foligno is a player who I was pretty impressed with tonight. He played hard for the most part of this game, and was involved in the play whether it be in the offensive or defensive zone. Foligno may not have the offensive potential of his brother Nick, but definitely has size and knows how to use it either in battles along the boards, or throwing a hit. Although Foligno didn’t dominate in creating offensive chances, he was involved on a few plays, and seems to be one of those playesr that does all the little things right, that a team needs to win a game. I suppose it’s possible for Foligno to land a spot on the second line in the NHL, but he’s more likely to become a 3rd line energy player with upside. Overall I was happy with his performance today
(Foligno had 2 PIM)

As always, thanks to Ryan for checking in with us!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thoughts on Kitchener and Windsor from February 11

Game number 8 of my "10 Match-ups to watch in 2009-2010," saw the 3rd place in the West Kitchener Rangers taking on the 1st place Windsor Spitfires. The Rangers have been awfully inconsistent over the last two months, but I still expected this one to be closer than it was. The Rangers were largely dominated by the Spitfires being outshot 46-18 and outscored 6-2. That's not a good enough effort for a team with second or even third round aspirations in the playoffs.

The Spitfires have been looking better and better lately as they start to get everyone back to good health. They're starting to play with more of a chip on their shoulder and have become increasingly "gritty" and physical as the regular season winds down. This is going to be a necessity this year for the Spitfires if they want to get past teams like Plymouth in the West and Barrie in the East during their Memorial Cup defense.

Some individual thoughts...

Kitchener Rangers

John Moore (CBJ)
Thought he played a very good game. I think his play has improved over the course of the season, after being somewhat underwhelming for the first part of it. Maybe the expectations were just set too high. He was coming off winning the USHL's Top defenseman award, a first round NHL draft selection and a near make of his NHL team. Pretty much the same circumstances that John Carlson came to London under last year and completely set the league on fire. I think many people looked at Moore's resume and assumed he'd make the same kind of immediate impact as one of the league's best defenseman. While that hasn't really come to fruition, I think he has made progress. He's confident in carrying the puck and he's definitely a great skater. Had one really nice rush tonight as he deked around the Windsor forechecker, dipsy-doodled through the neutral zone, went right to the net and got a chance on a wrap around. He also scored a nice goal as he slid behind the Windsor defense on the cycle and buried a wrist shot past Phil Grubauer off a nice feed from Chris MacKinnon. Defensively, he seems a lot more composed, less running around like a chicken with his head cut off. I think he's still going to need to improve his play away from the puck in his own end, and increase his intensity level, but he's definitely a future NHL player.

Ryan Murphy (2011)
Murphy had his ups and downs tonight. The ups were his usual beautiful rushes up ice with the puck. He makes it look so effortless. But on the downside, he made a gaff on the second period Adam Wallace goal as he tried to hit a bouncing puck with his stick, instead of using his glove, the puck went behind him, Windsor gained possession and eventually scored on a loose puck in the slot. After that, he seemed to play a lot less. He was even seeing little time on the powerplay, which made no sense to me. But cest la vie. I just hope Murphy grows another inch by this time next year so we don't have to hear about the defenseman under 6'0 ft crap.

Jeff Skinner (2010)
Skinner played a really good game tonight I thought. Showed an ability to fight through bigger and more physical defenders. Mark Cundari and Harry Young were really on him all night, hitting him, tossing him around, but he never gave up and he managed to still get his fair share of scoring opportunities. The first Rangers goal by Matt Tipoff was all Skinner as he fought his way to the net, dragged the puck and missed the net with a shot, only for it to take a nice carom off the end boards right to Tipoff for the easy put away. It's games like this where Skinner cements his place among the top end of OHL players available for this draft IMO. While he's not going out there throwing massive bodychecks, his intensity level is still high and he's got this motor that just keeps running and running every shift. Those types of players will always get their scoring chances.

Jeremy Morin (ATL)
I thought Morin played a pretty good game too. He he was robbed by Phil Grubauer a few times, once on a two on one where he tried to roof it on a sliding Grubauer and the other time as he came down the wing and released a wicked wrister that Grubauer got enough of to direct it off the crossbar. Every time I've seen him play I've been very impressed by his ability to get himself in position to score. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of former Oshawa winger Brett MacLean, who despite not being the world's greatest skater, was elusive and slippery in the offensive zone and had a outstanding ability to get shots off in traffic and while in motion. MacLean has done very well for himself so far in his professional career so I'd expect Morin to follow a similar path.

Brandon Maxwell (COL)
The story for Brandon Maxwell this year has been his bouts with inconsistency. Just look at his stat line, especially over the course of the last month. Some tremendous performances mixed with some incredibly poor ones. Now, I must admit. I think Maxwell has been the recipient of some unfortunate luck and play from the team in front of him at times this year. Some of those terrible stat lines have been a result of his team just laying out a big turd, especially at the defensive end. Tonight was really no different. He made 40 saves and for the most part, kept his team in a game that they had no right to be in. But...on the flip side, there were a few "iffy" goals that he gave up that could have really given his team a boost. He made some big saves, but he didn't necessarily make them when they were most needed (aka after the team battled back to make it 4-2). The talent is definitely there. He's a very athletic goaltender who's a good skater, moves well in his net, can stretch out for the save. He also appears to be pretty good at taking away the top part of the net, good glove and blocker and does a good job limiting the rebounds of shots to his upper body. It's the lower part of the ice that he seems to be vulnerable too. I think a lot of that stems with some poor mechanics. He challenges the shooters, but seems to play the wrong angles at times. For example on the first goal by Greg Nemisz, he came out to cut down the one time shot, but he was too far over to the left of his net, exposing the right side which is where Nemisz put it (and put it right along the ice). He seems to really over commit to plays at times too, like the Cam Fowler goal where Maxwell completely committed to a pass, only for Fowler to get the puck back and put it home five-hole. In time, I think he can develop into a good goaltender...if he's got the work ethic (which I have no idea if he does because I don't know him or his habits).

Windsor Spitfires

Taylor Hall (2010)
Hall had a great game for creating scoring chances and a terrible one for finishing them. Obviously this isn't the norm for Hall, but he had a lot of trouble with the puck tonight. I think I counted about 3 or 4 glorious opportunities for Hall to put home a goal, but he either fanned on the shot or just couldn't get enough of his stick on it. But he was all over the ice creating with his speed. Did manage an assist on the first one timed Nemisz goal, with a very nice pass to the center of the ice through the Rangers defense. Playmaking is definitely an underrated part of Hall's game similar to the way it was for John Tavares last year.

Ryan Ellis (NSH)
Ellis had a pretty good game. He finished with a goal and two assists, but it was a fairly quietly productive night. The goal was scored on the empty net to make it 6-2, while the two assists were not really critical to the plays made on the goals. For as big a supporter I've been of Ellis over the past couple of seasons, I am starting to have some question marks creep into my head about his play. If anything, I've kind of been underwhelmed by the lack of "dynamic" development in his game this year. By that I mean, he hasn't really developed into the game changing, shift dominating defenseman I figured he would be this season. He's still a beast on the powerplay, but five on five, he hasn't really taken that next step as a dominant two way defenseman. If anything, I think the biggest hurdle has been his lack of improvement in skating. Not an atrocious skater by any means, but he's not good enough to be an elite puck rusher at the next level. Just looking at a guy like John Moore tonight, his skating and ability to stretch the defense out makes him a dynamic player. But Ellis doesn't have that same quality. This concerns me because at the next level, he's really going to need to take advantage of his offensive gifts (shot, passing ability, game awareness), but I fear that his lack of physical gifts could prevent him from doing this. Just what type of role does he play in the NHL? Is he the next John Slaney, or does he develop into a quality NHL offensive defenseman. I'm just not as sure as I once was about his NHL future.

Stephen Johnston (DET)
The move to Windsor seems to have been a blessing for Johnston so far, who was getting suffocated in Belleville by a rebuild process. This is an important season for Johnston, as he needs to be signed by the Wings as a 2008 draft pick. Unfortunately for him, injuries have really slowed his development, but playing in Windsor seems to have re-animated his game as he's playing the best hockey he's played in a while. He was very dangerous all night. He looked good off the rush, using his speed to generate scoring opportunities. Flew right by Rangers defenseman Patrik Andersson coming down the wing, but was stoned by Maxwell as he cut across the net. He also looked good in the cycle and did a good job in puck possession and the hunt for it on the forecheck. Johnston was also a solid contributor on a Windsor penalty kill that held Kitchener to 0 for 7 tonight. If he can string together a strong performance to close out this season, there may yet be hope for Johnston to earn a contract from Detroit.

Adam Henrique (NJ)
Henrique seems to be picking things up again after struggling through the past month and a half following the World Juniors. Truthfully, I think he injured himself at the tournament more than we were lead to believe (a minor shoulder injury suffered in an exhibition game). Lingering injury, combined with a move down to the teams third line seem to have combined to slow Henrique's production to only 2 goals in his last 11 games. But him and Johnston seem to have developed some chemistry and Henrique looked better tonight than he has lately. Although he's still not as aggressive in carrying the puck and doesn't seem to be as dynamic of a player as the one who left for the WJC's in December.

Cam Fowler (2010)
Don't really have too much to say about Fowler that hasn't already been said. He's a tremendous defenseman and a tremendous talent. His mobility, combined with his elite physical and hockey oriented skills make him a great NHL prospect. His goal was scored as he picked up the puck in the corner, took the puck to the net, attempted a shot that was blocked only to come right back to him where he shot it again, beating Maxwell five hole. For more on Fowler, check out my profile of him for School Your Pool here.

Kenny Ryan (TOR)
Ryan looks much improved from when I saw him earlier this season. Big change seems to be in his conditioning. His energy level seems way up and he was active on the forecheck all night. He also seems to be generating way more offensively. In the first period, he had a couple of great opportunities that nearly resulted in goals. One a drive to the net that saw him finish with a slapper to the chest of Maxwell, another a partial breakaway that was foiled by Brandon Maxwell. When college players make that jump to the OHL, they often look lost in their first month or so and Ryan was no different. Ryan was another player who's strong work on the penalty kill helped keep the Rangers at 0 for 7 on the night.

Justin Shugg (2010)
This was the best game I've seen Shugg play. He was all over the place tonight and turned in a very solid effort. He earned two assists on the night, one of which he was critically a part of. This was the first Windsor goal where his hard work along the boards resulted in the puck getting to Mark Cundari at the point who released a shot tipped in by Scott Timmins. Shugg also demonstrated some solid stick work that I hadn't previously seen, with a great drive to the net through two Rangers players, only to lose the puck as he was nearly free on Maxwell. Similar to Saginaw's Josh Shalla, I'm still not really sure what to make of his NHL potential and thus his draft position, but if tonight is any indication, he might have a future as a hard working, offensively productive, complimentary top 6 forward.

Mark Cundari (STL)
Cundari played a very good game. He's had kind of an up and down season thus far, with most of his troubles stemming from a desire to develop into an elite offensive defenseman. When he's not trying to force action up ice (by rush or pass), and when he's playing things safer, he's a very good defenseman. Because when he limits the amount he rushes, he's actually one of the better shut down defenders in the league, as he displayed tonight. Did a great job keeping Jeff Skinner in check, and really was throwing his body around. Rubbed out Skinner twice in one shift then skated by the Kitchener bench looking for a fight. He's going to need to keep that high intensity level in order to play the type of game he does at the next level, where being a 5'10 stay at home defenseman can be tough. But I have faith that he'll develop into a quality defender at the next level, when he'll eventually learn his limits and stick to the things he's best at.

Greg Nemisz (CGY)
Not a whole lot to say really, other than what I've been saying all season long. The improvements he's made to his skating have really helped his game. He's much more involved off the rush and he's even harder to contain in the slot as his mobility makes him more elusive. Both goals were scored off one timers in the slot. Still needs to improve his consistency from shift to shift and his ability to use his size with the puck on his stick, but I'm hopeful playing at the next level will unlock that more, as it often can for players like Nemisz.

Eric Wellwood (PHI)
As I had in one of my recent Sunday Top 10's (here), Wellwood is definitely one of the most improved players in the OHL season. He's evolved into more than just a solid penalty killer and checking line forward. He's gained confidence with the puck on his stick and is taking more opportunities to develop offensive scoring chances. Playing with Taylor Hall doesn't hurt either. One thing I have really been impressed with lately is his increasing motivation to become involved physically. He's really starting to develop into a gritty type forward. Had one really nice hit on a Rangers player tonight (I believe Ben Thomson). A great draft selection by the Flyers.

Philip Grubauer (2010)
Grubauer was excellent tonight, even if he only faced 18 shots. Of those 18, quite a few were excellent scoring opportunities. The best save was on Jeff Skinner, as he slid across his crease in the splits to rob a streaking skinner with his glove. He made a similar save on Jeremy Morin earlier in the game on a 2 on 1. Grubauer is definitely very athletic and moves very well from post to post. He challenges shooters, does a good job of finding the puck in traffic and uses a kind of hybrid style to keep shooters guessing. He's still yet to lose in regulation for the Spitfires (with only one shootout loss), so the move to Windsor has to do nothing but good for his draft status.

That's it folks. Any questions?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thoughts on Niagara from the Weekend

The Niagara IceDogs are in the home stretch. There are 15 games left in the 2009-10 OHL regular reason and the team currently sits 5 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Dogs are chasing the Brampton Battalion, Sudbury Wolves, and Oshawa Generals who are all 5 or 6 points ahead of them. Perhaps this team, in a rebuilding season, has deserved a slightly better fate thus far. The team plays hard and on any given night can beat any team in this league, (see their victories over London, Mississauga, Plymouth, and Kitchener this year). But they lack the top end talent to be able to string together consistent performances at both ends of the ice.

I caught the team's Thursday night game against the London Knights on t.v., however traveled to St. Catharines for their Saturday night affair against the Windsor Spitfires. This weekend was no truer example of the team's aforementioned consistency issues. On Thursday, the Dogs played outstanding defensive hockey and got under the skin of the visiting Knights, defeating them by a score of 2-1. However on Saturday, the team looked completely over matched against the Spitfires, falling 5-2 and getting out-shot 47-21.

If anything, the team's ability to occasionally play at a high level speaks volumes to the bright future this team has. As early as next season this team could compete for home ice advantage in the OHL playoffs. Young players like Freddie and Dougie Hamilton, Mark Visentin, and Ryan Strome will be a year older, stronger, and wiser. While players like Alex Friesen and Andrew Agozzino will be inching towards their final years in the league and should become more dominant offensive forces. And let's not forget the bevy of high end draft selections the Dogs have in the next few years. If anything, the fluctuation in performance by the team this year could be a good thing. After all, it's something all young teams go through. The players can identify the things they need to do night in and night out to make this team consistently competitive.

Let's take a look at some individual performances from the Dogs top end prospects this weekend.

Alex Friesen (2010, but 1991 born)
After getting past over last year, Friesen has become a much better player this season. He's still a speedy energy forward, but he's much more adept at handling the puck and as a result he's seen his offensive performance greatly increase. Friesen has become a very capable two way forward who uses his speed to forecheck hard and to generally get under the skin of the opposition. He's even added a physical element to his game this year which shows NHL scouts that this part of his game could develop more if need be. He absolutely laid out Taylor Hall on Saturday on the penalty kill. Hall came flying around the net with the puck and Friesen met him just as he passed it off. Hall sat out a few shifts and was visibly shaken up. Offensively, he had a mediocre weekend, with only an assist on the first Niagara goal on Saturday, but he brings much more to the ice than that. I think he's got a serious chance of being drafted this year in the later rounds. His progression this year bodes well for the type of offensive leaps forward we could see next year and he looks to be developing into a quality NHL checking line prospect.

Andrew Agozzino (2010, but 1991 born)
The new Dogs captain had a strong weekend. He played a solid game on Thursday against the Knights, but was held scoreless. On Saturday he scored the Dogs only 2 goals against Windsor. The first was off a nice redirect in front of the net, the second on a wrap around that caught Windsor goaltender Philip Grubauer off guard. Agozzino has played well all season and is coming off a record breaking performance at this years OHL All Star Game. I've heard a lot of fans hoping he gets drafted this season after getting passed over last year. Quite frankly, I'm just not sure it happens. As good as Agozzino has been this year, was he really any worse last year when NHL teams balked at him (much to my surprise)? Andrew Agozzino is the same player he was last year. Lots of heart, goal scoring ability, developing two way play, tenacity, but with the size and explosiveness concerns that scared away NHL teams. More than likely, Agozzino develops into a similar player as Saginaw's captain Tyler Murovich. Undersized and a solid OHL player, but a borderline NHL prospect. I'd love for him to prove me wrong though since few have earned it more.

Reggie Traccitto (Overage Free Agent)
Traccitto has been one of the most improved players in the league this season. He's emerged as the Dogs top defender and currently sits tied with London's Steve Tarasuk for goals scored from the blueline (with 15). Previously his career high in goals was 4. Traccitto's best asset is definitely his big shot from the point (who'd have guessed?). He does a great job of getting it off in traffic, especially on the one timer. While he was held goalless over the weekend, he did hit a post against Windsor off a one timer. Traccitto has also greatly improved his discipline. Previously he had a hard time controlling his emotions and was prone to taking stupid or lazy penalties in the defensive zone. He's taken great steps forward in that department and has actually turned into a very solid OHL defender. He lays it all on the line when he's on the ice, blocks shots, dives to get pucks out of the zone and does a good job in defensive zone coverage. The question remains, is Traccitto an NHL prospect? I'd say no, but I think he could easily play in the ECHL or perhaps even the AHL next season and find some success. The biggest thing that will likely hold him back is his lack of role at the next level. He's not quick or mobile enough to be a puck moving defenseman. He's not a good enough playmaker or distributor to be considered a serious offensive defenseman. And he's just not big enough to be a shut down type of guy. But you have to give props for the type of improvement he's made this year.

Freddie Hamilton (2010)
I just can't put my finger on Freddie Hamilton. He doesn't dazzle you or do anything that makes you say wow, yet we've got to consider him a serious prospect for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Often with players like Hamilton whom you say, "I don't really notice him until he puts two in the back of the net," it's a matter of having strong hockey sense. Hamilton just knows where to be on the ice, whether it be a goal scoring situation or a back checking assignment. On Thursday he scored both Niagara goals in the 2-1 victory. The first was off a rebound in front of the net which he comfortably put home. The second was off a nice wrister top shelf on a 2 on 1. On Saturday, he was much less noticeable and it's just a matter of stringing together consistent offensive performances. I think the question moving forward is, is Hamilton a winger or a center. He has the strong defensive tendencies you like to see in your center ice man and he's looked comfortable at the position before. However, I'd argue he's looked better offensively on the wing this season, simplifying the game and allowing him to go hard to the net for loose pucks. The big next step for Hamilton is increasing his strength and ability to carry the puck. I think his future lies in being a responsible two way winger who has the hands and hockey sense to be a quality goal scorer. If he can add that element of being strong with the puck and being able to carry it to the net, it'd make him an even stronger...and more obvious offensive contributor.

Ryan Strome (2011)
The big piece of the Pietrangelo trade, Strome has a lot of pressure on his shoulders going forward. In Barrie, I was always impressed with him, despite the lack of ice time he was receiving. He showed both an ability to carry the puck and elusive skating ability. But in Niagara, I've been underwhelmed with his performance with increased ice time. He was invisible all weekend and seems lost at times in the offensive zone. No reason to panic yet as he'll get every chance to improve going into next season.

Matt Petgrave (2010)
I continue to be impressed with Petgrave and I struggle to wonder why we don't hear his name more often in discussion for the 2010 NHL Draft. He's not the biggest, but he's a real battler. He played a lot against Nazem Kadri and Taylor Hall this weekend and did a pretty admirable job. Against the Knights and Kadri, he had a fantastic game and really frustrated Kadri specifically with his mirroring job. He got Kadri to take a couple of undisciplined penalties against him and generally got under his skin. Offensively he was great in that game too and brought the puck up ice very effectively. He earned an assist on the Freddie Hamilton 2 on 1 goal by starting the breakout quickly and joining the rush with Hamilton on the odd man rush. Against Windsor, he had a bit of a tougher game. He took some undisciplined penalties and had a few bad turnovers as he tried to force action up ice against a tough Windsor forecheck. Considering he's got good mobility, a high intensity level, and developing puck rushing ability, I have trouble believing Petgrave isn't receiving some form of attention from NHL scouts. He could definitely be a dark horse on draft day and looks to at least be a great find by the IceDogs as a future top 4 defenseman as they move forward.

Dougie Hamilton (2011)
Only played the game against London on Thursday, sitting out the battle against Windsor on Saturday. Played a solid game against the Knights, which has been the average for Hamilton this year. He's a serious NHL prospect moving forward with great size, improving offensive capabilities and the potential to become a physical shut down defender. He's right in there with a group of about 6 or 7 really solid defenders from the OHL in the 1993 birth group that could end up being first round picks in 2011.

Mark Visentin (2010)
The feeling seems to be that Visentin has become the top available goaltender from the OHL for this year's NHL draft. While slightly sluggish to that conception, I've come around to this belief as well. The improvement he's made this season from last is tremendous and really speaks volumes about his work ethic. Visentin is very positionally sound, finds pucks through traffic, controls his rebounds and does pretty much everything you ask a strong butterfly goaltender to do. On Thursday he was tremendous against London, keeping Niagara ahead as London pressed for a tie in the third period. I really like how he follows the play and seems able to read and predict pass and shot attempts. On Saturday, he was less effective. It seems like he was fighting the puck a bit and had a few shots squeak through his equipment. He also had trouble handling the puck and gave it away nearly every time he tried to do something with it. Marty Turco he is not, and this is something he'll need to improve upon moving forward...even if puckhandling ability in goaltenders has decreased in value since the inception of the trapezoid. Moving forward it's all about consistency for Visentin and being able to be a wall night in and night out. With his work ethic, I have no doubt he'll get there and develop into a top goaltender in this league. The really interesting thing will happen at the Under 18's, where he'll have a shot at cracking Team Canada's roster. Calvin Pickard of the WHL seems like a lock to be the starting goaltender of that team, since his team is already out of the playoff race, but Visentin could very well be his back up, or even surprisingly press him for playing time. With a strong finish to the season, Visentin could very well be a top 60 NHL Draft selection.

Anyone else with thoughts about the IceDogs and their weekend, or about the season thus far in general?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thoughts on London from February 4

Had some time on my hands tonight so I figured I'd tune in to the OHL Action Pack. Some really interesting games being played tonight. Cody Hodgson's return to the Battalion line up against Erie. The titans of the East clashing (Barrie and Missy). But I ended up watching the IceDogs and Knights for two reasons. The first being curiosity over what would happen with the return of lifelong IceDog Chris DeSousa after his trade demand. The second being that I'm heading to the Garden City this weekend to check out the Dogs and Spits at the Gatorade Garden City Complex on Saturday night. The game tonight against the Knights and the one on Saturday against the Spits should make for a good write up on the Dogs weekend action. Enough rambling.

This game was quite intense, as I expected it would be. For whatever reason, the Dogs seem to give the Knights fits. London did not look sharp tonight though. To their credit, Niagara played a very solid defensive game, but London just couldn't crack the offensive zone and continued to turn the puck over in the neutral zone. They also played very undisciplined. Obviously, a lot of this was from frustration over how they were getting bottled up around center ice, but you've got to keep your cool. To many stupid penalties taken by them giving Niagara the powerplay, or negating their own powerplays. Nothing against the Knights, but I think Kitchener is the better team in that division. The Rangers have had a bit of a rough patch in the recent month and a half, but I think they've got more talent and a deeper unit than the Knights do currently, which ultimately makes them a more dangerous playoff opponent. Obviously, this is all my opinion, but I still think Kitchener takes that division when all is said and done.

I don't want to talk too much about the IceDogs since I'll likely be writing something about them on Sunday. However, goaltender Mark Visentin deserves a mention for his strong play tonight. There's a reason scouts have him as the top goaltender available for the draft from the OHL. I know I had him as the third best goalie available on my mid term ranking, but if Visentin can continue to put up performances like this and get the Dogs into the playoffs, he'll be number one on my list too. Incredibly positionally sound and continues to improve.

Let's get to some thoughts on the Knights (even if it's mostly negative on a night where most of London's players did not look good).

Reid McNeill (2010)
Really interesting story. Played high school hockey in London last year and walked on to the Knights this offseason. Was surprisingly ranked by Central Scouting on their midterm rankings for North America. Tried to focus on him during this one since I'd never noticed him in previous viewings. McNeill is a really raw player. Great size, seems to have solid mobility. Saw a lot of ice time actually, paired with Steve Tarasuk, Michael D'Orazio and Tommy Hughes at different times, and saw time on the penalty kill. I liked his composure defensively and his ability to stay with players on the way to the net. Offensively...he's raw. Needs work on the breakout pass from what I saw, as he often elected to chip the puck out of play or just blindly get it out from the zone rather than carry it up or hit a streaking forward. Oddly enough, he did have a couple of nice rushes with the puck into Niagara's zone while play was at 4 on 4. Maybe the small ice surface and the Niagara forecheck had him slightly nervous. You can see why scouts might be interested though. Reminds me a lot of Plymouth's Austin Levi.

Scott Harrington (2011)
Harrington is a really solid player and has a bright future ahead of him. The Knight first rounder (and should have been top 5 selection), has been a revelation for London this year when they've needed defenseman to step up so badly. He played a quietly effective game. Good mobility, not afraid to carry the puck up ice. Runs the point on the powerplay pretty effectively for his age, although needs to work on getting his shot through to the net. Defensively, he's not afraid to throw a hit or use his body to separate a player from the puck. Got hung out to dry a few times by defense partner Michael D'Orazio, one of which was the 2 on 1 that Freddie Hamilton scored the game winner on. He looked very indecisive on the 2 on 1, and didn't take away the pass or the shot from Hamilton or Petgrave. If you ask any goaltender, all they ask you to do is to give them a chance by taking away one of the options, in turn giving them a better chance to make the save. These are things Harrington will learn in this league. It'll be interesting to see how all of these strong OHL '93 born defenseman separate themselves next year in their draft season.

Steven Tarasuk (Overage Free Agent)
If Rob Kwiet can earn a professional contract (AHL deal), then Tarasuk can too as IMO he's the better defenseman. He's not the biggest guy, nor is he the world's best skater, but he's smart and he's a workhorse and there's no reason to think his breakout OHL season is a result of some fluke. Some guys just blossom later with increased responsibility. Tarasuk played like 60% of the game, or so it seemed anyway. On the ice in all situations and in some occasions, the entire powerplay. He moves the puck up ice very well, especially with the breakout pass. Defensively he made a couple of very nice plays to break up opportunities in the crease area, including saving a goal by batting the puck out of the air before it could drop behind Michael Hutchinson. He'll have to work hard to get a sniff from the NHL (probably after several seasons in the minors), but there is hope if he's persistent. Scored the Knights only goal on a 5 on 3 powerplay with a wicked slap shot that beat a screened Mark Visention short side.

Tommy Hughes (2010)
Not really sure where London finds these guys (perhaps it's the larger amount of money to spend on scouting than other teams), but I was impressed with the new London defenseman. I was however disappointed in the amount of ice time he received. He actually showed me more than Reid McNeill did. He's just as big, seems to be equally mobile, but also seems more willing to be physical and did a better job of making a quick pass out of the defensive zone. One play that really impressed me occurred in the second period when Andrew Shaw came buzzing down on Hughes behind the net, but Hughes put Shaw on his back, shielded the puck from him, maintained composure and hit a Knights forward with a breakout pass just past the blueline. Shaw (one of the league's better forecheckers) can eat even the most experienced OHL defenseman up, let alone a guy playing in his 5th game. Here's hoping he gets more ice time.

Nazem Kadri (TOR)
Nazem did not have a strong game. He seems to have a lot of trouble playing in Niagara as I remember last year when the Knights came to town, he played one of the worst games I've ever seen him play. I think a lot of it has to do with the small ice in Niagara limiting him from playing the speed and puck possession game that he excels it. Less room to move with the puck, and less room for defensive players to move in order to trap Kadri. He had a visibly frustrating night as time and time again he tried to carry the puck into the offensive zone only to lose it at center ice or the opposing blueline. Once in the zone, he had a lot of trouble getting open too. On top of this, he took a couple of really undisciplined penalties, one a slewfoot on Matt Petgrave, another as the second man into the scrum negating a London powerplay. If the game isn't going well for him, he's got to control his emotions better on the ice. I think one of the other problems he can face is that he becomes predictable. When the Knights are struggling offensively, he tends to do too much which only compounds his problems. Teams trap him into carrying the puck into a turnover, as they know he's going to be looking to take it to the net. I know that's where a lot of people get concerns over his hockey sense. He's had a very good last month though, so it's hard to argue with the results besides tonight's game. Just that I can't help but be left underwhelmed when I see him on most nights.

Jared Knight (2010)
Fresh off his Q & A with me, Knight had an OK game. Thought he was one of the better London forwards on the night, which isn't really saying much. Was actually disappointed with the ice time he got in certain situations. Quite often he failed to start a powerplay, and wasn't on the ice in the minute to help his team attempt to tie the game. Seems odd to keep your leading goal scorer out of those situations. Not to mention his lack of penalty kill time, and considering Jared considers himself a speedy two way forward, you'd think he'd get more time on the PK than he did tonight. But he brought speed and was one of the only London forwards able to crack Niagara's defense on a few rushes to the net. His combination of speed and tenacity could make him a dangerous player in the future when he adds more strength to his frame.

Michael Hutchinson (BOS)
Hutchinson had a very strong game. Niagara really outplayed London for the majority of the game and he kept his team in it. Like Mark Visentin at the other end, Hutchinson is very technically sound. Challenges the shooter, follows the play well, generally does a good job swallowing up rebounds. He's already a big goalie (at 6'3), so when he comes out to the top of that blue ice, he really doesn't give you much to shoot at. The two goals weren't really his fault. The 2 on 1 shot by Hamilton went top shelf and the lack of commitment by Harrington on the play left Hutchinson in a tough position and didn't really allow him to square himself to the shooter. On the other goal (by Hamilton as well), he gave up a juicy rebound from a point shot, and none of his defenseman were there to clear the side of the net where a wide open Hamilton had a gimme goal. He made 36 of 38 saves and took the loss.

Thoughts on the game, if you managed to see it?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jared Knight Battles Through Adversity - Article + Q & A

Was recently able to get London Knights forward Jared Knight to sit down and answer some of my questions. In case you didn't know, earlier this season Jared struggled with health concerns and was eventually diagnosed with diabetes.

Here is the link to the article I've written for School Your Pool. Be sure to read the article before the below Q & A.

"Jared Knight Battles Through Adversity"

Here's the transcript of our Q & A session.

Otten - Back in 2007-08, you played on a ridiculously strong Detroit Compuware AAA team. The team has since produced some pretty quality OHL players (and fellow prospects for the 2010 draft), like Austin Watson, Austin Levi, and Alex Aleardi. Do you still keep in touch with those guys? Also, just how good was that team?

Knight - I am in contact with Austin Watson regularly and communicate with Alex and Austin Levi a couple of times a month. All three are great guys with great hockey skills. They were great team mates. The Compuware team was very good but in states we ran into a hot goalie that happened to be Michael Houser who played for Little Caesar's at the time. Compuware won the league and Little Caesar's won Nationals that year. Overall it was a very good team.

Otten - As an American born player, I feel like I should ask you what made you decide to go to the Ontario Hockey League and play for London, rather than go the NCAA route.

Knight - The CHL is the greatest development league in the world. The University of Michigan and USNDP are very good options, but I wanted to play more games and play in a situation more consistent with the pro levels. Coach Dale Hunter believed I could make an impact on the team and he made it easy to go to London.

Otten - Talk about your rookie OHL season last year. What were some of the biggest adjustments for you entering the league? How would you grade yourself on the season?

Knight - The Speed of the game and the size of the players is the biggest difference. You have to keep your head up at all times on the ice. I would grade my season as average. The team did well going into the third round of the playoffs losing to Windsor. The experience was good and being able to play with guys playing in the NHL like Carlson, Tavares,and Del Zotto, last year was great. I learned a lot from all of them.

Otten - How did you prepare for this coming season, knowing that you'd probably have a larger offensive role with the Knights?

Knight - I trained hard this summer, running, biking and lifting weights six days a week. I also was able to get on the ice three to four times a week.

Otten - The Knights have had a fairly strong season thus far, yet a lot of people seem to be writing them off as serious playoff contenders. Why do you think that is?

Knight - London did trade several good players to contending teams. This may hurt a little but I think its to early to tell how far we will go. We are the under dogs and may surprise some teams.London works hard and has been playing as a team. We have one of the best coaching and training staff in the league.

Otten - Losing Phil McRae and Zac Rinaldo hurts but new addition Chris DeSousa and you seem to have had some instant chemistry thus far. I had the pleasure of watching Chris a lot in Niagara. He left that organization on somewhat bad terms and as a result I think people have been undervaluing the caliber of player he is. What does his addition mean to the team?

Knight - Chris knows the game well and keeps his head up. Hes a gritty player that's is a good passer and knows what to do with the puck. We haven't been put together much this year after Chris's first game but when we have been together, we have connected well.

Otten - Were you at all disappointed by the fact that you weren't ranked inside the Top 100 of NHL Central Scouting's Midterm List for 2010? Quite frankly I think they made a big mistake by having you so low.

Knight - When the list first come out on the top 25 OHL players, I was disappointed that I didn't make the list. I know that I didn't have a good start and that had a lot to do with the ranking's. I know I have to keep playing my game and control what I can. The season is long and I can and will improve. About the Midterm ranking's, CSS has their opinion and I just need to play better to change their opinion of me. I will continue to play with energy and put up the best numbers I'm capable of.

Otten - Do you think your diabetes diagnosis played a role in that ranking?

Knight - Since I have been taking insulin, I have felt much better. Since feeling better, I have played better and put better numbers. I think that my ranking's will rise. Diabetes has been a set back but since being treated will no longer be an excuse.

Otten - If you don't mind, I'd love to ask you about your illness (diabetes). Could you take me through your struggles with it? For example when did you start feeling ill and how much did it affect your play?

Knight - During the end of Summer, I started feeling tired all the time, I had trouble sleeping and I was waking up five to six times a night to go to the bathroom. At the start of the season, my legs were always heavy and felt like they were on fire. I lost about 20 pounds and had no energy. I remember on a bus ride from the Oshawa game, I kept going to the bathroom and my team mate Leigh Salters noticed this. Leigh is a diabetic as suggested that I test my blood with his tester. The results were high and Leigh told me to get to the doctor immediately as this is dangerous to my health. The next day my trainer Andy took me to the doctor where I was diagnosed. The team, coaches, trainers and Leigh have been great support and have helped me learn to cope with this disease.

Otten - Your offensive production has increased considerably over the course of the last few months. How much of that can be attributed to getting treatment for your diabetes? How is the adjustment going thus far?

Knight - Since taking insulin, my game has gotten back on track and my stats have been much better. I know that it effected my play and am still learning how to regulate my blood. I test my blood between periods and have made adjustments with shots between the periods. This has helped and I'm still learning how to properly regulate this.

Otten - A lot of professional athletes have been able to play the sport they love for a living despite having diabetes; in particular pro hockey players. Guys like Bobby Clarke, Nick Boynton, and B.J. Crombeen. Have you talked to anybody else that's had to deal with the same things you
have in order to get advice or support?

Knight - Leigh Salters has been a great help. Leigh has played several years with diabetes and he has learned to deal with it. I also now live with Scott and Gail Tooke. They have a 11 year old son Noah who has diabetes. Noah plays hockey at a high level for his age and he has helped me also. The Tookes have been outstanding to live with and they really understand how to deal with diabetes while playing hockey.

Otten - For those that haven't had the opportunity to see you play, how would you describe your game?

Knight - I think I play a two way game and take pride in playing the defensive zone. I do like to score and like crashing the net. I have scored a lot of goals going to the net hard.

Otten - What are the things you feel you need to work on or improve the most going forward?

Knight - Like most players, I need to be consistent and bring it every night. I just need to keep working out to get stronger. I love lifting weights and will continue to do this. I went from 170 pounds to 197 pounds in the last two months since I have been in treatment. I feel much better. My legs are back to normal and my energy level is increasing.

Otten - Is there an NHL player you idolized growing up, or a current player you try to pattern your game after?

Knight - I like the way Mike Richards plays as a forward and Mike Green as a Defensemen.

Otten - As a Michigan native, is it safe to assume you grew up a Detroit Red Wings fan? If so, what would it be like to have your name called by them in June?

Knight - I am a Wings fan and have grown to like the leafs now that I have lived in London for the past 2 seasons. As far as who do I want to draft me, I will say that any of the 30 teams would be fine. I don't think there's a team that I would be disappointed to be drafted by.

Otten - Who's the toughest defender to play against in the Ontario Hockey League?

Knight - There isn't one defender that I would say stands out. Every team has top defenders and playing on a line with Naz, I seem to be playing against the teams top d on most nights. The OHL has good players on all the teams. The competition is the best.

Otten - I have to assume you watched the thrilling gold medal game of the World Junior's between Canada and the U.S. Easily one of the best finishes ever at that tournament (even if my guys were on the wrong end of the decision!). Have Michael Houser and you been rubbing it in
the faces of the Canadian guys on the Knights?

Knight - I don't really rub in the World Jrs to my Canadian Team mates. I know that what comes around goes around.

Otten - Last question. You?ve got to choose one. Stanley Cup, Memorial Cup, or Gold Medal for Team U.S.A.?

Knight - Stanley Cup, Its the hardest trophy to win and that's what I will have my sites set on in the future if things go right for me.

Once again, thanks to Jared and his father for making this happen and best of luck to Jared and London throughout the rest of the season.