Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Top 10 - Breakout Players for 2010/11 - Part 2: Entry Draft Breakouts

Welcome to part two of the breakout players for the 2010/2011 season. Part two focuses on those players who are first year NHL entry draft eligible and are entering their second season in the Ontario Hockey League.

Every year, many 16 year olds enter the league fresh off being selected in the Priority Draft and for a variety of circumstances, many of them struggle to be consistent contributors. Factors like strength and conditioning, confidence, and ice time play a role in limiting the effectiveness of most 16 year old rookies.

Obviously, there are always exceptions to the rule like Matt Peumpel, Boone Jenner, and Ryan Murphy. Players who walk right into the OHL and make an impact. But for many players, that significant impact and spike in performance comes in year two. Look at someone like Greg McKegg of the Erie Otters. McKegg was the second overall pick in 2008 and finished the year 43rd in rookie scoring with 18 points. Fast forward to the 2009/10 season and McKegg is a different player. He finished just outside the top 10 in OHL scoring and improves his point production by 67. The leap from being a 16/17 year old (in Cody Ceci's case a 15 year old) to a 17/18 year old in the Ontario Hockey League is often monumental.

So which players are in store for a monumental increase of performance like Greg McKegg?

10. Craig Duininck - Windsor Spitfires
It's been a pretty exciting last four months for Duininck. He's captured a Memorial Cup with Windsor and a silver medal with team USA at the Under 18 Ivan Hlinka tournament. The Spitfires defense is definitely a bit of a wild card right now, with the return of Ryan Ellis and Cam Fowler in doubt, the losses of Mark Cundari (likely), and Harry Young, and the injury to Marc Cantin. There is absolutely no doubt that someone will have to step up and Duininck is a perfect candidate. He's got the size and overall package of skill to play in all situations for Windsor next year and could end up being a top four defenseman. Generally speaking, the top four defenseman in Windsor often put up well over the 12 points Duininck did last season.

9. Andrew Fritsch - Niagara IceDogs
At one point last year, Fritsch was top 5 in goal scoring for 1993 born players. But then he went goalless in the remaining 25 games of the season. It happens in any league; rookies often hit a wall at some point. But what Fritsch demonstrated in the opening months of the season, was that he's a potential goal scorer in this league who's intelligent enough to find open ice, and skilled enough to finish off his chances. The Dogs are going to be looking for increased production from their secondary scoring options behind Andrew Agozzino and Alex Friesen, which means Fritsch is not only a perfect candidate for this list, but he's going to be expected to "breakout."

8. Jake Worrad - London Knights
The Knights are going to be looking for a new powerplay QB with the graduation of Steve Tarasuk. While someone like Scott Harrington or the recently added Jarred Tinordi could be that guy, don't sleep on Jake Worrad who played sparingly last season. Worrad had an excellent season with St. Thomas (GOJHL), but also didn't look out of place in London and should be ready to crack the line up full time this season, possibly even in a top four role. If Worrad can nestle up a spot in the top four and get some powerplay time, it'll be pretty easy for him to surpass last year's point total of 2.

7. Jacob Riley - Brampton Battalion
Last year, when Patrick Killeen needed a break, Riley was there to provide pretty steady goaltending. While that didn't happen many times (only six starts and a handful of relief appearances), Riley made enough of an impression for me to believe he's a potential OHL starting netminder. This year will be interesting for the Battalion, as I'm not exactly sure what to expect from them. But one thing is for sure, Riley will be getting more than six starts this season (barring some terrible injury). With Stan Butler's fairly strong defensive system, Riley should be able to find success and put himself on the map for the 2011 NHL Draft).

6. Garrett Meurs - Plymouth Whalers
Considering the forward depth the Whalers had last season, it's impressive that Meurs was able to contribute as much as he did offensively. That being said, there were times where his lack of strength/conditioning made him a candidate for offensive zone turnovers that frustrated Whalers' fans. This season, the Whalers forward unit is depleted and could be left in shambles if Tyler Seguin makes the NHL. Last year, a sophomore Seguin took a similar team under his wing and ended up leading the OHL in scoring. I'm not suggesting Meurs will perform a similar act, but there's no question he has the skill level and opportunity to make this team his own.

5. Austen Brassard, Michael Curtis & Tyson Teichmann - Belleville Bulls
The Belleville Bulls have a bright future ahead of them for the next few years because of these three young players. Brassard was sensational for Belleville after being acquired from Windsor and has the size to really develop into a dominating presence in this league. Curtis was born for the large ice in Belleville and might be the best 1993 that no one talks about. Heck, he had as many goals as Boone Jenner last year (19) and finished 4th among rookies in goal scoring. And Teichmann is fresh off a tremendous performance for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka's, where he backstopped the team to a gold medal. I'd expect some pretty serious increases in production from the trip this season as they try and get Belleville back in the playoff picture.

4. Stuart Percy - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
One of the 1993's who impressed me the most last season was Percy, who got better and better as the season went along and eventually found himself playing a pretty serious role for Dave Cameron's Majors. This season, the Majors will be the Memorial Cup hosts and that means gigantic expectations for Mississauga. The team is known for its tremendous defensive play, but the only problem is that they're missing 2 of their key contributors of last season in Cameron Gaunce and Blake Parlett. Percy is not only capable of filling their shoes at the defensive end, but also offensively where his 18 points last season are likely only the tip of the iceberg. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see Percy become the team's powerplay QB and as a result put up some pretty gaudy offensive numbers in his NHL draft year.

3. Brett Ritchie and Brandon Francisco - Sarnia Sting
Like the Belleville Bulls, the Sting are a young team who should only get better this season. Part of that improvement rests on the shoulders of Brett Ritchie and Brandon Francisco, two very talented young forwards. Ritchie has the size and attitude to develop into a premier power forward as early as this season and should double his point production of last year. While Francisco was one of the top young players in the second half of the season. First half, 6 points. Second half, 26 points (and close to a ppg). Both of these talented youngsters will also be surrounded by some better talent this year, including two talented Russians in Nail Yakupov and first overall pick Alex Galchenyuk.

2. Daniel Catenacci - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I think a lot of people were fairly underwhelmed by the former first overall pick's rookie season last year, where he put up 30 points. That's the lowest point total of any Jack Ferguson Award (who was a forward) winner since 1997 when Charlie Stephens also scored 30 points. That leaves many in the Soo hoping Catenacci is able to have a Greg McKegg style breakout next season. All signs would point to that being completely possible. Cantenacci is fresh off being a large contributor in Canada's gold medal effort at the Ivan Hlinka and could carry that success into the 2010/2011 OHL season. With the likelihood that the Hounds aren't the defensive studs they were last year, they'll need to score more this season. A lot of that weight rests on Mr. Catenacci's shoulders.

1. Gabriel Landeskog - Kitchener Rangers
Anybody who saw this guy during the Rangers 2010 playoff run, knows why he's on this list. Landeskog had his coming out party during the Rangers Memorial Cup run that ended with a game 7 loss to Windsor in the West Final. He had 23 points in 20 games and was a bulldog who did the dirty work for his line mates and was rewarded for it. As he gets stronger, he's only going to become increasingly more difficult to handle for opposing defenseman. With all the talent surrounding him in Kitchener, I wouldn't at all be surprised if he ends up at around the ppg pace he kept during the playoffs...perhaps even more.

Obviously, this list could have been very long. Many second year players take gigantic steps forward, but you've got to narrow the list somewhere. What are your thoughts?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Does a Major Trade Spell the End for a Spitfires Three Peat?

This afternoon, a major trade was announced between the Mississauga Majors and Windsor Spitfires. The trade sees Justin Shugg and Marc Cantin heading to the GTA in exchange for three 2nd round picks (2013, 2015, 2016).

The reaction to the trade from Windsor Spitfires' fans seems to be that of throwing in the towel on a Memorial Cup three peat. Initially, it's easy to see how one could perceive that. On the surface, Windsor just traded two important pieces from last year's team in a year where it's expected they'll already be missing many other cogs from the past few years (Hall, Henrique, Nemisz, etc).

But let's dig deeper.

Even with the trade of Shugg, the Spits will be able to boast a solid top two lines, which could look like this...

Zack Kassian - Alex Khokhlachev - Kenny Ryan
Stephen Johnston - Tom Kuhnhackl - ?

And with the trade of Cantin, the defensive top four could still look like this (if Fowler and Ellis are returned)...

Ryan Ellis - Cam Fowler
Craig Duininck - Steven Trojanovic

Don't forget that Jack Campbell will be manning the net too.

Now if Ellis & Fowler are BOTH kept in the NHL, then things start getting pretty murky and you're left with a defensive unit in shambles. But what are the odds that BOTH are kept in the NHL? Nashville might have an opening on defense, but Ellis will have to beat out two prospects ahead of him on the development curve in Jon Blum and Alex Sulzer. While Fowler seems like the more likely candidate due to the wide open nature of Anaheim's blueline. But even he's no lock and could probably benefit of another season working on his defensive game and ability to run the point on the powerplay.

Would you say that the odds of guys like Eric Wellwood and Mark Cundari returning are equal to that of both Ellis AND Fowler making the NHL? I certainly would. I mean, who figured that many players would return to the Spits as overagers this year.

Along with the Phil Grubauer trade from earlier this offseason, the Spits have acquired 4 second round picks in the past few months.

Trading Shugg and Cantin at this time was simply strong asset management from Rychel and Co. If Ellis and Fowler return, and a forward like Wellwood returns, then those second round picks can be used to acquire assets for a run at another Memorial Cup. It allows some flexibility to assess the type of situation that the Spitfires are going to be in this season.

Let's be honest, even with this trade, do you truly believe that any of Sault Ste. Marie, Plymouth, Sarnia and Saginaw have a better team than Windsor on paper? There's no question that the Spits are no longer the runaway favourite for the division, but there's also no question that they still have the talent to compete for the division title and home ice advantage in the playoffs. That being said, are they better than Kitchener, London or Guelph in the Midwest?

On the flip side, this is a truly fantastic trade for Mississauga. I felt two things really held the team back last year. The lack of a premier goal scoring forward and the lack of a premier physical stay at home defenseman. With this trade, the Majors acquire both and are really starting to take the shape of a Memorial Cup host team.

What are your thoughts on this gigantic deal?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Email Switch

Hello readers,

Because I get a lot of emails from you folks, I'm letting you know that I'm switching emails. The new email is

Look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Top 10 - Breakout Players for 2010/11 - Part 1: Veteran Breakouts

Last year, I did a Top 10 article on breakout players for the 2009/10 season. However, I narrowed it down to just players over 6'2. The article was titled "Big Guy Breakouts."

This year, I've decided to broaden the spectrum of the list. Because of that, I'm doing the Top 10 in two parts. Part 1 (today) will focus on veteran players who could "breakout" during the 2010-2011 season. By veteran, I've set the criteria at 1992, 1991, and 1990 born players. Most of these guys are entering their third or more season in the OHL. At some point, experience, increased ice time and better conditioning can bring out some serious jumps in offensive production from third, fourth and fifth year players.

For breakout players, I realize the criteria is somewhat subjective. If someone like Ottawa's Cody Lindsay goes from 82 points to 100 points this season, would you consider that a breakout? I'm looking for guys who can make some seriously large jumps in their production, not just OHL players who went from stars to superstars.

Let's take a look at what I've come up with...

10. Marc Zanetti - Ottawa 67's
Zanetti made great strides last season, emerging as a legitimate top four defenseman and someone who was able to harness his intensity levels and become a much more disciplined player. Zanetti, at times, has shown an ability to create offensively (particularly on the powerplay). Well this season he's going to get his chance. Julien Demers and Tyler Cuma (extremely likely) are gone. That means he and Travis Gibbons will be the veteran defenders on this team. Along with a maturing Cody Ceci, they will be responsible for creating some offense from the blueline and bringing the puck up the ice. With an increased offensive role, I could see Zanetti hitting the 35+ point plateau on top of continuing to stabilize his physical brand of defense.

9. Brett Flemming - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Interestingly enough, Flemming (a Capitals draft pick) saw his offensive numbers dip last season. Make no mistake though, Flemming has offensive talent and can be an effective puck rusher. His decrease in production can probably be correlated to two things; 1) bouncing around roles as Flemming actually played some forward last year and saw decreased powerplay time; and 2) an increased dedication to the defensive side of the ice, where Flemming excelled and was named as one of the top defensive defenseman in the OHL coaches poll. This year, the Majors top two offensive defenseman will be gone; Cameron Gaunce and Blake Parlett. The 2010/11 season could be the year Flemming has the confidence to unleash himself offensively, while still playing top notch defense. With a Memorial Cup season hanging in the balance, the Majors are going to need him to.

8. Alex Aleardi - Belleville Bulls
A trade from Kitchener after the first third of the season saw a huge raise in production from the diminutive Aleardi. Playing on the big ice surface in Belleville, the speedy Aleardi became one of the top scoring options for the Bulls. With the young Bulls likely taking a step forward this season, Aleardi's supporting cast will be more prepared to contribute and he'll be expected to take on a leadership role. A season of 70 points or more could definitely be possible and Aleardi could end up breaking out and getting drafted similar to the way Niagara's Alex Friesen did this season.

7. Scott Wedgewood - Plymouth Whalers
Filling the shoes of Matt Hackett will be no easy task. That's what Scott Wedgewood will attempt to do this season. The Plymouth Whalers could be a little strapped offensively if Tyler Seguin doesn't return, which means they're going to have to rely on their solid defense to help them win games (similar to the Soo Greyhounds last year). However, a good blueline is only as good as their goaltender. Wedgewood only played 18 games last year, but he can expect to more than double his workload this season. He showed glimpses of greatness (in particular during the playoffs after Hackett was suspended) in 2009/10 and he could have a tremendous year in Plymouth. This would make the New Jersey Devils look like geniuses after they took him in the third round of the 2010 NHL Draft.

6. Corey Durocher - Kingston Frontenacs
Durocher had an up and down rookie season in the OHL last year, but showed enough to warrant a draft selection by the Florida Panthers. He's got the potential to be the total package (size, skill, skating), but needed to improve his consistency. Quite often players of his ilk take massive steps forward as they progress through their OHL careers. This is mostly due to the maturation of their size and coordination. The Fronts expect to be even better than they were in 2009/10 when they finished three games above .500 and finished 4th in the East. Durocher could see an increased role and while I wouldn't peg him for leading the team in scoring, he could easily double his point total from last season.

5. Gregg Sutch - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Sutch was number three on my "big guy breakouts" list from last year, but 2009/10 ended up being an injury riddled disaster for Sutch. The hearing impaired Sabres draft pick ended up having a worse offensive season than his 16 year old one. But he started to show glimpses of turning things around in the playoffs, where he looked like the budding power forward many in Sarnia thought he'd become. With 2009/10 considered a write off, 2010/2011 presents Sutch with the opportunity to start anew and show Majors fans what he's really capable of. If he can avoid the injury bug, he could become a quality power forward capable of close to a point per game. But then again, I said that last year!

4. Michael Zador - Oshawa Generals
The Gennies have added some serious talent to their roster for the upcoming season. With new talent mixing with likely improving young talent, Oshawa could really surprise this season. However, the Generals goaltending last season did not perform well and was a large reason they missed the playoffs (in combination with Calvin de Haan's injury). If Oshawa does intend to improve, starting goaltender Michael Zador is going to be expected to be right in the thick of increased expectations. The Lightning draft pick was once a highly touted OHL draft selection but hasn't yet delivered. This is his year to do that. And I think he can do it.

3. Tim Campbell - Guelph Storm
After putting up a dominating performance in the 2009 OHL preseason, Campbell had a disappointing offensive season in 2009/10. His numbers didn't really jump forward and the Storm got little offense from their backend (save Adam Comrie). This year, the Storm's offensive leader on defense (Comrie), and their captain (Corey Syvret) are gone, which paves the way for Campbell to step up and show what he's capable of. He has a chance to pair with Sam Lofquist on the team's top pairing and he could have a really strong season behind a very strong forward unit.

2. Brandon Foote - Guelph Storm
Speaking of the Storm, Guelph was a different team once Foote returned from hip surgery at mideason. Foote ended up finishing the season very strongly and posted a .913 Sv%. This season, the Storm's defense is a HUGE question mark, which means Foote is going to have to have his best season in the league if Guelph wants to finish among the best in the West. Considering Foote has always shown glimpses of greatness in this league, I don't think it's a stretch to say he's capable of it.

1. Austin Watson - Peterborough Petes
Funny enough, Watson was number one on my list of big guy breakouts last season and appears number one again. Watson doubled his production from 2008/09 to 2009/10 and it earned him a first round draft selection by Nashville in the 2010 Draft. This season with Peterborough, Watson could see his production jump big time yet again. After a trade from Windsor, Watson had 20 points in 10 games for the Petes. This season, he'll be with Peterborough all season long and will no doubt be playing with some talented forwards like Ryan Spooner and Matt Puempel. I'd actually be surprised if Watson wasn't in the top 15 scorers in the league by season's end.

Honorable Mentions

Dalton Prout - Barrie Colts
Prout would have likely cracked this list had he not have been drafted into the NHL recently. A draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Prout will likely be given every chance to make the team's AHL squad. If he does return to Barrie (or an OHL team who acquires him), I think he could have a breakout offensive season from the blueline. Last year was his breakout defensively as he became one of the elite shutdown defenders in the OHL. But he's not terrible offensively and actually had 7 goals last season. With an increased offensive role and powerplay time (which often goes hand in hand for OA blueliners), Prout could could easily have a 10 + goal, 25 + assist type season.

Shawn Szydlowski - Erie Otters
The Otters could have some serious firepower offensively this season and overage power forward Shawn Szydlowski could be right in the thick of things. Big guys with good hands like Syzdlowski often have big jumps in production during their overage season, so it's not unforeseeable to believe that he could pot over 30 goals this season and be over a point per game player.

Colin Martin - London Knights
The Knights don't have a ton of size at forward going into this season, which makes Martin a candidate for a much larger offensive role. If his playoff performance last year is any indication, he's probably capable of it. Martin could have a really big year and is a candidate to double his goal production from last season.

Andrew Agozzino - Niagara IceDogs
Agozzino has improved every season he's played in the OHL, finishing last year with 37 goals (good for 14th in the league). He has the potential to lead the OHL in goal scoring by the time his OHL career is up and I'd harbour to guess he could give it a run for his money this season if Niagara can get some secondary scoring to take a bit of the heat off him.

Bryce O'Hagan - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Last year, the Hounds were successful because they played world class defense in front of a world class goaltender (Robin Lehner). This season, Jacob Muzzin, and Michael Quesnele are gone from the defense and Lehner, himself, has graduated. That means the pressure is on Bryce O'Hagan to finally take the reigns as an OHL starting netminder for a potentially good team (discounting his year as a starter for the terrible 08/09 Hounds).

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of the breakout series, which will focus on second year (1993's) players who could really step forward.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Alexander Khokhlachev Interview Translated

Our friend Alessandro Seren Rosso has translated an interview with future Windsor Spitfire center Alexander Khokhlachev and he has asked me to share it with you. Some great nuggets of info in there. Khokhlachev sounds very determined to be a high draft selection by the NHL.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sunday Top 10 - 2009 Draftees Who Need to Have a Big Season in 2010-2011

If you remember last year around this time, a Sunday Top 10 article (here) focused on those 2008 NHL drafted players who needed to step up their game in order to gain an NHL contract. I really enjoyed writing the piece so I've decided to recycle the idea for this season.

In 2009-10, nine OHL players from the 2008 draft failed to earn a contract and subsequently became NHL free agents. Of those nine, five appeared on my preseason list. While those five failed to take their game to the next level, five others did enough to earn a contract. Patrick Killeen had a tremendous year for Brampton (keeping them in the thick of the playoff race when Cody Hodgson wasn't around). Chris Carrozzi was part of one of the league's premier defenses. Tyler Beskorowany helped Kingston to a solid season, even if Fronts fans seemed to be a little underwhelmed with his performance. A.J. Jenks posted over a point per game numbers for the first time in his OHL career and had a tremendous playoff performance for Plymouth. Last, but not least, Jared Staal had his worst season since his 16 year old year, yet managed to get a contract from the Carolina Hurricanes (after Phoenix decided they didn't want him).

This upcoming season, many other OHL players will have NHL contracts riding on their performance. The players on this list didn't have the post draft breakouts that players in their situations usually have. Does that mean they've hit their peak and they're unlikely to generate NHL interest? If last year's list is any indication, the answer is probably yes. But, if we go off last year's list, we're told that some of these players will finally take that next step forward and demonstrate an ability to be a potential NHL hockey player.

The list is ranked according to their potential impact in the NHL, their potential impact in the OHL this season, but also by the hype they've created as NHL prospects.

Here is the list:

10. Barron Smith - Peterborough Petes
Drafted By: Toronto Maple Leafs
The son of former three time Stanley Cup Champion Steve Smith, Barron had a very difficult 2009-2010. A physical, stay at home defenseman, Smith was unable to crack the Petes line up on a consistent basis and as a result had very little impact on Peterborough's playoff season. This season, the Petes defense will be equally as crowded. This means that Smith is going to have to shown marked improvement in his game to start making an impact. He came over from the USHL with a lot of hype two seasons ago. Maybe this is the season he puts it together.

9. Tyler Randell - Kitchener Rangers
Drafted By: Boston Bruins
Randell had fairly high expectations going into last season. He had 24 goals in his draft season, including 14 in 37 games with Kitchener after a mid season trade. But last year was a huge disappointment as he battled injury problems and found himself buried in Kitchener's forward depth. This lead to a 9 goal season. This season, Kitchener's forward depth isn't likely to take much of a huge hit (unless Skinner and Morin stick in the NHL), which means Randell is going to have to earn his ice time. He has mid 20-30 goal potential in this league, if he can be more consistent with his performance game in and game out.

8. Andy Bathgate - Belleville Bulls
Drafted By: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins have let OHL players walk the past two seasons (Jacob Muzzin in 2008/09, Nathan Moon in 2009/10), so they've got a history of giving up on their CHL selections. Bathgate actually had a pretty decent 2009-10, which was overshadowed by the Bulls' anemic season. He had the best point per game average of any forward who spent the entire season with Belleville. But he still battled a few minor injuries. The grandson of former Hart Trophy winner Andy Bathgate, Andy Bathgate (did I confuse you?) is going to have to show the Penguins he can continue to grow as a player and continue to work towards staying healthy. The Bulls have a young squad which could possibly make some noise and Bathgate could do wonders for his NHL stock by helping to lead this team back to the playoffs.

7. Phil Varone - London Knights
Drafted By: San Jose Sharks
After such a tremendous playoff performance during the 2009 run by London, big things were expected of Varone last year. But his season was plagued by two shoulder injuries which really limited his effectiveness and he finished the season with a paltry 9 goals in 31 games. The Sharks have yet to provide Varone with a contract which would definitely suggest he's headed back to London for an overage season (A December 1990 birthdate who was drafted in 2009). The Knights are going to need some forwards to step up this season and I'm sure they'd love to see a healthy Varone back and contributing big time.

6. Brett Flemming - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Drafted By: Washington Capitals
It's not that Flemming had a bad season last year. He was a huge part of the Majors defensive success and as a result was actually named in the OHL coaches poll as one of the best defensive defenseman in the league. However, the alarming thing was that his offensive game failed to reach the next level, in fact his point totals decreased. The question is, with his only average size, will he generate NHL interest from the Capitals if he's not able to show an increased ability to generate offense. How many stay at home defenders in the NHL check in at about 5'11, 180lbs? With Cameron Gaunce likely in the AHL, the Majors are going to need a new powerplay presence and the experienced Flemming needs to step up and be that guy.

5. Scott Stajcer - Owen Sound Attack
Drafted By: New York Rangers
The Owen Sound Attack had just an awful season last year. Injury plagued and wildly inconsistent, the Attack missed the playoffs after preseason expectations had them in the thick of the Western Conference playoffs. Stajcer may not be completely to blame for that, but he certainly didn't have a great season and was as hot and cold as the rest of his teammates. But the Attack have reason to be optimistic about this season again. Everyone is healthy and everyone is a year older. If the Attack are going to right their ship, Stajcer is going to have to take his game to the next level and show everyone he's capable of being a starting netminder in this league (after previously splitting time with Tyler Beskorowany in his draft year).

4. Jordan Szwarz - Saginaw Spirit
Drafted By: Phoenix Coyotes
It's not that Szwarz had a terrible 2009/10 season, it's just that he was slightly underwhelming. While his goal totals jumped into the mid 20's, the rest of his game stagnated and he remained as inconsistent offensively as he was in his draft year. The Spirit will be without their two most reliable offensive players from a year ago (Jordan Skellett and Tyler Murovich), which means that if they are going to continue to be successful, they're going to need a veteran player like Szwarz to take his game to the next level. As a slightly undersized, energy oriented player, the Yotes are probably going to look to Szwarz to deliver a point per game season for the first time in his OHL career.

3. Marcus Foligno - Sudbury Wolves
Drafted By: Buffalo Sabres
Foligno didn't have a brutal season, if you face it in the context of how big of a disappointment the Wolves were last year. He did manage to improve his offensive numbers. But I think we'd be fooling ourselves if we didn't expect more from him considering his bloodlines (father Mike and brother Nick). The Wolves are headed for likely another troubled season, but if Marcus can get close to a point per game and become a more disciplined player, it won't matter if the Wolves struggle again. Foligno will get his contract from the Sabres. But if he really wants to make an impression on the scouting world, he can help take an undervalued team and make them a contender for the playoffs.

2. Michael Zador - Oshawa Generals
Drafted By: Tampa Bay Lightning
The Oshawa Generals could be a surprise team in the Eastern Conference this season. Younger players should get better and some incoming talent could be really promising. Yet, the key to the Generals success may actually be this man, Lightning draft pick Michael Zador. In his first full season as an OHL starting netminder, Zador struggled. But the former highly touted London Knights prospect has the potential to be good and has shown glimpses of brilliance. A consistently solid season would go a long way to earning Zador a contract with Tampa, and to leading Oshawa deep into the playoffs.

1. Zack Kassian - Windsor Spitfires
Drafted By: Buffalo Sabres
Let me get this straight, I'm not insinuating that the Sabres may not sign Kassian and instead take the second round compensation (as the Habs did this offseason with David Fischer). What I'm suggesting is that Kassian is a player who really needs to step up his game this season to get back in the good books of the NHL team that drafted him. After a season mired by suspension and a slow start, the offseason hasn't been kind to Kassian either after a brush up with the law and an incident at the World Junior Summer camp that left coach Dave Cameron scratching his head. The Spits are going to have a bit of a new look offense this season and if they want to successfully three-peat as Memorial Cup Champions, they are going to need Kassian focused and determined. They will need him to play as well as he did during the 2010 playoffs, where his size and skill made him a force to be reckoned with. There's no co-incidence with him being the only CHL player (out of 16) from the 2009 NHL Draft, YET to be signed to an NHL contract. Kassian needs to step it up!

Anyone care to make a prediction? Who gets a contract and who doesn't?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Top 10 - Players Who Could Be Traded Before the 2010-2011 Season

August is upon us, which means that OHL teams can begin trading again. Even if training camps don't begin for another three weeks, coaches and general managers have an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of their club. Take Steve Spott and the Kitchener Rangers, who kicked off August with the acquisition of behemoth defenseman Cody Sol from Saginaw. The Rangers knew they had some holes to fill on defense, so they filled a void.

So what I present to you today, are some names who could possibly see themselves playing for new teams prior to the start of the 2010-2011 regular season. The inclusion of each name is surrounded by mostly differentiating circumstances. By no means am I saying that these players WILL be traded, nor do I know of any rumours of their departure. I'm simply listing some names to watch; names who look like they have the chance to be wearing different colours next year.

The list:

10. Chris Perugini - Ottawa 67's
Perugini's name has been floating all over the rumour sheets this offseason. With Petr Mrazek's playoff performance last year, it's to be assumed that the starting role could be his for the taking. The 67's could obviously go with a platoon situation, similar to what's worked for Dave Cameron and the Majors for numerous years. But I don't see that being the case here. I think Mrazek, at this point in time, is probably the better goaltender and the 67's will be gunning hard for the division title this year. They've got some holes to fill, particularly another veteran defenseman, and Perugini could be used to fill a hole. Perugini has had a lot of flashes of brilliance in this league, but has yet to really put together a consistently good season. Maybe a change of scenery would do him well too.

9. Scott Tanski - Brampton Battalion
It's hard to imagine what the intention of the Battalion is this season. They've lost their starting goaltender and their top three defenseman to graduation (in all likelihood). However, the Troops have some quality young talent at forward, which suggests that maybe they could be a bit better than some are anticipating them to be. That being said, I don't think anybody will be mistaking this year's Brampton team for a potential Eastern Conference winner. It could be a case of trading some veteran players, taking a small step backwards in order to take a larger step forward next year or beyond. Scott Tanski has been a Battalion since he entered the league and has developed into a quality two way forward. As an overager, he'd likely generate a fair amount of interest from other OHL teams looking for a quality veteran forward. If the Battalion can get a quality return on him (or Sean Jones for that matter), it wouldn't shock me to see him leave.

8. James Livingston - Plymouth Whalers
The former third round pick of the St. Louis Blues had a very disappointing season in 09-10. What was supposed to be his coming out party, ended up being his worst season statistically since his 16 year old year. A gritty power forward, Livingston's offensive game has never developed consistency. Livingston never really fit in Plymouth after his trade from the Soo. Considering that the Whalers seemed poised for a bit of a rebuild this season, all signs would point to this overage forward being available. There are some teams out there who could really use Livingston's size up front, even if you don't really know what you're going to get offensively.

7. Ben Chiarot/Daniel Maggio - Sudbury Wolves
What's to come of the Wolves this year? Expectations might be the lowest they've ever been for this franchise under new head coach Trent Cull. Back to back disappointing seasons and a depleted roster this year likely means rebuild. The Wolves have two quality two-way defenseman that could generate some interest around the league. Both are NHL prospects, both bring intensity and a physical presence, and both would look good in the top four of a competing team (like say Ottawa...considering Sudbury needs a starting goalie). Smart money would say that the Wolves could look to move these guys for younger talent or draft picks in hopes of rebuilding this franchise from the ground up.

6. Joe Rogalski - Sarnia Sting
The Sting could definitely be better this year. They've amassed a wealth of young talent. However, the West will be competitive yet again this year and that means, even with improvement and progress, the Sting could find themselves near the bottom of the standings. Joe Rogalski has been a three year member of the Sarnia blueline, but has yet to really develop the way management probably envisioned. If the Sting can get a good return on Rogalski, something that would help them next year and the year after, my bet is them taking it.

5. Dalton Prout - Barrie Colts
What will the Colts do? If they intend to ice a competitive team, they're going to have to make massive upgrades to a defense which will be decimated by the absences of Alex Pietrangelo, T.J. Brodie, Nick Crawford, and Matt Stanisz. Prout remains the integral cog of last year's excellent blueline, however his return isn't even set in stone after he was drafted by Columbus this year. He could have a chance to make the AHL this year...although it seems more likely he'd be sent back to the OHL for an overage season (perhaps to increase his offensive production). If he is returned, he could be a massive trade chip for the Colts to try and rebuild all of what they gave away for last year's run. Just food for thought, Prout is from the Windsor area, and who should need a physical stay at home defender, with the losses of Harry Young and Mark Cundari?

4. Nathan Moon - Kingston Frontenacs
Unsigned by the Penguins, Moon will be returning to the OHL for an overage season. The Kingston Frontenacs are going to be contenders (or at least they're planning on it). So why trade a potential impact overager? For some reason I just have a hard time seeing Moon return to Kingston for an overage year. His offensive numbers have declined the past three seasons, which have been littered with minor quarrels and questions about his effort. The Fronts will have Ethan Werek return and he looked good at center last year. Top pick Alan Quine looked solid as a rookie last year and should be ready for the 2nd line center role. Where does that leave Moon in a quest for playing time? We could very well see Moon back in Kingston next year, but something tells me the Fronts could look to move him in a trade that could give them some more size up front.

3. Alex Hutchings - Barrie Colts
Definitely an interesting case. From what I've seen and read, a lot of Colts fans expect Hutchings to move on to the AHL this season, rather than return for his overage year. However, I actually expect that contrary. Hutchings doesn't have an NHL contract yet with Tampa and was only a 2009 draft pick by Tampa (thanks to a November birth date). The Lightning can send Hutchings back to the OHL and sign him after his overage year, if they'd like. Other players from 2009 with a late birth date, and who are expected to play pro this year, already have contracts. These are the likes of Nazem Kadri, Matt Clark, Matt Hackett, and Edward Pasquale. If Hutchings is sent back for an overage year, you'd have to bet the line up of suitors will be around the block.

2. Mavric Parks/Peter Di Salvo - Barrie Colts
I guarantee one of these two gets traded sometime before or near the start of the season. Why? When was the last time an OHL team used up two of their three overage spots on a goaltending platoon? Especially with a capable OHL goalie like Dalton McGrath waiting in the wings. Both are very capable and solid starting netminders in this league. While teams are sometimes hesitant to use an overage spot on a goalie, either of these guys is worth it in my opinion. The question is, do the Colts trade both? It would appear to be a rebuilding season in Barrie, why not get back some assets and give the reigns to Dalton McGrath...if he can handle it?

1. Tyler Seguin - Plymouth Whalers
Seguin is probably a surprise inclusion on this list. Really, I'd be surprised if he doesn't stick in Boston this year. I'm sure that's the case for most people...probably even the Whalers. But if he gets sent back, what do the Whalers do with him? Do they keep him despite a re-tooling season, ala the Brampton Battalion with Cody Hodgson last year. Or do they trade him ala the Oshawa Generals and John Tavares a few years ago? I'm not even sure what I'd do, so I can only imagine the quandary that Mike Vellucci would be faced with if Seguin does indeed return. What would you do if you were Plymouth?

So what do you think, who stays and who goes?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hockey Canada Unveils Roster for the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Tournament

Yesterday, Hockey Canada unveiled the roster for the 2010 Ivan Hlinka tournament. Traditionally, this is a tournament that Canada has done incredibly well in. We have won gold in 12 of the last 14 tournaments, including last year where Tyler Seguin and Jeff Skinner led Canada to the gold in dominating fashion.

This year, Belleville Bulls head coach and general manager George Burnett is coaching the team and it's obvious to see the OHL flavour abundant on the roster.

Here is the roster (thanks to Hockey Canada):

Goaltender/Gardien de but
Robin Gusse L/G 5’10" 170 04/23/93 Terrebonne, Que./Qc Chicoutimi (QMJHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Tyson Teichmann L/G 6'0" 139 05/19/93 Belleville, Ont. Belleville (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Myles Bell R/D 6'0" 209 08/19/93 Calgary, Alta./Alb. Regina (WHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Dougie Hamilton R/D 6’4.5” 187 06/17/93 Toronto, Ont. Niagara (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Scott Harrington L/G 6’1” 209 03/10/93 Kingston, Ont. London (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Ryan Murray L/G 6'0.5" 190 09/27/93 White City, Sask. Everett (WHL) 2012 Dft/Rep.
Xavier Ouellet L/G 6’0” 174 07/29/93 Terrebonne, Que./Qc Montreal (QMJHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Stuart Percy L/G 6’1” 187 05/18/93 Oakville, Ont. Mississauga St. Michael’s (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Duncan Siemens L/G 6’3” 196 09/07/93 Sherwood Park, Alta./Alb. Saskatoon (WHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Austen Brassard R/D 6’2” 192 01/14/93 Windsor, Ont. Belleville (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
David Broll L/G 6’1.5” 221 01/04/93 Mississauga, Ont. Erie (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Daniel Catenacci L/G 5'10 180 03/09/93 Newmarket, Ont. Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Michael Curtis L/G 6'0" 184 01/26/93 Mississauga, Ont. Belleville (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Phillip Danault L/G 6'0" 173 02/24/93 Victoriaville, Que./Qc Victoriaville (QMJHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Jonathan Huberdeau L/G 6’1” 166 06/04/93 Prévost, Que./Qc Saint John (QMJHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Boone Jenner L/G 6’1.5” 197 06/15/93 Dorcester, Ont. Oshawa (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Lucas Lessio L/G 6'1” 195 01/23/93 Maple, Ont. St. Michael’s (CCHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Garrett Meurs R/D 5’10.5” 171 01/12/93 Ripley, Ont. Plymouth (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins L/G 6'0" 166 04/12/93 Burnaby, B.C./C.-B. Red Deer (WHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Matt Puempel L/G 6’0.5” 201 01/24/93 Essex, Ont. Peterborough (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Alan Quine L/G 5’11” 179 02/25/93 Belleville, Ont. Kingston (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
Brett Ritchie R/D 6’3” 204 07/01/93 Orangeville, Ont. Sarnia (OHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.

Of the 17 OHL players invited to the selection camp, 14 made the team. The three who were released were Ryan Murphy, Cody Ceci and Carter Sandlak.

Obviously the BIG surprise there is the fact that Ryan Murphy failed to make the team. Murphy is currently being touted as a possible top 10 pick for the 2011 draft (ISS currently has him at 8th on their list), so it's pretty shocking that he didn't make this team. Those who have seen Murphy play, know of his electrifying offensive ability. Murphy himself must be asking what more he had to do considering he scored a hat trick and added an assist in the final intersquad game on Tuesday. tweets "I was told that Hockey Canada were not fans of Ryan Murphy."

The last really high profile guy to get cut from the Hlinka team was Sam Gagner, who failed to make the 2006 team (who ended up winning gold). Gagner went on to become the 6th overall pick of the 2007 draft, so an exclusion from the tournament certainly didn't seem to hurt him.

Interestingly enough, two of the WHL's top prospects for 2011, Michael St. Croix and Ty Rattie were also cut. Both are being billed as potential first round picks, perhaps even top 15 picks. Rattie was the 2nd overall pick in the 2008 bantam draft, while St. Croix was the 4th overall. Just as surprising as Murphy's release is for us OHL fans, WHL fans have to be wondering what happened to these two at the camp.

It's pretty clear that George Burnett has some sort of vision in mind for this team. With the release of some pretty astounding talent, let's hope he's right!

Play begins on Monday, August 9th when Canada takes on Sweden.