Wednesday, December 22, 2010

CHL Top Prospect's Game Rosters Released

NHL Central Scouting released the rosters for the 2011 CHL Top Prospect's Game today. 18 OHL players are scheduled to take part (which is nearly 50% of those participating).

For those unfamiliar with the selection process, from my understanding it works as follows. NHL Central Scouting sends out a recommendation list (or simply a list with names on it), to which all GM's vote on the players they want to see in the game (voted players can be ones from the list or outside the list). Central Scouting tabulates the results and creates the rosters.

The game is set to take place at the ACC this year on January 19th, so keep that one open on your calendar!

Here are 18 participants from the OHL:

Jordan Binnington - Owen Sound

Scott Harrington - London
Stuart Percy - Mississauga
Dougie Hamilton - Niagara
Ryan Murphy - Kitchener

Forwards (13 of the 24 forwards = over 54%)
Nicklas Jensen - Oshawa
Gabriel Landeskog - Kitchener
Matt Puempel - Peterborough
Rickard Rakell - Plymouth
Tobias Rieder - Kitchener
Mark Scheifele - Barrie
Ryan Strome - Niagara
Daniel Catenacci - Sault Ste. Marie
Boone Jenner - Oshawa
Lucas Lessio - Oshawa
Vladislav Namestnikov - London
Brandon Saad - Saginaw
Vincent Trocheck - Saginaw

The full rosters, as well as the set teams, can be found here

Just a few generals comments about the rosters

- Everyone seems to be talking about the absence of Alex Khokhlachev, Shane Prince, and Stefan Noesen. The hard thing about an event like this, is not everyone can be invited. And just because you're not invited, doesn't mean you can't be a high NHL draft pick. I'm obviously surprised these guys didn't get an invite (especially Khokhlachev), but such is life. They still have the opportunity to be named as injury replacements, when the inevitable happens and players off this list get injured before the event in roughly one month's time.

- Happy to see Stuart Percy make the cut. After seeing him absent from CSS's preliminary rankings, I thought I might be taking crazy pills after being high on him. But it seems he's certainly made an impression on NHL scouts.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Midseason Top 30 for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft

The Christmas break is upon us in the Ontario Hockey League. Most teams in the league are very near, at, or just over the halfway mark in games played for the 2010-2011 season.

Therefore, it would seem appropriate for me to update my top 30 for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. NHL Central Scouting will release their midterm rankings in the new year (usually the 2nd Monday of January, so I'd expect the rankings to be released on the 10th). So it'll be interesting to compare what they're thinking when the time comes.

For now, indulge yourself in my rankings (for ***** and giggles, here are my midterm rankings from last year, which actually stack up quite well).

1. Gabriel Landeskog - F - Kitchener Rangers
It's not that I wasn't on the Landeskog bandwagon before, it's just that I wasn't completely sold that he had first line offensive potential in the NHL. In my last couple of viewings, he's been amazing and I'm sold. He's the most complete player in the OHL right now and on most shifts, a man among boys. He could be making an impact in the NHL right now, if he didn't have that late birth date.

2. Ryan Strome - F - Niagara IceDogs
What can I say, I love this guy. Who couldn't use a creative centerman with the foundational upside of a very complete player? He's slick with the puck, but he's also a workhorse. I personally don't think he has a weakness, and as he develops, that will become more evident.

3. Brandon Saad - F - Saginaw Spirit
It's damn hard to separate Landeskog, Strome, and Saad. All three are complete players who project to be very good NHL players. I wouldn't hesitate to draft any of them with a top 5 pick. Saad is probably the rawest of three...which is odd considering he's the oldest of the three. Some scouts will probably like that because he's already such an effective player, with with more polish, he could be a dominant force coming down the wing. He's big, but not as physical as Landeskog. And he's slick, but not as slick as Strome. But then again, he's probably the best skater of the three and most natural goal scorer. Take your pick really, I think I just prefer Landeskog's intangibles and Strome's creativity and tenacity at this point.

4. Ryan Murphy - D - Kitchener Rangers
Murphy was number one ranked by me in October (my initial ranking), and I don't love him any less now. He's a stellar hockey player and a guy I wouldn't think twice about drafting in the top 10...but I think the three forwards ahead of him have become such good players and guys who are safer bets to be franchise type players in the NHL. Everyone knows about Murphy by now, his strengths and weaknesses. Fact is, he's not slowing down and he's still on pace to score 30 goals and hit 100 points, things that haven't been done by a defenseman in the OHL since 2000 and 1994 respectively.

5. Dougie Hamilton - D - Niagara IceDogs
While it's early to be getting into this now, the Murphy vs. Hamilton debate as the top available OHL defenseman is going to be an interesting one to watch. When June comes along, we'll get to see how much size does indeed matter to NHL teams. Bottom line is this, Hamilton is billed as a big, tough, yet mobile defenseman, but he's also 4th in the OHL in defenseman scoring. His offensive skills are getting better by the month and even if he could stand to make some better decisions on the powerplay and improve his breakout pass, the potential is massive. Personally, I prefer Hamilton to Erik Gudbranson as an NHL prospect, ans Gudbranson went third overall. Take that for what it's worth.

6. Alexander Khokhlachev - F - Windsor Spitfires
He's been a little bit cold lately, but I still really like the mix of talent Khokhlachev brings to the table. He's an elite offensive player with creativity, poise and speed to burn, but he's also tenacious and has a burning desire to compete. He's not a perimeter player and I think that bodes well for his NHL future. He may be a small guy, but he doesn't play small and that's really important.

7. Matt Puempel - F - Peterborough Petes
He's been a pretty consistent offensive performer this year, despite Peterborough's struggles. But the Petes have been playing much better hockey of late (thanks to the improved play of Austin Watson and the introduction of Alan Quine) and Puempel deserves credit for sticking things out and playing well. He may not be as explosive as some of the other OHL forwards available, but he knows how to score goals and as the old adage goes "you can't teach that."

8. Vincent Trocheck - F - Saginaw Spirit
I really like Trocheck. Dude was just born to be a hockey player. He does all the little things well and is a very complete offensive player. The thing that worries me is his size though. He's not a big guy, and he plays a lot bigger than he is. Will he be able to have that same success in the NHL. On one hand, you love to say that about smaller guys (particularly centers). We criticize them if they play small. But on the other hand, when Trocheck's game is designed around winning lose puck battles, forechecking and hard work, will he be able to play that way in the NHL where everyone is a tree?

9. Daniel Catenacci - F - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The "Cat" as many are affectionately calling him now, has earned his way into the top 10 on my list. Bottom line is this, I'm not incredibly convinced he has a really high offensive ceiling at the NHL level, but his speed and hard work make him an asset in all situations. And on any given night, he battles it out on a last place team, so you have to admire his perseverance. Is he the next Rico Fata? Some think so, but I think you take that chance and draft him anyway in the late first, early second.

10. Boone Jenner - F - Oshawa Generals
Going into the break, Jenner is riding a hot streak for essentially the first time this season. He's really stepped it up after drawing a lot of criticism for his 10 game goal scoring drought during October and November. But in his last 12 games, he has 7 goals and 10 assists and is starting to silence some of his critics. He may not have franchise offensive potential, but he's a big center (which every NHL team covets now) with skill and a solid two way game. As long as he can continue to improve his offensive production, he'll be a first round pick.

11. Stefan Noesen - F - Plymouth Whalers
Who knew he had this much offensive talent? Noesen has been one of the league's biggest surprises this year, and leads the Whalers in just about every statistical category. He plays the game hard and generates a lot of offense from the energy he brings to the ice every shift. I'm still not sure I have a handle on the type of offensive upside he has at the NHL level, but I like all of the little things he does well.

12. Rickard Rakell - F - Plymouth Whalers
Back to back Whalers on the list. Rakell is a really interesting player. He's certainly caught the eye of a lot of people this year with a few sensational goals, where he's showed off how good his hands are. What makes him an interesting prospect is that he's also got good size and power forward potential. He'll throw the body, but I have a feeling that once he gets stronger, he'll be even harder to stop.

13. Tobias Rieder - F - Kitchener Rangers
I've really liked what I've seen from Rieder this season. Similar to The Khok, he's small but plays a lot bigger than he is. He's very quick down the wing and he's elusive in the slot where you'd think his size would hamper him. He's also a much more tenacious player than you'd expect; active on the forecheck and in the physicality department. If he was bigger, I'd be more comfortable putting him higher, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't take him with a late first or early second.

14. Nicklas Jensen - F - Oshawa Generals
Jensen is a really strong player who profiles very well as an NHL player. He's already so strong and this allows him to take the puck to the net with great effectiveness. As he gets more comfortable, I think we'll see him start to assert himself more physically and with his good hands in close, he could become quite the offensive force in this league. The question is, how much potential does he have in the NHL?

15. Vladislav Namestnikov - F - London Knights
Four import players in a row here. The London Knights have really struggled over the past couple of months, and a huge reason for that has been the disappearance of their offense. Namestnikov has to take some of the blame in that, with only 1 goal in his last 14 games. He's flashy and very dynamic, but I've also found him to be invisible for large stretches of games. When he doesn't have the puck on his stick, he seems to struggle. After such a strong start to the season, he's left me wanting just a little bit more.

16. Lucas Lessio - F - Oshawa Generals
I really like Lessio and I think he has a ton of potential moving forward. That being said, his inconsistency has definitely caused him to fall, especially when you compare him to how well some of the other available forwards from the OHL are playing. He's just a very raw player with the speed, puck handling and (at times) the drive to be a very good offensive player. But he has a tendency to over handle the puck and his physical game hasn't really translated from Junior A to the OHL as of yet. On the plus, he has been killing penalties for Oshawa lately and his all around game is improving. Definitely a project pick.

17. Shane Prince - F - Ottawa 67's
Considering how outstanding his offensive production has been this year, some might be surprised or disappointed I've got him this low. I'll admit, I haven't seen him have a really great game (which means I've probably seen the only bad games this guy's played all year), so take that into account. His speed, playmaking, and ability to fill in the open lanes on the ice make him a very intriguing player. One of the best stats when talking about Prince is the fact that only 2 of his 19 goals this year have come on the powerplay. This suggests he's having no trouble finding space on the ice five on five, despite minor size concerns. But I continue to worry about the NHL projection of an undersized, playmaking winger at the NHL level, based on the fact that we just don't see very many.

18. Andrew Fritsch - F - Owen Sound Attack
Owen Sound fans now see why IceDog fans were so disappointed with the Jason Wilson trade that occurred earlier this year. Fritsch has been outstanding for the Attack, playing on the first line with Joey Hishon and Garrett Wilson. Some may read that and assume he's riding piggyback, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Fritsch is just a quality hockey player. He's a really smart offensive player and he has very good hands in close to the net. He's also a pretty complete player who'll forecheck and backcheck. I think he's easily one of the more underrated players available in this draft and if he continues to play well, he'll receive a lot of consideration for the top 2 rounds.

19. Alan Quine - F - Peterborough Petes
Talk about a re-invention. After struggling with the Fronts and looking like a guy losing hold on a high NHL draft projection, the trade to Peterborough has really brought life to Quine. He's got 12 goals in 17 games with Peterborough, after only 4 in 17 games with Kingston. This includes a current 11 game point streak (in which he has 11 goals and 6 assists). He's got an NHL caliber shot and if he can continue to get the job done with the Petes, he's going to climb a lot of draft lists...and quickly.

20. Stuart Percy - D - Mississauga Majors
When it comes to rating the defenseman behind Murphy and Hamilton, I think Percy is at the top. A lot of people think it's Harrington, but I believe Percy to be superior in nearly every area. Percy can move the puck by way of the rush or breakout pass, he defends well both off the rush and in the zone, and he's really become a more physical player. He still doesn't have elite size, and could stand to improve his agility, but I think his intelligence and skill profiles him as a potential two way defender at the next level.

21. Scott Harrington - D - London Knights
His offensive game hasn't rounded into form as many might have hoped, but he remains a solid defender. The fact that he's upped his physicality this year has to make scouts happy. But I'm incredibly weary of stay at home defenseman who don't have a ton of size. They don't have a terrific track record of translating to the NHL game, where some of the league's best forwards are bigger than them.

22. Mark Scheifele - F - Barrie Colts
Scheifele has shown a lot of promise this season. He's got good size for a centerman and he's a good playmaker who'll make the plays in front of the net. But he's really struggled as of late, with only an assist in his last 8 games. Maybe that has something to do with his linemate Darren Archibald leaving town. Without a big, power forward to clear room for him, Scheifele doesn't have the space to operate. But keep in mind that this is his first year in the OHL and he'll need to add a lot of size to become a more dependable offensive threat.

23. Nick Cousins - F - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
While he may be undersized, Cousins certainly doesn't play like it. He's definitely an agitating guy to play against, and the type of player NHL teams love to have. He's also demonstrated that he can score goals, as evidenced by his 16 goals this season. Maybe he develops into an Alex Burrows type of player in the NHL, but I wish he was a better skater for his size. He's not a bad skater, but he's not great either.

24. Brett Ritchie - F - Sarnia Sting
Personally, I think the top 23 guys are pretty set in stone as of right now. I'm pretty confident with those guys (even if the order could be subject to change). After Cousins, it's definitely completely wide open and I considered as many as 20 guys for these final 7 spots in the top 30. Ritchie is the first guy I settled on. He's really picked up his play so far in December and is finally starting to put the puck in the net. He has 4 goals in his last 5 games, and is now on pace for a 20 goal season. Something tells me he'll end up with closer to 25. And considering his good size, and improving play without the puck, I think he'll still end up as a reasonably high pick.

25. Frankie Corrado - D - Sudbury Wolves
The Sudbury Wolves may not be having a very good season, but Corrado has been a bright spot on the blueline. The offensive blueliner has a great skating stride and is a blossoming puck carrier. It's hard to gauge just how good his defensive game is (and can be), because of Sudbury's struggles to keep the puck out, but he's not afraid to muck it up and play physical. He reminds me a lot of Jesse Blacker in his NHL draft season, and his combination of skating ability, physicality and puck carrying got him drafted fairly high.

26. Spencer Abraham - D - Brampton Battalion
Abraham is a really interesting player. He's received the majority of his time on the powerplay, but he's looked incredibly good there. He sees the ice VERY well on the point and does a great job of finding his teammates (has the same amount of powerplay assists as Ryan Ellis). The problem is, he just hasn't played a lot five on five, but with Kyle Pereira gone, Abraham is going to get to show what he's made of. He doesn't have a lot of size, but his intelligence on the powerplay suggests he knows how to play the game.

27. Alex Basso - D - Belleville Bulls
The Bulls haven't played up to expectations this year (considering many people thought they would improve), but Basso has been a bright spot on defense. He doesn't have great size (pushing 6'0 ft), but he plays bigger than he is. His strong skating ability is highlighted on the big ice in Belleville and he moves the puck well. He's probably the least mistake prone of a largely mistake prone defense in Belleville too (either he or Stephen Silas). Defensively he'll need to continue to get better, but he's not afraid to lay out a big hit and shows a lot of potential in the area.

28. David Broll - F - Erie Otters
Broll is right in there with that group of bigger OHL forwards who have a lot of potential, but just haven't been playing with consistency this year (Ritchie, Brassard, Goodrow, Thomson). Outside of Ritchie, I think I prefer Broll the most because he's the most physical. Even when he's not scoring, he's a physical beast and uses his size well to generate scoring chances. He'll need to improve his skating, but you can't teach size and truculence, especially when you've got a guy with some scoring potential.

29. Matej Machovsky - G - Brampton Battalion
The only goaltender to crack my list, as I think it's a real down year for the position in the league. There are some guys with great potential (like Machovsky, Binnington, Chartrand), but no one has really come out and made a statement as the top option available. Machovsky was very good in Guelph and has been even better in Brampton thus far. He's got the size NHL teams look for in their goaltenders, but I'd like to see a larger sample size.

30. Ryan Sproul - D - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Probably a pretty interesting pick for a lot of people at this point. This is strictly based on potential, but potential that is really starting to shine of late. Sproul signed out of Junior A earlier this season, after it was believed he was going the NCAA route. While he's taken some time to get used to the OHL game, he's really playing well of late. When you consider that Sproul is a 6'4 defenseman who can skate and run a powerplay, you have to imagine he's going to draw attention from NHL scouts. He's got 5 points in his last 3 games and has gotten better with increased ice time as of late.

Honorable Mention (These guys received serious consideration for the top 30)

Craig Duininck
John Chartrand
Jordan Binnington
Andrey Pedan
Dylan DeMelo
Austen Brassard
Barclay Goodrow
Brett Findlay

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Team Canada Named for the 2011 WJC's

Today was cut down day, as Hockey Canada announced the final roster for Team Canada at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championship's in Buffalo.

7 Ontario Hockey League players made the cut

Mark Visentin
Ryan Ellis
Erik Gudbranson
Calvin de Haan
Zack Kassian
Casey Cizikas
Marcus Foligno

The final roster can be found here.

Congratulations to all those who made it and good luck in Buffalo!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Top 10 - Away for the Holidays

Everyone loves the holiday season that is Christmas and New Years...except the Ontario Hockey League (and the rest of the CHL for that matter). The winter holiday season means World Junior Championship time (and World Under 17's), where some of the league's best players take upwards of a three week absence to play for their countries (or provinces). In some cases, players will only miss a week (World Under 17's, WJC Division 1A and 1B). In others, players can miss up to 3 weeks of action (like anyone who tries out for and makes Team Canada for the WJC's).

This week's Top 10 honors those who will be hurt most by the absences created from these terrific holiday tournaments.

10. Erie Otters & Guelph Storm (TIE)
I had a tough time deciding which of these two teams would be hurt more, so I went with a tie. The Otters will definitely be losing Adam Pelech and Chris Marchese to the Under 17's, while goaltender Ramis Sadikov is trying out for team Russia at the WJC's. Pelech and Marchese have been solid rookie contributors for the Otters but can be replaced for a week. Sadikov can not. Sadikov has been Erie's goaltending so far this season. In fact, the Otters have not won a single game without him in the net. If he makes team Russia, Erie will be hard pressed to win a game with him gone. Considering how hard they've worked to get themselves back into contention in the West, that could really hurt. Meanwhile, Guelph will definitely be losing defenseman Matt Finn to the Under 17's, and recently acquired forward Richard Panik to the WJC's. Defenseman Andrey Pedan is a possibility for Team Russia. Guelph has been playing much better since acquiring Panik, so his absence will hurt the team and their ability to produce offensively outside of Holland, Latta and Beck.

9. Sarnia Sting
This one is completely hypothetical. The Sting could in fact only lose forward Garrett Hooey to the Under 17's. However, they could also possibly lose two of their most dangerous offensive forwards. Nail Yakupov is trying out for Team Russia at the WJC's, while Alex Galchenyuk's status for the World Under 17's is up in the air. He could be added to the U.S. team, but could also be a part of team Russia (if he's added). Something to keep in mind is that the U.S. has never added a CHL player to their Under 17 team for the tournament, so maybe he's more likely to play for Russia. Forward Nick Latta is also a longshot to play for Germany at the WJC's. Worst case scenario has them losing a big chunk of their offense.

8. Saginaw Spirit
The Spirit will definitely be losing seldom used goaltender Jake Peterson and fourth line rookie Justin Kea to the Under 17's. However, they may also lose their 2nd and 5th leading scorers, Brandon Saad and Ivan Telegin. Considering Telegin was a part of last year's team, and Saad could be U.S.' most dangerous option on the wing, I'd be surprised if both didn't make it. Their loss will really put the pressure on new acquisition John McFarland to fill those holes. Backup goaltender Tadeas Galansky could also be gone, as he is trying out for team Czech Republic at the WJC's.

7. Niagara IceDogs
The Dogs are already missing key defender and powerplay guy Simon Gronvaldt as he plays for Denmark at the WJC's Division 1 tournament. They will also lose Jesse Graham to the Under 17's. On paper, that's a large blow to their powerplay and defensive unit, but Gronvaldt will be back before Graham leaves. Meanwhile, the biggest loss could come in the form of starting goaltender Mark Visentin. Visentin has a good chance of being one of Canada's goaltenders at the WJC's, which could leave the starting duties in St. Catharines to Dalton McGrath, who just recently played his first game in the league in nearly a year (January 8, 2010).

6. Oshawa Generals
Oshawa, like Niagara, is already missing a key member of its team. Forward Nicklas Jensen is off playing for Denmark at the Division 1 WJC tournament. Rookie Scott Laughton will also leave the team in December to play at the Under 17's. But again, neither player will be gone at the same time, which makes the blow less severe (as both are big parts of Oshawa's offense). The big loss would come in the form of defenseman Calvin de Haan if he makes Team Canada for the second consecutive year. You'd have to think there's a pretty damn good chance of that happening, which leaves a big hole on the Generals blueline...a hole which might not be patchable.

5. Kingston Frontenacs
For the Fronts, it's about their losses on defense and in goal. And that hurts, considering how much trouble they've had lately keeping the puck out. Alex Gudbranson is definitely leaving to play in the Under 17's. Erik Gudbranson has to be considered a pretty good bet to make Team Canada at the WJC's. While, Phil Grubauer is set to be Germany's starting netminder at the same tournament. The 67's are really starting to pull away in the fight for the division, and if the Fronts have trouble getting wins with these guys away, the Generals might be able to distance themselves a bit too.

4. Owen Sound Attack
Even after a HUGE win over Kitchener this afternoon, the Attack have the Rangers right on their heels for the division lead. Owen Sound may only lose rookie Jarrod Maidens to the Under 17's. However, the Attack also have three players trying out for Team Canada at the WJC's. Forwards Joey Hishon and Garrett Wilson, and defenseman Jesse Blacker. With starting netminder Scott Stajcer out until at least February, losing those three guys would be absolutely devastating to the Attack. But then again, what are the odds that all three make Team Canada?

3. Mississauga Majors
Maybe the biggest loss for the Majors is head coach Dave Cameron, whose strong presence behind the bench will be missed for the better part of three weeks. But the Majors could also lose forward (and captain) Casey Cizikas and starting goaltender J.P. Anderson to Team Canada, should they make the cut. I'm not sure which would be the bigger blow. Meanwhile, depth forward Kerby Rychel will be off at the Under 17's, and secondary scoring threat Mike Partanen is an option to play for Team Finland at the WJC's. With Ottawa playing so well lately and barely losing anyone to the holiday tournaments, is it possible that Mississauga could lose it's ground at the top team in the OHL?

2. Kitchener Rangers
Kitchener is so close to finally catching the Attack for the division lead, but they will be hard hit by the holiday season schedule. At forward, Tobias Rieder, Gabriel Landeskog and Matia Marcantuoni are all definitely leaving for the WJC's and Under 17's (in Martcantuoni's case). If you throw in defenseman Ryan Murphy, the Rangers could be losing 4 of their top 7 scorers. Murphy in particular could be a deathly blow to the powerplay, as he attempts to make Team Canada for the WJC's. Luckily enough for the Rangers (and perhaps unlucky for him), starting netminder Brandon Maxwell didn't get the call to play for team U.S.A. as many were anticipating he would.

1. Windsor Spitfires
No team is going to be hit as hard by the holiday season as the Spitfires. Windsor has been on fire lately and have won five in a row (after today's win against Kingston) and are now 3 points behind Saginaw for the division lead (5 again if the Spirit beat Plymouth this evening). Needless to say, the Spits might be rethinking that whole rebuilding notion. Windsor will most certainly be losing starting goalie Jack Campbell, top defenseman Ryan Ellis, and sniper Tom Kuhnhackl. However, they could also lose forward Zack Kassian to Team Canada, should he make the cut. The real wildcard could be the loss of defenseman Nick Ebert to Team USA at the Under 17's. However, the U.S. has never added a CHL player for this tournament (as far as I can tell). But they'd be foolish to leave Ebert off, who is now in the top 5 of defenseman scoring in the a 1994. Considering how much ground they've gained over the past month, it'd be a shame if all of it were lost due to a loss of man power.

BONUS - The Team With the Most to Gain - Ottawa 67's
The 67's, who are demolishing the competition of late, are set to lose only rookie forward Sean Monahan to the Under 17's for a week at the end of December/early January and possibly Czech defender Adam Sedlak if he makes the WJC team. Considering all their top competition will be suffering to fill gaps, you have to think Ottawa is salivating at the notion of running over the rest of the league during this holiday season.

DOUBLE BONUS - The Team Not Losing ANYONE - Barrie Colts
Just a fun fact, but only one team in the entire league is not losing a single player this holiday season. The Colts don't have a single player participating in the Under 17's or the WJC's. Is that a sign of how far they've fallen?

Who do you think has the most to gain and the most to lose?

A Signing & Two Sweet Goals

Just a couple of miscellaneous things I wanted to bring to your attention on this fine Sunday afternoon.

The first is that Niagara IceDogs winger (and former Barrie Colt) Darren Archibald has FINALLY signed an NHL contract. After going through 2 NHL drafts (despite being ranked) and having long stays at 2 NHL camps (Columbus and Detroit), Archibald finally put the ink on an entry level contract with the Vancouver Canucks (LINK). As you know, I've been a big supporter of Archibald the past few seasons and I've always been flabbergasted that he continued to remain without an NHL affiliation (whether it be as a draft pick or signee). The Canucks are getting a complete player who can do a little bit of everything and who (IMO) should develop into at least a serviceable checking line winger with goal scoring ability. Congrats to Darren (Here's an interview with Darren about the signing. Clearly he's a happy camper).

The second is a pair of excellent goals that occurred recently. Both are from highly touted potential 2011 NHL Draft picks.

Rickard Rakell topped the OHL plays of the week with a behind the back, through the legs wrist shot that is definitely worth a look (reminds me a lot of James Van Riemsdyk's goal from the WJC's a few years ago).


Ryan Strome scored a beauty of a goal against the Barrie Colts last night, as he flew down the wing, put on the breaks and roofed it top shelf as he was falling to the ice. He's a human highlight reel. The goal occurs about midway through the clip below.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Top 10 - Step Up (The OHL Version)

The Holiday break is looming, the trade deadline is just over a month away, and the halfway point of the OHL season is nearly upon us. Safe to say, it wouldn't be unfair to evaluate the season thus far and make some educated assumptions about it. Teams are starting to separate themselves as the leader's of the pack, while others are starting to look like bottom of the standings fodder.

With all of that in mind, I don't think it would be unfair to suggest that some players in the league this year have performed below expectations. There is still lots of season left to be played and tons of time for these guys to turn things around. But as of now, I think the 10 players listed as part of this week's Top 10 deserve some of the criticism being tossed their way.

10. Garrett Meurs - Plymouth Whalers
Offensively talented sophomore Garrett Meurs was supposed to have a breakout offensive season this year. With all the talent lost to the pros from Plymouth, it was expected that with more ice time, Meurs would flourish. Instead he's floundering and his draft stock is going with it. Plymouth is excelling thanks in part to other young players stepping up like Scott Wedgewood, Stefan Noesen and Rickard Rakell. Plymouth actually hasn't had a problem spreading around their scoring. Currently, they are one of only 3 teams in the league with 5 ten goal scorers this year (Kitchener and Ottawa are the others). That being said, think about how good Plymouth would be if guys like Meurs or veteran James Livingston upped their production. Interestingly enough, Meurs hasn't scored since October 16th against Windsor. That's an 18 game goalless drought (with only 5 assists in that span).

9. Dalton Smith - Ottawa 67's
Perhaps Smith's struggles offensively this year were a blessing in disguise for the 67's, who were forced to break up the Smith, Lindsay, and Toffoli line at the beginning of the season, only to create possibly the league's best line in Toffoli, Prince, and Martindale. That being said, it's been a tough year for Smith after going very high in the 2010 Draft. He's got only 4 goals thus far, which puts him on pace for about a 10 goal season. Last year he was so strong for the 67's as a goal scoring crease presence, they'd be a much better team if he could find his touch again. For now, he'll have to do it as part of the team's third line where he's gotten back to the basics which made him a good player (forechecking and hard work) last year.

8. Taylor Beck - Guelph Storm
It's tough to pick on just one guy in Guelph, as their current seven game winless streak has taken them to the bottom of the Western Conference standings. But you can't help but question how one of the league's biggest offensive stars last season has fallen back down to being a just over a point per game player. Obviously we're talking about a player with very high expectations placed on him this season (I wasn't the only one who had him as a serious contender for the scoring title), so I don't think it's unfair to claim that his 28 points in 24 games has been a disappointment. Interestingly enough, Beck is currently the lowest scoring of the big three in Guelph (behind Latta and Holland), this after scoring at a considerably better pace than them last season. Surely, a lot of the blame could go to Guelph's lack of secondary scoring (previous to acquiring Richard Panik, Guelph's fifth leading goal scorer had 4 goals). But at some point, the star players need to take some of the blame too.

7. Chris DeSousa and Colin Martin - London Knights
The Knights are continuing their slide down the Western Conference standings and are 3-7 in their last 10. The problem with the team definitely hasn't been goaltending, with Michael Houser keeping them in every game. The real blame in this is that London's green defense just hasn't been able to get the job done...and they just haven't been able to score goals (second lowest gpg average in the West). Where have the team's supposed veteran leaders on offense gone? At the beginning of the season, Knights fans were worried that their forward unit was too small and too soft. The two guys with the chance to influence that (at least in the softness department) were overager Chris DeSousa and power forward Colin Martin. As veterans, it was expected that their offensive production would increase to help out some of the team's younger players (Knight, Namestnikov, Griffith). Unfortunately it's decreased and DeSousa and Martin aren't even averaging a point per game together (.98 if you add it up). They're also a combined minus -18. If the Knights continue to slide, you can probably expect big changes in London, of which I wouldn't be surprised to see these two involved.

6. Jason Wilson - Niagara IceDogs
Granted, I don't think I read or talked to an IceDog fan who thought highly of the Wilson for Andrew Fritsch deal when it happened (even if it was part of the larger Shipley deal). Still, you have to wonder what they're thinking now. Fritsch is playing alongside Joey Hishon and is averaging over a point per game (although he's not just piggy backing on Hishon, he's actually playing incredibly well), while Wilson has 6 goals and hasn't been anywhere near the physical presence expected of him. In fact, every player involved in that deal (Fritsch, Shaw, and Petgrave) is out producing Wilson thus far in Owen Sound. For an NHL draft pick playing in his overage season, I think a lot more should be expected of Wilson offensively. While the Dogs are playing very well, you can't help but wonder if they'd be a better team right now without making that deal. It's sure helped the Midwest Division leading Attack.

5. Sam Carrick and Phil Lane - Brampton Battalion
While the Battalion started off the year very well, things haven't been so rosy for Stan Butler's club since. They've been in a standings free fall for quite some time now and are 3-7 in their last 10. A large reason for that has been lackluster goaltending (of which Butler has since brought in two new goalies). But even more so has been the lack of progression offensively from the team's top young players. 2010 NHL Draft picks Carrick and Lane have to shoulder the majority of the criticism there. It was expected that they would be among the team's leaders offensively this season, instead they're floundering with only 8 points each. That puts them on pace for a decrease in production from last season (where they were 2 and 3 in the team's goal scoring department). Now that the Battalion's most gifted offensive forward (IMO) Sean Jones has been traded, Carrick and Lane's ability to step it up is likely crucial to where Brampton finishes this OHL season.

4. Tyson Teichmann - Belleville Bulls
This was supposed to be Teichmann's year. He lead Team Canada to gold at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and there was a lot of optimism surrounding Belleville's young and improving roster. Suffice to say, things haven't quite worked out as planned for the Bulls this year. They're currently 10 games below .500 and just recently traded their best offensive player (in Richard Panik). Teichmann has been wildly inconsistent and has to shoulder as much of the blame for the team's poor start as their young and mistake prone defense. He's gone from being the unanimous top goalie available from the OHL for the 2011 Draft, to someone who may not even get drafted (as his incredibly poor ranking in Central Scouting's Prelim list would indicate). He's also being threatened as the team's future number one netminder by the similarly aged Malcolm Subban, who is currently outplaying him. There's no reason to give up on Teichmann, but he does need to try and turn things around.

3. Brock Beukeboom - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Following the footsteps of Jake Muzzin and Michael Quesnele wasn't going to be easy. The Hounds were such a strong defensive club last season and the young Beukeboom (and Brandon Archibald) flourished when given the opportunity to occasionally run the powerplay and ease their way into a top four role. This year it was expected that they would take over as the club's top pair and build off the success of last year. Keep in mind that the Hounds lost star goaltender Robin Lehner to the pros, but they currently have the worst goals against average in the Western Conference (by a significant margin at 4.11 gpg). Beukeboom just hasn't taken that next step this year. He's a team worst -12, and has been completely absent from the team's offensive game (with only 4 assists). After all the promise that he showed last year (especially offensively at times), his season definitely has to be considered a disappointment.

2. Austin Watson - Peterborough Petes
Again, it's tough to finger just one guy on a massively underachieving team. The Petes have stunk this year, no bones about it. But while guys like Matt Puempel and Ryan Spooner (when he was still with the team), were at least producing offensively, Watson was massively struggling. Even if he has picked it up of late (10 points in his last 10 games), he can not be excused from scrutiny. His -19 is still the team's worst and he still has a ways to go offensively, especially considering that he was an NHL first round pick and expectations need to be high. Watson shouldn't be shouldering all of the blame here, as the Petes look like a mess from management all the way down to goaltending, but it's hard to imagine that if Watson had been playing to the best of his abilities, this team might not be 12 games under .500 right now.

1. Jarred Tinordi - London Knights
It's hard to argue against the Knights making two appearances on this list, as the team has massively disappointed over the past month or so. As mentioned, after a 3-7 slide in their last 10, the team now sits in 8th in the Western Conference. The team has been a mess offensively, but the defense hasn't been much better. A lot of that has to rest on Jarred Tinordi's shoulders. Maybe the expectations placed on him were too high, but the Knights organization has only themselves to blame for that. When he was signed, they boasted how he would have a similar impact to John Carlson and help the team both offensively and defensively. The NHL first rounder was expected to make a very large impact (no pun intended). But 28 games later, 2 assists and a defense worst -6, and it's looking like those expectations were set unfairly high. If anything, maybe the Hunters deserve to be in this spot over Tinordi...for believing that he'd come in and immediately help this team contend for the Memorial Cup.

Honorable Mention:

John McFarland - Sudbury Wolves
Everybody's favourite whipping boy doesn't make an appearance on this list because he's been injured with a high ankle sprain since Mid November. But the Sudbury Wolves have once again been awful and are among the league's worst offensive teams. When he was playing, McFarland had only 10 points in 12 games, which has to be considered a disappointment yet again. For a great take on the McFarland situation, check out one of Patrick King's latest articles (HERE)

What are your thoughts? Anyone else you think deserves mention here?