Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Top 20 (not 10) - Draft Eligibles to Keep an Eye on in the Final Two Months

I've gotten a few emails lately saying, "Otten, when's the next Top 10 going to be? You're slacking." I've been pretty swamped lately, so you're right to call me out. It's been three weeks since the last top 10 article (the midseason media top 10). As a treat, I thought today I might return with a Top 10 article and amp it up a bit. Today I bring you a Sunday Top 20!

The list today intends to cover those players you should be keeping a close eye on as the OHL regular season winds down (less than two months to go). Every NHL draft, players climb the rankings late in the season and make a push for the first round (mostly due to play in the Under 18's, but my point remains). I could cite numerous examples, but I'll give you two. In 2009, Kyle Clifford was rated 177th in Central Scouting's Midterm rankings, but a strong second half (and a solid Under 18's) really vaulted him up the list and he ended up an early second round pick by Los Angeles. In 2003, Brent Burns had a fantastic final two months to the OHL season (and a great playoffs with Brampton) and turned that into a surprise first round selection by Minnesota.

This list covers players for both the right and the wrong reasons. Some players are on this list because they're playing lights out hockey and have really stepped up their play. Others are on it because they're injured or they're playing below expectations of late. In essence, we're looking at possible risers and fallers for the final two months of the OHL season.

20. Alex Lepkowski - Barrie Colts
The centerpiece of the Dalton Prout to Saginaw trade, Lepkowski has been getting a lot more ice time in Barrie and is starting to blossom. He has the size NHL teams want in their stay at home defenseman (6'4, 210lbs) and he's becoming more comfortable positionally (has a smart stick to go with a physical game). There's a lot of potential here for an NHL defenseman. Scouts may be coming to Barrie to see Mark Scheifele, but they might leave impressed with Lepkowski.

19. Michael Curtis - Belleville Bulls
It's been a tough year for Curtis and Bulls. Things just haven't come together for the young squad and they're in serious contention to miss the playoffs. After a fantastic rookie season where he scored 19 goals, many were expecting big things from Curtis this year (myself included). But he's on pace to have a worse offensive season in his sophomore year. Curtis has 2 goals in his past 3 games and is starting to drop the mitts this month too (against Kerby Rychel and Chris Van Laren). He's obviously trying to show scouts he's a versatile player who deserves to get picked despite a disappointing season.

18. Dario Trutmann - Plymouth Whalers
I thought he had an excellent World Junior Championships for Switzerland and he's come back and played some fantastic hockey for the red hot Plymouth Whalers. He's a +11 with 5 assists in January and currently leads the team with a +20 rating. He's definitely a solid two defenseman on the up swing.

17. Frankie Corrado - Sudbury Wolves
Has anybody noticed how well the Sudbury Wolves have been playing lately? What about Frankie Corrado, who's a +3 with 7 points in his last 11 games. The slick skating offensive rearguard was left off of Central Scouting's midterm rankings, but if he keeps playing like this (and Sudbury keeps up their strong play), I'll be shocked if that is the case in the Final rankings.

16. Steven Trojanovic - Peterborough Petes
The trade from Windsor to Peterborough has been fantastic for Trojanovic so far. He's playing very well for the Petes and playing a lot. He's got 6 assists in 10 games thus far, but has also upped his defensive intensity and physical play making him an even more attractive NHL draft selection.

15. Justin Sefton - Sudbury Wolves
As mentioned, the Wolves have been playing some really good hockey as of late and some of that has to come from the improved play of former high draft selection Justin Sefton. He's starting to look more comfortable out there and has been a plus player the past two months. He also recently scored his first OHL goal of the season in a 7-6 win over Guelph. With the size and physicality to attract NHL attention, is the rest of his game rounding into form?

14. Mike Morrison - Kitchener Rangers
The Kitchener Rangers are 5-6 in 11 January games. Brandon Maxwell is 1-5 in the month, where as Mike Morrison is 4-1. The Rangers are starting to go with Morrison more and more lately as Maxwell struggles with consistency between the pipes. It's given Morrison ample opportunity to show off what he's made of. If he keeps winning, could he supplant Maxwell as the team's number one heading into the playoffs?

13. Barclay Goodrow - Brampton Battalion
While the first two months were disappointing for Goodrow, the big power forward has been much better the past two. He's got 11 goals in his last 20 games. That's a pro-rated 37 goal pace. The skating concerns are no doubt what kept him so low in the Central Scouting rankings, but a strong offensive performance to end the season should help to get him drafted a bit higher.

12. Ryan Sproul - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
6'4 offensive defenseman do not grow on trees. This guy just oozes potential. He's starting to see a ton of ice time for the Hounds and is now on the team's top powerplay unit. He can skate, and he can shoot the puck. He's coming off a hat trick against Belleville and has 6 goals and 14 points in his last 20 games. If he keeps up this level of play, look for him to rocket up the rankings.

11. Jordan Binnington - Owen Sound Attack
He's been hot and cold lately, but the Attack are Binnington's team right now. With Scott Stajcer still out from knee surgery, it's his load to carry. After a solid Top Prospect's Game performance, he'll look to lead the Attack to first place in the Western Conference (with the Saginaw Spirit faltering lately). Could he be this year's Mark Visentin?

10. Matt Mahalak - Plymouth Whalers
Mahalak was nearly every scout's favourite goalie from the OHL for the 2011 draft at the start of the season. He came over from the USHL with high expectations and just didn't live up to them. But he's really starting to settle in. In the month of January, he's played 4 games with a 1.36 GAA and a .962 save percentage. At 6'3, Mahalak has the size and athleticism NHL scouts want in their goaltenders today. Now he's starting to put up the numbers.

9. Rickard Rakell - Plymouth Whalers
Rakell has been rocketing up the charts since his strong performance for team Sweden at the WJC's. He's the complete package of skill and grit. But since the WJC's ended, he hasn't as much of an impact for Plymouth (save a three game stretch in mid January). In fact he's goalless in his last 5 games. He was just starting to pick up steam as a potential first round pick, he's going to have to start filling the net more consistently to keep that draft momentum going.

8. Seth Griffith - London Knights
Don't look now, but the London Knights are surging. Who said they were throwing in the towel on the season? 7-3 in their last 10, the Knights look poised for a late season run at home ice advantage in the first round. No one on the Knights has been playing with as much conviction as undersized forward Seth Griffith. He's the reigning OHL player of the week and has 17 points in the month of January. Even if he doesn't have elite size (5'10), if he keeps producing offensively, he'll get a look in June.

7. Ryan Strome - Niagara IceDogs
It almost feels weird including Strome on this list. After all, he's been a riser all season long. But he's absolutely destroying the league again, averaging 2 points per game in January. He's now back up to 2nd in OHL scoring. If he can somehow take home the league's scoring title, does he enter contention for the top 3 in June (considering he was already 6th on Bobby Mac's midseason rankings)?

6. Nicklas Jensen - Oshawa Generals
15 goals in his last 15 games, Jensen remains a hot offensive player. If anything, this hot streak is more of an indication of the type of player he is, than his lukewarm offensive stats to start the year. He was snake bitten in the OHL's opening months and is finally reaping the benefits of his strong play.

5. Lucas Lessio - Oshawa Generals
One of the most interesting players in this draft IMO. Lessio has some incredible god given skills and is a potentially electrifying player. But consistency issues have plagued him most of the season. However, Lessio has been starting to put strings of good games together and has 10 goals in his last 13 games. Consistently strong play to end the season and into the playoffs could punch Lessio's ticket for the NHL first round.

4. Shane Prince - Ottawa 67's
Just when it seemed like he was finally gaining momentum in the draft, he gets dealt a shoulder injury (which the 67's are calling not serious). Still, Prince has missed two games and the 67's have already said they won't be rushing him back to action. Can Prince ease himself back into the line up and continue his torrid scoring pace, or did he lose the offensive momentum he had going?

3. Brett Ritchie - Sarnia Sting
Talk about raw deals. Ritchie had been playing some damn fine hockey the past two months. He had 13 goals and 8 assists in his last 14 games. He was asserting himself physically and looked like the player we all thought he would this season. But then he gets diagnosed with mono and is out of action indefinitely. We all know how mono can set back junior hockey players. A really tough break for Ritchie who was just starting to shine. Hopefully he doesn't lose too much weight/strength/confidence and comes back in time to finish out the season strongly.

2. Brandon Saad - Saginaw Spirit
Once thought to be a potential top 5 pick in the draft, Saad has seen his stock fall of late. It's to the point now where he might not even be a top 10 pick. And who can argue with decreased rankings he's receiving? After all, Saad has only 4 goals in his last 17 games (including a six game goalless drought) and was pretty quiet at the Top Prospect's Game. Perhaps he's been snake bitten lately (as Sean Keogh said he was the best player on the ice in a pointless effort against Ottawa), but you can't ignore the fact that he's struggling to score while so many of his OHL draft eligible peers are lighting the league on fire.

1. Alexander Khokhlachev - Windsor Spitfires
The most perplexing player in the draft. I've been impressed every time I've seen him this season. He's an absolutely dynamic offensive player, but also highly competitive and not afraid of traffic despite his lack of size (pushing 5'10). But he's not invited to the Top Prospect's Game, rated in the late second round by Central Scouting and the mid second by Bob McKenzie. He just keeps on producing and has 12 goals in his last 11 games. I think one of the most impressive things he has going for him, is that he's also one of the youngest players eligible for the 2011 Draft (Sept. 9 birth date). I just don't get what this guy's not getting love for the first round.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sean Keogh's Game Report: Spirit and 67's from January 21

If you remember, Sean provided us with a report earlier this month when he caught the visiting Petes taking on his hometown Ottawa 67's (HERE).

Well he's returned, this time after taking in a battle between two of the league's most formidable teams, the Ottawa 67's and the Saginaw Spirit.


Saginaw coming from the Western Conference rarely makes its way as far east as Ottawa, and this game was doubly exciting considering both squads are near the top of the league standings. Whereas Saginaw was playing well, bolstered by a number of big trade deadline acquisitions, the 67s were coming off a disastrous last weekend where they lost three consecutive games to Windsor, Oshawa and Mississauga. For that reason it was a particularly important game for the 67s.

Ultimately the 67s took the game 3-0, and have to feel good about their performance overall. Although they were perhaps slightly outplayed in each of the first two periods, they were very strong in the third, holding their lead nicely. Oddly enough, although the game featured the second and third best powerplays in the league, neither team scored on each of their seven opportunities. Moreover, in only a couple of those fourteen chances was there any sustained pressure by either team, and the penalty killing units were almost as dangerous, particularly Brandon Saad.

Overall it was not a particularly exciting game, despite having a quick pace and few whistles. The vaunted first line of the 67s was strong but dominant, and no single line for Saginaw consistently imposed themselves on the Ottawa blueline. Both goalies made strong saves, and yet there was no huge momentum swings. I do not much about Todd Watson and his system, but Saginaw through the first two periods seemed to congest the neutral zone quite effectively, a tactic made easier by the size of their squad, particularly on the blueline. The 67s for their part were caught running around in their own end a handful of times, but the Spirit were never able to capitalize. With all that said, here are a few player highlights:

Ottawa 67s

Tyler Toffoli – Drafted by Los Angeles

Scored the first goal of the game on a rocket of a shot right off a faceoff win from Martindale. Parks barely moved and just about no goalie would have stopped it. The goal was signature Toffoli, who has as dangerous a shot as I can remember seeing in Ottawa. Other than his goal, Toffoli had an up and down game. He was probably Ottawa’s most involved player, and actually set up both Prince and Martindale with smooth saucer paces for really nice scoring chances, neither of which turned into goals. Toffoli also had two partial breakaways, neither of which he did much with, and in fact he seemed to lose his balance both times. The knock on Toffoli in this game is something I have noticed frequently this month, both live and on TV. He has kind of settled in to a more passive Dany Heatley-esque role because his linemates Prince and Martindale are both faster and stronger along the boards than he is. Going forward as a prospect he will have to be more assertive and aggressive.

Ryan Martindale – Drafted by Edmonton

Tonight was par for the course with Martindale, a solid if unspectacular game. The faceoff win to Toffoli was one of several big wins from Martindale, and he was consistently involved offensively. Made a couple of good plays off the rush and was involved on the PK. An argument could be made he is the most well-rounded prospect on that first line, but you would like him to be more consistently aggressive.

Shane Prince – 2011 Draft Eligible

After that lengthy point scoring streak, Prince was held off the score sheet for a second consecutive game. Nothing really changed in his game, he and his line were still strong throughout, and if not for some strong saves from Mavric Parks in the third, he probably would have picked up an assist or two. There are shifts when that line just keeps the puck in the offensive zone for about a minute, and it is usually largely because of Prince’s puck pursuit. I wonder how much more speed he can add to his short stride, but at this level he is still plenty quick.

Dalton Smith – Drafted by Columbus

Dropped down to the third line, with Tyler Graovac taking his spot alongside Cody Lindsay and Thomas Nesbitt, and seemed better for it. Picked up an assist on Sean Monahan’s goal, and had a number of solid chances, particularly on the PK. Overall it was a solid game for Smith in all three zones, and with less scoring responsibility came more PK time I think. His skating is a real issue, and really limits him offensively off the rush, but tonight he played well, and stayed out of the penalty box too.

Sean Monahan – 2013 Draft Eligible

Tonight was another strong game from Monahan who has really adjusted nicely as a sixteen year old. His goal came was a nice play off the faceoff, and he helped set up Graovac for the third goal as well. He does not play on either specialty team and therefore had less ice time than usual, so his two points were all the more impressive. I also noticed a couple of smart defensive plays from him. Overall Monahan is definitely a player to watch, because the size and skill is definitely there, and he is impressively well rounded for such a young player.

Tyler Graovac – 2011 Draft Eligible

As mentioned above, Graovac was moved up to the second line and played significantly more in this game, including getting PK time. He was rewarded for a solid game with a goal in the second period. I mention Graovac because I am curious to see if somebody takes a chance on him in the draft this year. A very smooth skater for his size, Graovac looks to have some offensive upside, although he is rail thin and a virtual non-factor physically. Nonetheless the size and skating combination has gotten far more long shot players drafted.

Marc Zanetti – 2011 Draft Eligible

Tonight Zanetti was certainly the 67s’ best defenceman, as he has been most times I have tuned in this year. His skating, puck handling and overall offensive confidence has improved dramatically, and defensively he remains solid and physical. In particular he made a couple of great stretch passes this year, and cleared the puck on the PK with real conviction. Having passed through two drafts, Zanetti is a candidate to go this time around. As Brock will remember, I had previously doubted his pro potential, but given how many overagers have been drafted in recent years, I am beginning to wonder if Zanetti will add his name to that list in 2011.

Petr Mrazek – Drafted by Detroit

The game’s first star, Mrazek was outstanding tonight. He made a handful of big stops, and never allowed Saginaw to gain any momentum, despite several disparate flurries of activity. His ability to go post to post is exceptional, and he robbed a Spirit forward at least once doing that. When Mrazek is playing as he was tonight, he looks like a goalie that could steal a playoff series.

Saginaw Spirit

John McFarland – Drafted by Florida

Brock had been telling me how impressive McFarland has been since the trade to Saginaw, and so tonight was my first viewing of this supposed new and improved player. Early on he looked very dangerous, with a couple of nice rushes in the first few minutes, and a few more throughout the game. None of them resulted in goals, and only one or two turned into true scoring chances. Among Spirit forwards, only Brandon Saad was more noticeable, but the same nagging concerns were there with McFarland. The skating, hands and aggressiveness are great, but the decision-making is questionable. On one rush he confusingly coughed up the puck, and as a credit to him hustled back hard to try to break up the 67s scoring chance the other way. But it was reminiscent of the all flash, no substance criticism that many have had of McFarland over the years.

Brandon Saad – 2011 Draft Eligible

After an arguably disappointing Top Prospects Game performance, Saad was outstanding tonight, easily the most impressive Spirits player in my opinion. From start to finish he was dangerous, even if he did not manage to score. Particularly on the PK, Saad used his speed to drive wide and force the issue offensively. Personally I did not previously appreciate the speed he can generate. Known as a true power forward prospect, his skating, work ethic and defensive ability shone tonight, and separates him from other power forward prospects who struggle off the rush and can rely heavily on bullish play down low to create offence. There were not exhibitions of true high-end skill, but he really challenged the 67s defence, and was able to be dangerous both individually and with his linemates. Seemed to find others well and worked the cycle effectively as expected. Definitely a player I would like to get another look at before the 2011 Draft.

Jordan Szwarz – Drafted by Phoenix

For the most part it was a quiet but solid game game for Szwarz. He had one or two noticeable offensive plays, but otherwise only really stood out when skating on the first powerplay unit. When I have seen Szwarz in the past, I struggle to project him at the next level, and tonight I felt similarly indifferent to his play.

Vincent Trocheck – 2011 Draft Eligible

Another guy who had a solid, scrappy but unspectacular game. If anything he seemed to get a bit lost amongst the other top forwards for Saginaw. Always seemed to be around the play, but did nothing to stand out tonight.

Ivan Telegin – Drafted by Atlanta

Telegin did not seem to get a ton of ice time and when he did play was not overly impressive. Was caught defensively on the Graovac goal, although I would want to see a replay to determine if it was truly his mistake. He had one or two chances, but nothing special.

Josh Shalla – 2011 Draft Eligible

He was a fairly noticeable presence throughout the game, often seeming to be around the puck, getting a couple of chances opportunistically although he obviously could not convert. One play in particular the puck bounced out onto his stick in front of the net, giving Shalla a ton of time from the circle in on Mrazek. Oddly enough, Shalla panicked as if he was not a goal scorer and somehow got himself turned around and blew the chance entirely. He has obviously scored a ton of goals, and is a bigger player than I had previously appreciated, but he is certainly not a dynamic player or a strong skater. Passed over in last year’s draft, tonight was probably not a fair showcase for Shalla as a possible overage selection.

Brandon Archibald – Drafted by Columbus

Perhaps the best Saginaw blueliner from start to finish, Archibald was solid defensively and involved offensively throughout. He made a fairly good first pass, but also skated the puck up nicely as well. Archibald seemed to have a good handful of shots on goal, even a couple of which were clear enough to be called true scoring chances. Archibald was usually on the first PP unit, and his combination of size and skating makes him a fairly versatile player. That being said, he was neither overly physical defensively or particularly dynamic offensively, so while he was solid to good throughout, the lack of a standout quality remains a consideration. He also still needs to fill out, as he is not as strong or imposing as Chiarot or Prout.

Dalton Prout – Drafted by Columbus

Obviously very solid in his own zone, Prout looks big enough to play in the NHL right now. His game was actually not that different than Archibald’s, although he did not really carry the puck offensively. Having seen Prout over the years in Barrie, I like him as a stay-at-home prospect.

Ben Chiarot – Drafted by Atlanta

The most up and down of the three big Spirit blueliners, Chiarot was more aggressive offensively but also ran around defensively a bit, particularly looking to make the big hit. I have seen him play a more composed defensive game though, so I would not read in to it too much on one game.

Thanks again to Sean.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

CHL Top Prospect's Game - OHL Player Reports

I was at the ACC last night (and the night before, as you can see here) to take in the CHL Top Prospect's Game. To me, this is consistently one of the premier hockey games of the year. But I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed leaving the arena after a 7-1 blow out administered by Team Orr (or should I say Team Gilmour/Clark). I felt like the game lacked the spark of previous years and was a bit of a letdown.

This game itself is obviously a very large venue for these players, to show NHL scouts what they're made of when compared with their peers and other highly rated prospects. The great thing about this game, is that a bad game doesn't necessarily make you chopped liver (everyone has an off game). But a great game can really put you on the map and get scouts to look at you in a different light.

With that in mind, let's look at how the OHL'ers did in last night's game.

Team Cherry

#6 - Scott Harrington
I'm not so sure this was a good venue for Scott to show what he's capable of, if anything it might have highlighted some of reasons as to why he's fallen in the rankings of late. He made a couple of nice defensive plays and showed off his smooth skating stride in staying with some of the league's best in transition. But...I think his lack of offensive maturity or progression showed. In particular on the powerplay, where he looked timid and overmatched. Unfortunately for him, he blew a tire while attempting to keep a puck in at the line, leading to Daniel Catenacci's shorthanded goal to open the scoring. Team Cherry was really dominating the play up to this point and that goal really turned the tide.

#9 - Tobias Rieder
I felt like he didn't have a great game. He was good in the three on three game of the skills comp, where he was using his speed to create scoring chances. He also played with an edge and was getting under the nerves of his peers at the (usually) casual event. But during the game, that spark wasn't there. When he's on, he's aggressive on the forecheck, in the corners and off the rush. But when he's not playing with an edge, he can be invisible. And unfortunately, last night, that was the case.

#14 - Shane Prince
I thought Prince had an excellent game, and was maybe the losing team's best forward on the night. He didn't quit, kept on skating hard and was one of the few players generating scoring chances. The lone goal he scored wasn't a thing of beauty (cut into the slot, weak wrister that went five hole), but his perseverance on the play was. As a late add on to the game, he needed to show that he belonged. And Prince did more then that.

#16 - Ryan Strome
I felt like it was an interesting game from Strome, and perhaps one that didn't serve as a good indication of the type of player he is. Through the first half, he was good. He had an excellent first shift of the game and had a great play from behind the net to center the puck into the slot, but no one was home. That was generally the case, with Strome creating and his linemates generally absent. Which I think caused some frustration and in the second half, I felt like he became too self indulged. He was trying to force the play and became a pretty selfish player. For those that see him regularly, this is not the case. I think a lack of chemistry with Ty Rattie and Nicklas Jensen, really hurt his performance.

# 17 - Nicklas Jensen
I was really hoping he'd have a good game, with how well he's been playing for Oshawa lately. But I felt like he really struggled to get things going offensively and was, at times, behind the play and speed at which Strome and Rattie were going. He's a guy who needs the puck on his stick to capitalize on his strength on the puck and general puck possession capability. But playing with Strome and Rattie, it felt like he was being utilized as simply a dump and chase guy and that's not his game.

# 18 - Matthew Puempel
Just not a good game for Matt. I honestly don't ever remember seeing Puempel touch the puck. Hope this one doesn't hurt his confidence back in Peterborough where he's been playing better lately.

#19 - Mark Scheifele
This was my first time seeing Scheifele live (haven't had the urge to watch Barrie play live this year, sorry Colts fans), and the first thing you notice is how big he is. He played a few shifts beside Dougie Hamilton (who's a legit 6'4-6'5), and he didn't look all that smaller. He had a breakaway in the third period, but it was more of an accident than anything. He slipped and went into the boards as his team was exiting the offensive zone, which delayed his backcheck. Luckily enough, a team Cherry player intercepted a neutral zone pass and hit Scheifele just as he was getting up and across the blueline (to remain onside). But he was denied on the breakaway by Jordan Binnington's blocker. The rest of the game, he wasn't really all that noticeable.

#24 - Ryan Murphy
He was deserving of the player of the game for Team Cherry, as he was awarded. Murphy was Murphy. He had a few good rushes and pushed the tempo of the game. He was also one of the few Cherry players who looked like he cared in the final 10 minutes (might be harsh, but it's true). I also liked how he showed people how his physical game in the open ice has improved (with a couple nice hits on RNH and Huberdeau). But at the same time, I felt like he didn't do well to show people his increased dedication to the defensive side of the ice. He spent a lot of time hovering and trying to create offense, it almost helped to support some of the concerns many have about him moving forward.

#25 - Rickard Rakell
I thought Rakell had a pretty good game. He didn't do a ton offensively, but he threw the body around and worked hard in puck pursuit. He's got very good hands and can be a creative offensive player, but it's too bad he didn't really show that tonight. But if the scouts keep flocking to Plymouth, this guy could be a surprise high pick come June. I think he has a lot of upside.

Team Orr

#5 - Stuart Percy
I actually thought Percy had an excellent game. He started off a little shaky and made a few bad breakout passes in the first, but really settled down as Team Orr picked up steam. He made a few really nice defensive plays on odd man rushes to negate scoring chances and showed his strong defensive positioning and IQ. Not flashy, but just gets the job done.

#7 - Daniel Catenacci
I thought Catenacci had a great game. I really haven't seen him play a bad game this year. His motor never stops running. Glad he was able to show people just how good of a skater he is too, by beating Ryan Murphy (probably the best skating defenseman in the OHL) to the net on his shorthanded goal in the first. He never took a shift off, and you have to be impressed by that. I still don't know what his NHL upside is, but I know he's a treat to watch as a junior hockey player.

#12 - Boone Jenner
I felt like Jenner had a pretty good game. If anything, he showed that he thinks the game well and has the vision to be a playmaker at the next level. He made a really nice play to find Nathan Beaulieu at the point for his third period goal.

#18 - Vladislav Namestnikov
I really didn't notice Namestnikov out there to be honest. He had an underwhelming performance in comparison with some of his teammates who really stole the show.

#22 - Brandon Saad
Similar to Namestnikov, Saad didn't really stand out. He did have a few nice defensive plays and played well on the PK, but he didn't do a whole heck of a lot offensively. I expected more.

#27 - Dougie Hamilton
He got better and better as the game went along and as an NHL prospect, I think he showed that he might just be the second best the OHL has to offer (behind the injured Landeskog). Became more confident in rushing the puck as the game went on and really showed how good of a skater and athlete he is for a big guy. He was physical, he played well defensively. A good game for Mr. Hamilton (and a perfectly placed goal to end the game too).

#38 - Lucas Lessio
Lessio had a couple of good shifts where he showed the energy and speed he's able to bring to the ice, but was otherwise pretty invisible five on five. I actually thought he played very well on the penalty kill though.

#89 - Vincent Trocheck
Trocheck did a very good job on the penalty kill last night, working with his teammate Brandon Saad. His hustle was noticeable five on five too. He was rewarded with a nice goal late in the game, where he simply beat his defender to the net and tucked it in far side.

#31 - Jordan Binnington
Binnington was absolutely amazing during the skills competition and was pretty good last night too. He let in a weak goal to Shane Prince, but also made a couple of great saves, one on Mark Scheifele's breakaway, and the other on a goal mouth scramble where he stretched the pads out to deny a chance in front of the net. Owen Sound is going to need him to be huge until Stajcer returns from injury and hopefully he can carry over some of the confidence generated from this event.

I'm sure many of you out there were at the game last night. What did you think?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

CHL Top Prospect's Game Skills Competition Results

Just got home from the Skills competition for the CHL Top Prospect's Game. Thought I'd give a little recap for those interested (since not a lot is written about it).

First, here's a list of those who competed...and in what events.

Fastest Skater:

Daniel Catenacci won the event (no surprise there). His time was JUST over 14 seconds.

Tobias Rieder and Ryan Murphy also did quite well and finished just behind Catenacci.

Rickard Rakell finished in about 14.7 seconds, well back of the competing field.

Dougie Hamilton was looking good until he wiped out on the last turn and finished at over 20 seconds.

Hardest Shot:

The OHL didn't fare incredibly well here. Vincent Trocheck was the best (from memory). I believe his hardest shot came in at a shade over 92. London's Scott Harrington and Mississauga's Stuart Percy finished with shots in the high 80's.

The entire field was demolished by Myles Bell of the Regina Pats who fired shots of 97 and 98. Two of the hardest shots I can remember from this game.

Shooting Accuracy:

Matt Puempel won this event (again no surprise) by hitting all 4 targets in 5 shots. A very impressive display. Shane Prince was close behind at 4 of 7 (I believe). Boone Jenner went 3 for 8 (again from memory), while Lucas Lessio went only 1 for 8.

Show-Down Breakaway Contest:

None of the OHL players made the final round, but there were a couple of interesting moves. Mark Scheifele did the patented lacrosse style, over the shoulder move and that got a nice ovation from the crowd. Vladislav Namestnikov tried to score with the butt end of his stick. Brandon Saad did a couple of between the legs moves. Ryan Strome tried to pull off the Ovechkin two stick goal. And Nicklas Jensen didn't attempt anything crazy from memory.

The show was stolen by Sven Bartschi of the Portland Winterhawks, who scored an unbelievable one handed, behind the back goal. I don't think the judges even really saw what happened because it happened so quickly (he received only mediocre scores), but it was quite incredible. Stay tuned for this one to hit youtube (hopefully). EDIT - FOUND IT

Tomas Jurco won the event.

Three on Three Game:

Not really a ton to report on here, except for the goaltending performance of Owen Sound's Jordan Binnington. From my count, he didn't let in a single goal during 15 minutes of three on three action and a shootout to decide the game. During that time, he made some pretty incredible saves.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a recap of the game itself.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Post Deadline Examination Part Two: Best of the West

Carrying over from yesterday's examination of the Eastern Conference, where I officially crowned the Ottawa 67's my favourite to represent the East in the OHL Finals (here), it's now time to look at the West.

The Western Conference is entirely more wide open than the East IMO. We've got several teams who have loaded up for big runs at the Championship. Some of these teams are not even holding home ice advantage in the playoffs (if they were to start today). The way I see it, any of the eight teams currently in the Western Conference playoffs, have a shot at taking the West. They're all talented, and if they were to get hot at the right time, it could be the right combination. But there are obviously those teams with stronger chances and it's my goal with this piece to try and separate the men from the boys. Heck, it's possible one of these eight teams doesn't even make the playoffs and Sarnia does. But I don't see the Sting being ready to play deep into the playoffs just yet.

The teams will be ranked using the same categories as the East (forwards, defense, goaltending, special teams, and character/experience) and totaled the same way.

Here's how I see it breaking down...


Saginaw Spirit
Brandon Saad - Vincent Trocheck - John McFarland
Josh Shalla - Jordan Szwarz - Anthony Camara
Matt Sisca - Ivan Telegin - Garret Ross

Owen Sound Attack
Garrett Wilson - Joey Hishon - Andrew Fritsch
Bobby Mignardi - Andrew Shaw - Gemel Smith
Mike Halmo - Liam Heelis - Roman Berdnikov

Kitchener Rangers
Gabriel Landeskog - Michael Catenacci - Tobias Rieder
Matthew Tipoff - Matia Marcantuoni - Jason Akeson
Ben Thomson - Andrew Crescenzi - Tyler Randell

Windsor Spitfires
Tom Kuhnhackl - Alexander Khokhlachev - Jake Carrick
Kenny Ryan - Taylor Carnevale - Zack Kassian
Kerby Rychel - Stephen Johnston - Jeff Brown

Erie Otters
Mike Cazzola - Greg McKegg - Shawn Szydlowski
Phil Varone - Brett Thompson - Anthony Luciani
Andrew Yogan - Luke Cairns - Matthew Paton

Guelph Storm
Daniel Erlich/Cody McNaughton - Michael Latta - Taylor Beck
Richard Panik - Peter Holland - Cody McNaughton/Zack Mitchell
Tyler Carroll - Daniel Erlich/Scott Kosmachuk - Francis Menard

Plymouth Whalers
Stefan Noesen - Robbie Czarnik - Garrett Meurs
R.J. Mahalak - Mitchell Heard/Alex Aleardi - James Livingston
Tyler Brown - Rickard Rakell - Jamie Devane

London Knights
Andreas Athanasiou - Vladislav Namestnikov - Seth Griffith
Colin Martin - Kyle DeCoste - Jared Knight
Dylan MacEachern - Chris Tierney - Stephen Sanza

1. Saginaw Spirit
- Hard to argue against a team which can ice three solid scoring lines with size and physicality. They can run you over and they can score.
2. Windsor Spitfires
- The Spits really did a lot to improve their forward group by adding Carnevale and Carrick. Hard to say what their lines will look like now, but they should be quite good.
3. Erie Otters
- They've gotten Mike Cazzola back and should get Andrew Yogan back in the coming weeks. With the addition of Brett Thompson, this team could be very dangerous heading into the playoffs.
4. Guelph Storm
- A lot of high end talent carries this offensive attack, but it's the offensive role players who have to step up in order to spread out the scoring.
5. Kitchener Rangers
- A solid unit, but not one without question marks. How long will Landeskog be out for? Can they survive without an elite centerman?
6. Owen Sound Attack
- The Attack's first line is always dangerous, but their hard working role players aren't necessarily naturally born offensive players.
7. Plymouth Whalers
The Whalers definitely have the size offensively, but have struggled to generate consistent offense from players not named Noesen or Czarnik. Rakell, Aleardi and others have to be factors every night.
8. London Knights
- They may have gone through a bit of a re-tool, but they could still be a talented offensive team if things ever came together for them.


Saginaw Spirit
Ryan O'Connor - Ben Chiarot
Dalton Prout - Brad Walch/Peter Hermenegildo
Brandon Archibald - Peter Hermenegildo/Brad Walch

Owen Sound Attack
Jesse Blacker - Matt Stanisz
Matt Petgrave - Geoffrey Schemitsch
Keevin Cutting - Jay Gilbert

Kitchener Rangers
Ryan Murphy - Julian Melchiori
Cody Sol - Jonathan Jasper
Jamie Doornbosch - Chad Lowry

Windsor Spitfires
Ryan Ellis - Adrian Robertson
Nick Ebert - Craig Duininck
Saverio Posa - Michael MacIntyre/Grant Webermin

Erie Otters
David Shields - Derek Holden
Tyler Hostetter - Adam Pelech
Brett Cook - Brady Austin/Kris Grant

Guelph Storm
Sam Lofquist - Kyle Pereira
Chris Van Laren - Matt Finn
Tim Campbell - Stephen Gaskin

Plymouth Whalers
Austin Levi - Beau Schmitz
Colin MacDonald - Dario Trutmann
Max Iafrate - Nick Malysa

London Knights
Jarred Tinordi - Michael Moffat
Scott Harrington - Reid McNeill
Kevin Raine - Sacha Guimond

1. Saginaw Spirit
- A strong defensive unit was made even stronger by acquiring Dalton Prout and Brandon Archibald.
2. Kitchener Rangers
- A solid combination of size, speed, and offensive skill. They may not have added anyone, but this unit was good enough already.
3. Owen Sound Attack
- A really underrated defensive unit. Nearly everyone can move the puck up ice and the addition of Jay Gilbert gives them the people mover they needed.
4. Plymouth Whalers
- They've been solid defensively all year. The loss of Jay Gilbert means that a young guy like Max Iafrate will have to step up.
5. Windsor Spitfires
- Ryan Ellis and Nick Ebert run the show, but the lack of quality depth hurts the team if Ellis and Ebert begin to tire.
6. Erie Otters
- They're getting Tyler Hostetter back soon, which will be a big boost to a defense that's actually improved as the season has gone on.
7. Guelph Storm
They've made moves to try and shore up their defense, but I'm not sure they were the right ones. A lot of experience on the back end, but is their a lot of quality? Their performance so far this season would certainly say no.
8. London Knights
Moving Michael D'Orazio hurts, as a young, inexperienced defense gets even younger. Jarred Tinordi has to step up huge and become the player many thought he would be.


Saginaw Spirit
Mavric Parks
Tadeas Galansky

Owen Sound Attack
Scott Stajcer (when he returns)/Michael Zador
Jordan Binnington

Kitchener Rangers
Brandon Maxwell
Mike Morrison

Windsor Spitfires
Jack Campbell
John Cullen

Erie Otters
Ramis Sadikov
Chris Festarini

Guelph Storm
Brandon Foote
Garret Sparks

Plymouth Whalers
Scott Wedgewood
Matt Mahalak

London Knights
Michael Houser
Igor Bobkov

1. Saginaw Spirit
- Tough to argue against Mavric Parks as the top goalie in the West. He has the experience of last year's playoff run and he's been fantastic this season.
2. Plymouth Whalers
Scott Wedgewood has been excellent for the Whalers this season and has quietly become one of the league's best goalies.
3. Kitchener Rangers
Brandon Maxwell may be inconsistent, but he's quite good when he's on. He got a taste of the playoffs last year (where he was again hit and miss).
4. Erie Otters
Ramis Sadikov has been very good for the Otters lately. You have to wonder if he might get tired by the playoffs though, with the Otters lack of faith in back up Chris Festarini.
5. Windsor Spitfires
I think teams 5 through 8 are pretty equal here, but I'm giving Jack Campbell the slight nod because of his international big game experience. But I'm thinking the Spits wish that Campbell would start to show up more often.
6. Owen Sound Attack
The Attack would be higher if their goaltending situation wasn't so complicated. Scott Stajcer was playing great before the knee injury. Who knows how he'll play when he returns (likely in a month or so). Until then, Michael Zador isn't getting the job done and Jordan Binnington is inexperienced.
7. London Knights
Michael Houser has played hard for this Knights team this year, but even his best efforts haven't been enough to help this team win consistently.
8. Guelph Storm
I really thought Brandon Foote would have a breakout season this year, but he's been plagued with consistency issues yet again. If he he's hot though, look out.

Special Teams

Powerplay Ranking:
1. Saginaw Spirit @ 24.3%
2. Owen Sound Attack @ 22.7%
3. Kitchener Rangers @ 22.3%
4. Erie Otters @ 21.2%
5. Windsor Spitfires @ 20.8%
6. Guelph Storm @ 20.5%
7. Plymouth Whalers @ 17.3%
8. London Knights @ 15.0%

Penalty Kill Ranking:
1. Saginaw Spirit @ 84.9%
2. Windsor Spitfires @ 81.6%
3. Plymouth Whalers @ 81.3%
4. Guelph Storm @ 81.0%
5. Kitchener Rangers @ 80.4%
6. Owen Sound Attack @ 80.3%
7. Erie Otters @ 79.7%
8. London Knights @ 77.4%

1. Saginaw Spirit
- The top powerplay and the top penalty kill in the league statistically. And the addition of Dalton Prout only makes both of those better.
2. Windsor Spitfires
- With increased scoring depth (including Taylor Carnevale's excellent PP production), the Spits powerplay should improve to the above average level to match up with their above average PK.
3. Kitchener Rangers
- A very strong powerplay run by Ryan Murphy, but a penalty kill unit that will have to do without it's top PK guy in Gabriel Landeskog for a little while.
4. Owen Sound Attack
- A very strong powerplay that's anchored by that dynamite Joey Hishon line, but a penalty kill unit that needs to be better.
5. Erie Otters
Similar to some of the teams above, their powerplay has been pretty good, but their PK will need to be better. They have the type of guys capable of that.
6. Guelph Storm
- An average PK and powerplay, which could be better, but could also be worse.
7. Plymouth Whalers
- A very strong penalty kill unit doesn't make up for their lack of a true powerplay quarterback and below average production with the man advantage.
8. London Knights
- Special teams have been a disaster for the Knights this year and are a big reason as to why they've been a disappointment in the standings.


I felt like this was really tough to gauge. Some teams with great character and grit, but lacking in actual experience. Some teams with experience at forward, but not on defense, and vice versa. So I expect heavy debate on this one, as it's completely subjective (if it wasn't enough already).

1. Windsor Spitfires
- It was tough to separate one team from the pack, so I gave the nod to the Spits who have enough guys left over from back to back Memorial Cup runs. That experience is crucial, even if it's only from a few players. If their defense didn't have Ryan Ellis, they wouldn't be number one though because he's going to have to show that green group how to get it done in the postseason.
2. Owen Sound Attack
- This is a really gritty team who battles for every inch of ice. They've got a few young guys playing crucial roles, and their goaltending is a bit of a concern, but some of the veteran players know how to get it done and Matt Stanisz was around for Barrie's deep run last year.
3. Kitchener Rangers
- This is a team that should be hungry after blowing that 3-0 lead last year. They know what they'll have to do this year and have the leadership group in place to get that message across to the younger guys.
4. Saginaw Spirit
- Slightly concerned as to how their forward group will respond in their first serious playoff run, but the defense and goaltending should be ready for the challenge. Like Owen Sound, they are also a gritty team who plays hard consistently.
5. Guelph Storm
- This is a very experienced team with all the moves that have been made. their a true leader on this team? Considering all the turmoil and problems the Storm have had playing consistent hockey, you have to question their character.
6. Erie Otters
- I think their forward group has great chemistry and a ton of experience in this league. But I'm less convinced by their defense and goaltending. I think injuries also have to be a concern, considering this team can not seem to stay healthy.
7. Plymouth Whalers
- This team plays really hard, but I'm just not sure they've got enough experience at forward where guys like Stefan Noesen, Rickard Rakell, Alex Aleardi, Mitchell Heard among others are being counted on to score the majority of goals. In goal, Scott Wedgewood is excellent, but he hasn't had much taste of playoff action, save last year's finish against Windsor. This one is highly debatable.
8. London Knights
- Definitely a youth movement in London, especially on defense where a green unit may get totally exposed against a team like Saginaw. Their consistency offensively is troubling too.

Overall Rankings

In order to determine the overall rankings, a point system was used.

First Place in a Category = 8 points
Second Place in a Category = 7 points
Third Place in a Category = 6 points
Fourth Place = 5 points
Fifth Place = 4 points
Sixth Place = 3 points
Seventh Place = 2 points
Eighth Place = 1 point

With that in mind, here's how it totals up (point total is out of 40).

1. Saginaw Spirit = 37 points
2. Windsor Spitfires = 30 points
3. Kitchener Rangers = 29 points
4. Owen Sound Attack = 24 points
5. Erie Otters = 21 points
6. Plymouth Whalers = 18 points
7. Guelph Storm = 15 points
8. London Knights = 6 points

So there you have it folks, in my mind, the Saginaw Spirit have the best chance to come away as Western Conference champions this season. I think they've got the strongest overall team and their experience on the blueline and in net should help to offset any jitters their forwards might have in the post season. The addition of Dalton Prout, especially, is going to be huge as he was a beast for the Colts in last year's playoffs. Hats off to GM (and coach) Todd Watson for making the unpopular moves last year, that ultimately made this team a popular choice for top spot this year.

Would love to hear what you have to say about this.

Do you think an OHL final between Ottawa and Saginaw seems most likely at this point?

Post Deadline Examination Part 1: The Beasts of the East

Now that the super crazy OHL trade deadline has passed (so much for that quiet deadline some General Managers were suggesting would happen), it's time to examine how teams compare in the race to represent the OHL in the Memorial Cup (outside of Mississauga of course).

I figured I'd do this in a two part series. The first examining the beasts of the Eastern Conference. The second examining the best of the West. This is a purely subjective look at the standings race, but I'll be breaking down and ranking each competitive team by specific categories. Those categories will be, forwards, defense, goaltending, special teams, and character/experience.

Without further ado, here's a look at how the Eastern Conference adds up now.

For me, there are five teams in the East with a legitimate shot of winning the OHL Championship. Those would be Mississauga, Ottawa, Niagara, Oshawa, and Kingston. Sorry fans of the rest.

So let's break things down.


Mississauga Majors
Maxim Kitsyn - Casey Cizikas - Devante Smith-Pelly
Chris DeSousa - Jordan Mayer - Justin Shugg
Joseph Cramarossa - Rob Flick - Gregg Sutch

Niagara IceDogs
Andrew Agozzino - Alex Friesen - David Pacan
Darren Archibald - Ryan Strome - Freddie Hamilton
Jason Wilson - Steven Shipley - Myles Doan

Ottawa 67's
Shane Prince - Ryan Martindale - Tyler Toffoli
Dalton Smith - Cody Lindsay - Thomas Nesbitt
Ben Dubois - Sean Monahan - Tyler Graovac

Oshawa Generals
Alain Berger - Boone Jenner - Christian Thomas
Lucas Lessio - Andy Andreoff - Nicklas Jensen
Josh Graves - J.P. Labardo/Scott Laughton - Emerson Clark

Kingston Frontenacs
Sean Jones - Ryan Spooner - Nathan Moon
Corey Durocher - Ethan Werek - Michael Fine
Tyler J. Brown/Conor Stokes - Charles Sarault - Mitch Lebar

1. Niagara IceDogs
- A really close race, but I think I prefer the tenacity and scoring ability of the Dogs. Once they begin to develop more chemistry, they'll be really dangerous.
2. Mississauga Majors
- Maxim Kitsyn has fit in incredibly well so far as that long needed winger for Cizikas and Smith-Pelly. DeSousa should fit in well too.
3. Ottawa 67's
- They obviously have maybe the best line in the OHL, but their second line will have to be more consistent and they'll need to rely on an inexperienced third line
4. Oshawa Generals
- Just a young team with a lot of talent. They are very dangerous, but can also be prone to spells of inconsistency
5. Kingston Frontenacs
- They need Ethan Werek back badly, but even with him, this forward unit is the weakest of the top 5.


Mississauga Majors
Marc Cantin - Dylan DeMelo
Stuart Percy - Brett Flemming
Michael D'Orazio - David Corrente

Niagara IceDogs
Dougie Hamilton - Jesse Graham
Mike Schwindt - Shayne Rover
Luke Mercer/Nik Knezic - Simon Gronvaldt/Tim Billingsley

Ottawa 67's
Travis Gibbons - Jake Cardwell
Marc Zanetti - Cody Ceci
Adam Sedlak - Julian Luciani

Oshawa Generals
Calvin de Haan - Colin Suellentrop
Tony DeHart - Daniel Maggio
Scott Valentine - Jimmy McDowell/Nick Quinn

Kingston Frontenacs
Erik Gudbranson - Alex Gudbranson
Taylor Doherty - Jeff Braithwaite
Mitch Gaulton - Michal Cajkovsky

1. Mississauga Majors
- You can't argue with success. It remains to be seen how Michael D'Orazio fits into things, but he'll provide more veteran leadership to a unit that was somewhat lacking it.
2. Kingston Frontenacs
- They may be struggling lately, but this unit CAN be a very tough one to play against. Gudbranson and Doherty need to be on top of their game, but the supporting cast is underrated too.
3. Oshawa Generals
- On paper, this is a really good defense. But for some reason, they just haven't gelled incredibly well together. A lot of veteran talent though, which bodes well come playoff time.
4. Ottawa 67's
- Just a solid unit. No real star or difference maker, but six guys who work hard and can keep pucks out.
5. Niagara IceDogs
- The most inexperienced of the bunch. They're big and built for the small ice in Niagara, but when a playoff forecheck hits you, you might have some trouble.


Mississauga Majors
J.P. Anderson
Mickael Audette

Niagara IceDogs
Mark Visentin
Dalton McGrath

Ottawa 67's
Petr Mrazek
Shayne Campbell

Kingston Frontenacs
Philip Grubauer
Frank Palazzese

Oshawa Generals
Peter Di Salvo
Kevin Baillie

1. Niagara IceDogs
- People can whine all they want about Visentin's performance at the WJC, but he's been probably the best goaltender in the OHL this season. He works hard and is highly competitive, which means he's highly motivated to prove doubters wrong.
2. Ottawa 67's
- Petr Mrazek stood on his head for the 67's in last year's playoffs and has been fantastic so far this season. He can steal a series for his team.
3. Kingston Frontenacs
- Can't argue with the experience that Grubauer has with the playoffs and winning the Memorial Cup last year. He's been lukewarm this year, but can and should be better.
4. Mississauga Majors
- J.P. Anderson has improved his game greatly this year and has proven to be a strong playoff performer the past two years, but I think he's more beatable than the three ahead of him.
5. Oshawa Generals
- Peter Di Salvo is a veteran in this league and has done well to stabilize the Gennies situation in net, but he was unable to get the job done in last year's playoffs.

Special Teams

Current Powerplay Ranks
1. Ottawa 67's @ 24.2%
2. Niagara IceDogs @ 21.1%
3. Mississauga Majors @ 20.0%
4. Kingston Frontenacs @ 19.8%
5. Oshawa Generals @19.4%

Current Penalty Kill Ranks
1. Ottawa 67's @ 82.8%
2. Oshawa Generals @81.5%
3. Niagara IceDogs @81.2%
4. Kingston Frontenacs @79.0%
5. Mississauga Majors @78.2%

1. Ottawa 67's
- If you're from the Scotty Bowman school of thinking, the 67's have a great chance of being OHL champs. Teams have a hard enough time stopping that first line with 5 on the ice, never mind a man down.
2. Niagara IceDogs
- Just a solid, hard working special teams unit, whose forwards drive the powerplay.
3. Kingston Frontenacs
- Their PK is hurting, but their powerplay should be better in the playoffs when they run Doherty and Gudbranson together.
4. Oshawa Generals
- Their powerplay is inconsistent, but their penalty killers do a great job.
5. Mississauga Majors
- Bottom line, their special teams play needs to improve. You'd think their PK would be better, but it's struggled this year.


1. Mississauga Majors
- They're experienced at every position and just added an overager who's never been eliminated in the first round and has never missed the playoffs in his career (DeSousa). They work hard and they battle tooth and nail for space on the ice.
2. Ottawa 67's
I wish their depth players at forward were a little more experienced, but they have a very cohesive unit that clearly has good chemistry. Two experienced forward lines will really help this club go far in the playoffs.
3. Niagara IceDogs
- Their forward unit might be the toughest and the hardest to play against, but their inexperienced defense could potentially hurt them in the playoffs.
4. Kingston Frontenacs
- The team's inconsistency this season is somewhat troubling. They are a veteran club and shouldn't be prone to these ups and downs. This team hasn't won a playoff round in a while, so it's key veteran players are largely playoff inexperienced
5. Oshawa Generals
- This team has been a lot better this year than expected, but they've got a really young forward unit which is probably built to be better next season. The defense has a lot of experience, and plays hard, but can be prone to stupid mistakes.

Overall Rankings

In order to determine the overall rankings, a point system was used.

First Place in a Category = 5 points
Second Place in a Category = 4 points
Third Place in a Category = 3 points
Fourth Place = 2 points
Fifth Place = 1 point

With that in mind, here's how it totals up (point total is out of 25).

1. Ottawa 67's = 18 points
2 (TIE). Niagara IceDogs = 17 points & Mississauga Majors = 17 points
4. Kingston Frontenacs = 13 points
5. Oshawa Generals = 9 points

So there you have it folks, IMO the Ottawa 67's have the best chance to represent the Eastern Conference in the OHL Finals. They've got the best balance of any team from the East. They have two strong scoring lines, a deadly powerplay and a goaltender who is capable of standing on his head to win a series.

Anywhere you strongly disagree (since this was such a subjective article)?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Midseason NHL Central Scouting Rankings

Today, NHL Central Scouting released their midseason rankings for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. These rankings are always mucho debated, and often times with good reason. But it's important to remember two things. 1) These are only one ranking and probably vastly differ from what certain NHL teams are thinking. Just because a player is high or low on this doesn't make them an automatic choice in that range. 2) NHL Central Scouting and E.J. McGuire know their stuff. They have their opinions, and they stick with their guns. They are very patient with trends and often can be a little slower to really raise or lower a player in their rankings. Just because you disagree with them, doesn't mean the rankings deserve to be printed off and used as BizNasty's favourite butt wipe.

Here's their list.


1. Gabriel Landeskog - NA Ranking: 1
2. Dougie Hamilton - NA Ranking: 7
3. Brandon Saad - NA Ranking: 8
4. Ryan Murphy - NA Ranking: 10
5. Vladislav Namestnikov - NA Ranking: 17
6. Boone Jenner - NA Ranking: 18
7. Ryan Strome - NA Ranking: 19
8. Nicklas Jensen - NA Ranking: 20
9. Mark Scheifele - NA Ranking: 21
10. Matt Puempel - NA Ranking: 29
11. Rickard Rakell - NA Ranking: 34
12. Shane Prince - NA Ranking: 35
13. Vincent Trocheck - NA Ranking: 42
14. Daniel Catenacci - NA Ranking: 43
15. Lucas Lessio - NA Ranking: 44
16. Alexander Khokhlachev - NA Ranking: 45
17. Stefan Noesen - NA Ranking: 47
18. Stuart Percy - NA Ranking: 51
19. Brett Ritchie - NA Ranking: 57
20. Alan Quine - NA Ranking: 64
21. Scott Harrington - NA Ranking: 67
22. Joseph Cramarossa - NA Ranking: 68
23. Tobias Rieder - NA Ranking: 74
24. Andrei Pedan - NA Ranking: 75
25. Nick Cousins - NA Ranking: 76
26. David Broll - NA Ranking: 78
27. Garrett Meurs - NA Ranking: 79
28. Anthony Camara - NA Ranking: 86
29. Austen Brassard - NA Ranking: 88
30. Andrew Fritsch - NA Ranking: 96
31. Michael Curtis - NA Ranking: 100
32. Ben Thomson - NA Ranking: 104
33. Craig Duininck - NA Ranking: 116
34. Colin Suellentrop - NA Ranking: 117
35. Zach Bell - NA Ranking: 118
36. Keevin Cutting - NA Ranking: 122
37. Ryan Sproul - NA Ranking: 124
38. Dario Trutmann - NA Ranking: 126
39. Seth Griffith - NA Ranking: 157
40. Carter Sandlak - NA Ranking: 158
41. Steven Trojanovic - NA Ranking: 169
42. Barclay Goodrow - NA Ranking: 173
43. Michal Cajkovsky - NA Ranking: 181
44. Cody McNaughton - NA Ranking: 183
45. Colin Miller - NA Ranking: 191
46. Derek Mathers - NA Ranking: 197
47. Dylan DeMelo - NA Ranking: 199


1. Matej Machovsky - NA Ranking: 3
2. Jordan Binnington - NA Ranking: 7
3. Tadeas Galansky - NA Ranking: 10
4. Mike Morrison - NA Ranking: 11
5. Frank Palazzese - NA Ranking: 16
6. John Chartrand - NA Ranking: 19
7. Matt Mahalak - NA Ranking: 23
8. Michael Houser - NA Ranking: 26
9. Tyson Teichmann - NA Ranking: 28
10. Garret Sparks - NA Ranking: 30

You can view the full lists here

Also, in case you want to compare, here was CSS' Preliminary Rankings

Lastly, as another source of comparison, here was my midterm ranking.

Just some general comments.

  1. I don't get what Ryan Strome has done to fall in their midseason ranking, from 4 to 7th in the OHL. He certainly hasn't slowed down any, with 13 goals and 24 points in his last 15 games (including a current 9 game point streak).
  2. Another BIG faller was Tobias Rieder, who went from 6th to 23rd. Again, he's the same player he was back in November. His point production pace has slowed down, but he remains a quality offensive energy guy. I really hope his disappointing WJC performance isn't being held against him, as that tourney shouldn't be used to decrease a draft eligible player's stock (IMO).
  3. People seem to be making a big deal out of the ranking of Matt Puempel. I disagree with the ranking, but I'm not surprised by it. I've heard E.J. McGuire talk about Puempel, and they've had concerns over whether he should be shouldering the blame for Peterborough's lackluster season. If the Petes can continue to play half decent hockey and earn a playoff birth, perhaps Puempel will get a bit more respect.
  4. Interesting to see their list in comparison with my own. A lot of the same players in their top 20 (for the OHL) as me, just in different spots. Biggest discrepancy was their 9th ranking of Mark Scheifele and my 22nd ranking.
  5. Also interesting to see a few defenders I had in my top 30, not being ranked at all. Frankie Corrado, Alex Basso, and Spencer Abraham.
  6. I like the goaltender rankings, although I'd probably have Chartrand higher, as well as the draft re-entering Michael Houser.
What are your thoughts?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Top 10 - The Media Picks the Top 10 Part Deux

If you remember correctly, at the end of October I put together a top 10 list based on the polling and contribution of junior hockey's brightest minds (HERE). The article was well received so I figured, why not do a midseason poll (great timing with NHL Central Scouting releasing their rankings tomorrow).

This time around, the roster was a little bit different, as the time constraints of the world juniors hindered the availability of some of last time's contributors. But thankfully, we have so many bright minds covering our league (and junior hockey in general), that it serves as an interesting comparison piece.

Contributing this time were Loosepuck's Terry Doyle, Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman, The Scouting Report's Scott Campbell, New England Hockey Journal's (and Bruins 2011 Draft Watch Blog's) Kirk Luedeke, Maine Hockey Journal's (and the World of Junior Hockey's) Nathan Fournier, and yours truly.

Needless to say, for those arguing that this is a down crop of OHL talent because of the lack of a first overall competitor, you should only need one look at this list to see otherwise. One contributor put it best. "First of all, this OHL crop is extremely difficult to rank-- the margin between multiple players is razor thin, and I would expect the top-10 to further change/switch up by season's end with the kind of surge Matt Puempel has had, improved play from Nicklas Jensen of late, whether smaller players will wear down during the dog days of winter and so on. (This was a) very tough exercise to pull off."

Just as a refresher as to how the list was derived, all the above sent me lists. These lists were inputted into excel and averaged out. All comments come from the contributors, but will remain anonymous.

Here's the list.

10. Vincent Trocheck - Saginaw Spirit
Received Votes From: 2 out of 6
Highest Placement: 8th (twice)
Preliminary Ranking: Honorable Mention
Comments: Trocheck's ranking provides proof as to how split this polling was. Here's a guy receiving votes from only one third of the contributors, yet he makes the top 10. "I wish he was a bit bigger, but I absolutely love the package he brings to the ice. He does a little bit of everything and has the offensive skill to play more than just an energy role in the NHL," says one contributor. "(He) can bring a mean streak to the ice as well. Not afraid to drop the gloves if needed," adds another contributor. For those that didn't rank him, it was a case of his lack of size and perhaps undefined role at the next level.

9. Vladislav Namestnikov - London Knights
Received Votes From: 3 out of 6
Highest Placement: 6th
Preliminary Ranking: Honorable Mention
Comments: Namestnikov may have gotten the same number of votes he did last time around, but it was enough to crack the list this time. It was his overall offensive skill set that sold contributors. "I think his overall talent, hockey sense and familiarity with North American hockey will make him a highly sought-after commodity on draft day. In terms of pure ability and upside, Khokhlachev is better, but I think Namestnikov is a better bet with the intangibles." Interestingly enough, another contributor feels Namestnikov to be the better of the two Russian prospects. "Despite being on an underachieving team, I don't think NHL teams will be afraid of selecting him." Yet another contributor isn't sold. "I think he's a good prospect, but I prefer some of the other players available. As a late 1992, I'd like to see more consistency. Why can't he be held accountable as part of the reason why the Knights have struggled (especially offensively)?"

8. Daniel Catenacci - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Received Votes From: 4 out of 6
Highest Placement: 7th
Preliminary Ranking: Honorable Mention
Comments: Catenacci is definitely getting more love this time around, after being held off the list with one vote on the preliminary list. It's his highly competitive nature that has some contributors impressed. "I'm really not sure what type of NHL player he is, but he's a very aggressive and competitive player. If the Greyhounds didn't have him, they'd be running down near the level of the Barrie Colts," says one media member. Another adds, "I wasn't too impressed with him in my multiple viewings last year, but this season seems to be night and day in contrast. He outworks almost every other player on the ice." However, one contributor is somewhat concerned with his ability to play in the NHL. "'I'm just a little concerned about whether or not his creativity will allow him to be a Top 6 guy at the next level, because he'll have a hard time being a checker at his size."

7. Alexander Khokhlachev - Windsor Spitfires
Received Votes From: 5 out of 6
Highest Placement: 5th
Preliminary Ranking: 5th
Comments: Left off the Top Prospect's Game roster, you have to wonder if us (the OHL fanatics) are overrating him in comparison with NHL scouts. The obvious reason is his size, as one contributor points out. "He's small at a position where NHL teams seem to be looking for the next Ryan Getzlaf, which is probably why he's not generating nearly as much NHL attention." But what he lacks in size, he makes up for in dazzle, as one contributor points out. "(He's) a dynamic game-breaker that has the stuff NHL teams drool over. If he can maintain the offensive pace over the season's second half, then I think he moves up the list. He's a better offensive player than Namestnikov, but I want to make sure he can sustain it." However one contributor thinks the size concerns are a bunch of hooey. "He may be small, but he doesn't play small. He's fearless on the ice and isn't afraid to take a hit to score a goal or create a scoring chance."

6. Matt Puempel - Peterborough Petes
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 4th (twice)
Preliminary Ranking: 4th
Comments: Interesting enough, Puempel falls on this list, despite the fact that he's significantly improved his play over the course of the last month. Perhaps it's his lack of flash that has him underrated. Or as one contributor put it, "he won't be an overly dynamic pro, but if he's paired with a good center, he'll get his lot of goals." The word goal scorer obviously came up in every contributor's response. One loves the fact he can score in different ways. "This kid just knows how to score. Whether it is breaking down the wing, or going hard to the net." Another likes the fact he's stepped up lately. "This guy was not the CHL's ROY by accident, and he's scoring with the best of them. The big question is whether he can keep it up and maintain the intensity levels of late, but he's on the right track."

5. Dougie Hamilton - Niagara IceDogs
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 2nd
Preliminary Ranking: 6th
Comments: OK, why don't we start off with a comment from the guy who rated him 2nd, who admits that he's not perfect, but the upside is salivating. "He's got some warts, but again, I keep going to the size, skating ability and the fact that he's been putting up points this season. His developmental curve seems to be vertical, and I can't imagine he'll be on the board very long in June." However, one contributor has a nearly opposite view. "He's a big guy that does a lot of things fairly well, but doesn't really have any particularly dominant traits to his game. (That's why) I'm a little leery of what type of role he will have in the NHL." But it's certainly hard to deny his combination of size and skill on the back end. "He'll probably be 6'5 and 220lbs when he's playing in the NHL, and with his strong skating ability and improving two way play, I can't help but wonder if he's a candidate for the top 5 of the draft on some team's lists. A virtual Brent Seabrook clone."

4. Ryan Strome - Niagara IceDogs
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 2nd
Preliminary Ranking: 8th
Comments: Strome is the biggest riser from our preliminary list, which should come as no surprise. He's one of five guys on this list to receive a vote for the top 2 from the OHL. How about a comment from the guy put him 2nd? "I LOVE this kid. He has franchise player potential in the NHL. Just a really dynamic center who makes those around him better. Every time I've seen him play, he's been the best player on the ice. With a really good Top Prospect's Game, I think this guy starts getting top 5 consideration. He'd be up there already if there wasn't a hesitation due to his sudden improvement this season." Another contributor agrees, "I think he'll be this year's Ryan Johansen- a player who will be a higher pick than most project and surprise on draft day."

3. Brandon Saad - Saginaw Spirit
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 2nd (three times)
Preliminary Ranking: 2nd
Comments: Saad falls one spot on our midseason ranking, despite his constantly good production with one of the league's top teams. "I see a lot of potential. A guy with good hands, offensive instincts and intriguing size. But I think he'll take time to develop. A lot of people see that size and scoring ability and hope he becomes a power forward. I don't see it and I think his play along the boards and in traffic needs improvement. He reminds me a lot of James Van Riemsdyk in his draft year, and it's taken JVR some time to adjust to the NHL," says on contributor. Meanwhile, one contributor sees him as a safe pick, but has him lower down because he's not as flashy as some other options. "Saad at 6 is more a testament to the OHL draft pool than me not liking Saad, although I do think he is a little overrated. He's an above-average skater whose good physically on the forecheck and in the high traffic areas and has solid finishing ability, but we're looking at a guy who could be a top six forward at the next level IMO, and nothing more. You always bet on the tools and ceiling IMO and guys like Hamilton, Strome and Koko have those ahead of safer guys like Saad."

2. Ryan Murphy - Kitchener Rangers
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 1st
Preliminary Ranking: 1st
Comments: Murphy falls down to the number two spot, after being ranked first in our preliminary rankings. But don't take that as us believing he's falling in the draft. One contributor sums it up perfectly. "Murphy is a smooth skating, excellent puckhandling defenceman who may have been overlooked by NHL teams 10 years ago because of his size. But times have changed and no reason Murphy won't be a high pick in June." One contributor believes he may have the highest ceiling of any player in the draft. "He's a guy who has the potential to not be good, but potentially an elite defenseman at the next level. IMO there is no other player in the OHL pool who is even close to making that sort of claim to have that kind of potential. In regards to his defense, I think it will come because he's a smart hockey player. The hockey IQ is there and you see it outside the defensive zone, it's just not developed into his game which I think it will with time. There are always small, skilled guys who you say, O well if X, Y and Z go right maybe he'll be something but their skill sets are never to the degree Murphy's is. He's special and that's why he's my #1 over a guy like Landeskog whose ceiling may be an average first line forward whose good defensively." However, one contributor still sees him behind Hamilton. "I think the defensive positioning/play is improved enough to take him with a high pick, but the size deficit puts him just a hair behind Hamilton in terms of NHL projection in my opinion."

1. Gabriel Landeskog - Kitchener Rangers
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 1st (five times)
Preliminary Ranking: 3rd
Comments: A nearly unanimous first ranking for the Swedish captain of the Kitchener Rangers. Last time Landeskog received two votes for first. This time, he gets five. Why the increase? "Honestly, I wasn't solid on his NHL potential before. I didn't believe he could be a dynamic, year in/year out NHL all star. But I'm a believer now. He's ready for the NHL next year and he's going to make an impact. Probably one of the most complete players available for the draft in recent memory," says one contributor. Another agrees, "he has been moving up all season. He's probably the most complete player in all three zones. You got to like that he brings a physical presence and leadership ablitity at such a young age." I think one contributor summed it perfectly. "He's a player you win with, period." And that's why he's numero uno.

Others Receiving Votes Were:
Nicklas Jensen - Oshawa Generals (two votes)
Boone Jenner - Oshawa Generals (two votes)
Shane Prince - Ottawa 67's (two votes)
Stuart Percy - Mississauga Majors (one vote)
Mark Scheifele - Barrie Colts (one vote)
Brett Ritchie - Sarnia Sting (one vote)
Tobias Rieder - Kitchener Rangers (one vote)

Interestingly enough, Lucas Lessio received five votes last time and came in at number 7 on our preliminary list. This time, he didn't receive a single vote. Ditto for London defenseman Scott Harrington who received three votes last time, but was left off all ballots this time.

Thanks to all those who contributed!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sean Keogh's Game Report: Petes and 67's From January 7th

As some of you may recall, Sean Keogh used to contribute to this blog and still occasionally does from time to time. I met Sean while working for HockeysFuture several years ago, and he's a stand up dude. He's always been a huge OHL fan and continues to follow the league, however unfortunately he's stuck in Graduate School in Europe (perhaps I'm exaggerating about the "stuck" part). This leaves him on the outside looking in. But when he returns for the Holiday break, it's always great of him to contribute. It serves as an interesting read because of nature behind the report. Obviously Sean follows the league closely, but for the last few years, he only gets to see games live around Christmas. That means, his reports can serve as a very good account of how far players have progressed in that one year. Essentially, changes may be more obvious to him because he's not seeing them play throughout several points of the season.

Anyway, without further ado, here's his report.

This was my first time being in the stands for an OHL game this year, and for better or worse it was not a particularly competitive match-up. On paper and on the ice it was a mismatch, as the division-leading offensive juggernaut from Ottawa was up against a last placed Peterborough who has struggled all year, although less so of late. On the other hand, the two clubs met up Thursday in Peterborough for the first half of a home and home, and the game was surprisingly tight.

In the end the game was not particularly close, as the 67s took it 6-0 in what easily could have been a far worse result for the Petes. Although the play was incredibly one-sided, the 67s just could not cash in the first period. The final shots were 43-23 and if there was a scoring change counter, it would have been far more lopsided. It is always hard to watch the players on the losing team in these games, particularly unfortunate considering Peterborough might have the better 2011 NHL Draft prospects.

As long as the 67s play as they did tonight, they are an extremely dangerous team. When the first line of Prince, Toffoli and Martindale was on the ice, the puck rarely left the Peterborough zone. With the blueline back to full health, and Mrazek more than capable of bailing his team out as well, the 67s are a fairly complete team behind their dominant top line. Peterborough on the other hand looked overwhelmed and out of sync, and really nobody on their club stood out positively in this game.

Ottawa 67's

Tyler Toffoli – Drafted by Los Angeles
The triggerman on the top line, Toffoli was constantly dangerous all night, scoring one goal and assisting on another. He easily could have had a couple more goals too, hitting at least one post and constantly buzzing around the net. His goal was a classic goal scorer’s play, digging a puck out of a scramble in front, dragging it to safety and ripping it high. He also had a couple of nice breaks on the penalty kill, drawing a penalty on one. There is a lot to like in his game, and he is a well-rounded and competitive junior player, but as an NHL prospect it is really all about his goal scoring ability, particularly thanks to his shot. Many times tonight he got himself open off the cycle work of his linemates and wound up for a shot. Other times he was more involved in creating the play, and I think it is important for him to stay aggressive.

Ryan Martindale – Drafted by Edmonton
The pivot on the top line, Martindale was like his linemates constantly dangerous, picking up the sixth goal for the 67s late in the game. Of all the chances he created for or received from his linemates, the goal was actually one of the less impressive, a weak backhander in front of the net off a slick pass from Prince. He looks a step quicker and more assertive than last year. Had a number of nice plays making quick cuts into the middle, but seemed to rip the shot high or wide every time. Cycled well with his linemates, uses his reach better now, and finds guys effectively, but there is always something just a tad missing. It will be interesting to see if Edmonton signs him this year or if he gets another year in the OHL in 2011-12.

Shane Prince – 2011 Draft Eligible
The draft eligible member of the 67s top line, Prince had an excellent game, picking up three assists, creating a ton of chances and being named first star. He set up Nesbitt beautifully for the first goal, was involved in Toffoli’s snipe, and made a slick pass to Martindale for his. The top line was running through him tonight most of all, and the puck was on his stick a ton. Quick dish passes, give and gos, it was a fairly impressive display. I saw Prince a handful of times live last year and was not overly impressed. His skating has clearly improved significantly. But even in this game he was not really burning people with speed but rather quick darting moves and agile cuts. His physical tools are not exceptional in general, not an amazing shot or great size or superb hands, but his anticipation is off the charts. One of the reasons the line was so effective is because Prince in particular, but Toffoli and Martindale as well, simply won so many races and cut off so many passes from the Petes that they regained control all game. Prince is clearly an intense player who demands a lot of himself. The line was a bit snakebitten in the first, and a couple of times he banged his stick against the boards out of frustration. There has been a lot of debate about Prince’s NHL potential, and I will reserve judgment on that until I get a few more live views this month.

Dalton Smith – Drafted by Columbus
Smith had a solid game, chipping in a short-handed goal and skating on the second line with overagers Thomas Nesbitt and Cody Lindsay. The goal was a nice drive to the net, although Smith only had to overpower Lino Martschini, a 5’5”, 126lbs import from Switzerland, to pick up a rebound on a shot from Marc Zanetti. He had a handful of other scoring chances down low. The hands and skating did not look any better than last year, but he played a solid game overall. Sometimes Smith seems to get lost looking for hits, and finding the right balance between offence, defence and physical play remains elusive, though he can contribute an all-round game when he is on, and for the most part he was in this game.

Cody Ceci – 2012 Draft Eligible
A late 1993 birthday, Ceci looks ready to be drafted. He was skating on the second pairing with Marc Zanetti all game, playing in all situations and performing confidently and competently. I like Ceci as a prospect because he is so well-rounded, and already has a pretty solid build. His skating has improved and it will be interesting to see how much further his game can improve before the draft next year.

Sean Monahan – 2013 Draft Eligible
This was my first proper look at Monahan, who is having a solid rookie season playing on the third line for the 67s. He was quite good in this game, setting up two goals, one for Ben Dubois, and another for Tyler Graovac. The latter in particular was the result of a nice play along the boards, give and go at the point, and dish to Groavac down low. Another young player with a solid build, he is a remarkably well-rounded prospect for somebody who only turned 16 a few months ago.

Petr Mrazek – Drafted by Detroit
It was not a busy night for Mrazek. He made a handful of nice saves, bailing out the 67s on one or two occasions for the shutout, but in general having a relatively easy night stopping all 23 shots he faced. Maybe his most memorable moment was when he took a hack from a Petes player and reacted by going after him, an interesting move for a goalie with two career penalty minutes.

Peterborough Petes

Austin Watson – Drafted by Nashville
Although nobody on Peterborough had a particularly good game, Watson was probably the best. He had a few good chances, a couple as a result of turnovers by the 67s, and a couple others he created himself, but could not break the shutout. As always Watson was solid in all three zones, demonstrating good defensive track and solid penalty killing work. I have seen him have better games in the past.

Matt Puempel – 2011 Draft Eligible
Not a great game for Puempel. He was relatively noticeable, but was fairly ineffective overall. When he was controlling the puck, he was knocked off the puck frequently, and lacked the skating ability to really create space for himself. I know he is a player who thrives on finding space and being in the right place, but tonight he was not particularly dangerous and had few such opportunities. He has been scoring at a great clip lately though, so it was possibly just an off night for him, like the rest of the team.

Alan Quine – 2011 Draft Eligible
I was really looking forward to seeing Quine and was disappointed I barely saw him. He was quite invisible all night. Playing on the first powerplay unit he was noticeable only because the puck was then on his stick, but at even strength he created little offence other than one impressive rush late in the game. Like with Watson and Puempel, it was not a great game to evaluate him.

Clark Seymour – 2011 Draft Eligible
Other than engaging in some rough stuff at different moments in time, Seymour was more or less invisible. The size is there, but the Petes blueline as a whole seemed to struggle with the skill and speed of the 67s, and Seymour was neither better or worse than the other defencemen in that regard.

Slater Koekkoek – 2012 Draft Eligible
A promising prospect who had a couple of nice offensive plays from the blueline. Showed off some nice vision and mobility moving in off the point showing confidence with the puck. Like with Seymour, it was a hard game to really evaluate his defensive play.

Thanks a lot to Sean for this report. Hopefully he can give us another one before he heads back to school.