Sunday, February 27, 2011

Who Needs to be Signed? A look at the June 1st Deadline

June 1st is a long ways off. That is the deadline for NHL clubs to sign their 2009 NHL Draft selections (for the majority). And while, it seems like a long ways off to be discussing which OHL players still need to be signed, it isn't. The OHL regular season ends in approximately three weeks. From there, the OHL playoffs aren't going to last much longer than a week for many of these guys. That means there's really only a month left for some of these OHL selections to prove to their NHL clubs that they deserve to be signed. For those more fortunate, they'll have upwards of two months.

Each year, NHL clubs choose to leave several of their selection unsigned. In 2009, 7 OHL players were not retained by NHL clubs (headlined by Bryan Cameron and Jacob Muzzin). Last year, 10 OHL players were not retained (headlined by Nathan Moon and James Livingston). It's a tough decision, but in today's cap world (with the contract maximum) there isn't enough room to sign every draft pick you make. Sometimes it's an easy decision (sorry Matias Sointu), other times I'm sure it's quite difficult (and stupid, see Jake Muzzin).

With all of that in mind, I've outlined those players who have yet to receive an NHL contract...and who need one by June 1st, 2011 in order to remain property of an NHL club.

The Near Locks (remember there are no guarantees, thus the "near")

Ethan Werek - New York Rangers
A high draft pick, Werek has definitely battled injuries during his OHL career. But there is no doubting that the Fronts are a better team when he's in the line up. Offensively, the injuries may have slowed his development a bit, but he remains a quality NHL prospect IMO and a guy who still has potential to grow.

Richard Panik - Tampa Bay Lightning
Panik's OHL career might not have gone as well as Tampa may have liked, but he remains a high quality offensive player. He's no doubt, an enigma and a true boom or bust type prospect, but his potential remains to high to let go.

Casey Cizikas - New York Islanders
Cizikas has absolutely blossomed as an OHL player these past few years. He's one of the strongest two way forwards in the league and will be captaining a Memorial Cup team come close to decision time. The Islanders would be absolutely foolish to let him walk.

Marcus Foligno - Buffalo Sabres
Foligno has finally had his breakout season, in his 4th year in the OHL. He's been an absolute beast, and like Cizikas, is one of the league's premier two way players. Considering all the intangibles he brings to the table (and the family history in Buffalo), I'd say this one is about as sure a thing as you can get when it comes to signing draft picks.

Garrett Wilson - Florida Panthers
A big power forward, Wilson has improved every season he's been in the league. He and the Owen Sound Attack are looking like Memorial Cup contenders and I just can't see the Panthers giving up on the opportunity to secure a big strong forward who can put the puck in the net.

At Least a 50/50 Shot

Kenny Ryan - Toronto Maple Leafs
I've seen a lot of debate as to whether Ryan actually has to be signed by June 1st, because he was drafted out of the U.S. Development Program. But as far as I can tell, because he came to the OHL after he was drafted, he still needs to be signed. Josh Unice had to be signed two years ago and he was in the same boat (drafted out of the Under 18 program and played in the OHL the next year). For Ryan, the offensive game hasn't really developed as many had hoped, but he has a chance to develop into a quality character player because he does a lot of little things well.

Jordan Szwarz - Phoenix Coyotes
I'm really not entirely sure what type of role Szwarz would have at the next level, but he's played well enough for Saginaw this year to deserve a look. If the Yotes don't think he profiles well as an NHL player (similar to my concerns), then they may pass.

Ben Chiarot - Atlanta Thrashers
Chairot has actually developed quite nicely this year. He's come to Saginaw and has been quite possibly their best defenseman. He's got size, physicality and the offensive game has improved. I think he's the MOST likely of this list to be signed.

Cody Sol - Atlanta Thrashers
You have to wonder if Atlanta signs both Chiarot and Sol. Sol is a big beast who can push people around, but I've been disappointed with the development of his offensive game this year (which I thought might really breakout). That being said, he wasn't drafted to bring the puck up or QB the powerplay.

Scott Stajcer - New York Rangers
If he didn't hurt himself, I think he'd probably be up with the near locks section (barring he continued his strong play). This looked like Stajcer's breakout season when he hurt himself in November. He's recovering from surgery and hopes to play again this year. If he can return, play well, and do some damage in the playoffs, he may just convince the Rangers he's healthy enough to take a chance on.

Andy Bathgate - Pittsburgh Penguins
On statistical merit, Bathgate probably deserves to be down at that next level (The Unlikely). But I think he actually has a good chance to getting signed. The Bulls have been terrible this year, but Bathgate is leading them in scoring. And he's also got good bloodlines on his side (what pretty much got him drafted in the first place).

Brandon Maxwell - Colorado Avalanche
Maxwell has been good but not great for Kitchener in his two years in the OHL. He still battles consistency issues and is definitely in danger of losing his starting spot to Mike Morrison should he look shaky in the playoffs...or even down the stretch. It'll be interesting to see if Colorado takes a chance on him.

Scott Valentine - Anaheim Ducks
Considering the good season he's had, you'd have to think Valentine is a pretty good bet to get signed. He's really taken his game to the next level for Oshawa. He brings a lot of things to the ice that NHL clubs want in their defenseman. But stranger things have happened.

David Shields - St. Louis Blues
Shields is what he is. A solid, stay at home defenseman who's Erie's most important defender behind Tyler Hostetter (IMO). The question to Blues management he big enough stand out to warrant a contract?

The Unlikely

Phil Varone - San Jose Sharks
Varone has had an excellent year for Erie (after a rough start in London). But his size and a lack of really upper echelon skills makes him a real longshot at an NHL career IMO. Might be a bit rough to have him down in this area, but considering the Sharks already sent him back for an overage year, I'm guessing they just don't have a lot of faith in him as a prospect (considering they did the same thing to Julien Demers last year and then didn't sign him).

Michael Zador - Tampa Bay Lightning
Zador just hasn't developed into a capable starting netminder in the OHL. The former top OHL prospect has battled inconsistency during his career and likely will be on the outside looking in if Scott Stajcer returns from injury in Owen Sound.

Daniel Maggio - New York Rangers
Another former high OHL pick, who has never lived up to expectations. Mind you, he's turned himself into a quality OHL player, but at this point is probably a long shot to get signed.

Tyler Randell - Boston Bruins
Randell is an interesting case. He's finally started to put the puck in the net a little more this season and could have a 25 goal year (currently has 20). But the lack of development in other areas of his game, make him a longshot prospect. If the Bruins think he can develop into a serious pugilist with a bit of skill, they may sign him, but even then he doesn't have the size to be an intimidating heavyweight.

Barron Smith - Toronto Maple Leafs
Could a 19 year old who's not even an OHL regular really get signed? Stranger things have happened when dealing with 6'5 hockey players with NHL bloodlines. To be fair though, it's been injuries that have kept Smith from developing as a hockey player and not a lack of talent or desire. He missed a good chunk of last season due to a knee injury. And this season it's been shoulder issues.

The Uncertain Zone

David Pacan - Florida Panthers
While I'm fairly confident that Ryan and Maxwell need to be signed (as per the Josh Unice example), I'm completely uncertain about Pacan. The difference being that Pacan didn't play junior after he was drafted out of the CJHL. He played at the University of Vermont for a year. This might qualify him under the new CBA as someone who won't need to be signed until four years after he was drafted. But since, he's playing in the OHL now, I'm not sure what happens. His rights were recently traded to Florida, who you have to think has interest in signing him anyway since they acquired him. He has looked pretty good in his first OHL season in Niagara.

If I'm a betting man, things probably won't work out as I've outlined them. History has told us that predicting this can be difficult (after all, who would have thought a 37 goal scorer on one of the best teams in the league would have went unsigned in 2009; Bryan Cameron). A couple of the guys in that 50/50 category likely won't get signed, and just the same maybe a guy from the unlikely category does get a contract.

Who you placing your bets on?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Game Report: Greyhounds and Generals from February 18

I had a chance to watch this one last night. Even though it featured two teams heading in opposite directions (one up, one down), I figured that it'd be a good watch because of the quality of 2011 eligible talent playing.

But I was wrong. This one was pretty ugly. The Hounds were demolished by the Generals 6-1, who controlled the tempo of play (even if the Hounds outshot the Gennies) and capitalized on nearly every one of their scoring chances. It was just not a good game to assess any of the Hounds players because they were badly outplayed.

The one thing that always sticks out for me when I watch the Generals, is how balanced their scoring attack is. Every time I watch them, different players step up as the stand outs. This team is going to be damn good next year, as long as they can find a solution on defense and in net (with the pending graduations of players like de Haan, Di Salvo, Valentine, etc).

Player reports:

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

#5 - Ryan Sproul (Draft eligible in 2011)
Perhaps the player I was most excited about watching, considering how well he's been producing lately. I saw him about a month ago, where he looked fantastic. Last night was a horror story though. I'd have to imagine that was probably the worst game he's played all year. He was on the ice for four of the Generals six goals, and definitely deserved his -4 rating. He hit rock bottom in the second period (the last of the four goals he was on the ice for) when he coughed up the puck in his own end on the powerplay and the Generals scored a shortie. He tried to carry it over from behind his net, and turned it over to Andy Andreoff who slid it past Perugini. While still on the powerplay, I guess interim Coach Dave Torrie wanted to show some confidence in his young blueliner, so Sproul went back out there. Except he then tried to pass the puck up the ice from behind his own net, but ended up giving it away to Nicklas Jensen...who was luckily offside. That was the last we saw of Sproul (save a few sporadic shifts) until late in the third. It was late in the third that we finally got to see that hard shot of his, where he rang one of the post with a boomer from the point. He has to take this performance as a learning piece and move on. Hopefully this doesn't ruin any of the confidence he's gotten from his strong production of late.

#6 - Colin Miller (Draft Eligible in 2011)
If Miller were on a stronger team, I think we'd be talking about him as a possible selection. I've been impressed with him this year and he's one of those quietly effective guys (similar to a Stuart Percy in Mississauga). He was one of the few Hounds who had a decent game (had a couple nice hits, was strong defensively), but wasn't flawless as he was responsible for the first period goal by Andy Andreoff. He tried to keep the puck in at the point, but was caught pinching and the Gens went back on a 2 on 1, which Andreoff scored on. When he keeps it simple, he's a very effective player.

#7 - Daniel Catenacci (Draft Eligible in 2011)
I'm a fan, but it wasn't a good game by the Cat. He was completely neutralized by the Generals defense and wasn't really able to get anything going. The one good moment he did have was the thunderous check on Daniel Maggio against the boards, which was impressive considering the size difference.

#17 - David Broll (Draft Eligible in 2011)
I thought he was probably the best of the Hounds draft eligibles on the night. His skating looks improved since the beginning of the season, which is big for the type of power forward game he brings. He actually showed some good hands and offensive creativity that I hadn't seen from him before. In the first period, he went inside and out on a Generals defender in the slot to create a scoring chance for a teammate. He was relatively effective on the forecheck too.

#19 - Brett Findlay (Draft Eligible in 2011)
I thought Findlay had a good first period, but disappeared after that. This was the first time I've seen him play center, but he was more noticeable down the middle than he was on the wing in my previous viewings. At this point, I'm not sure he's a serious candidate to get drafted without elite size, and any real distinguishable characteristics.

#27 - Nick Cousins (Draft Eligible in 2011)
The most admirable thing about Cousins was that he was one of the few players still going hard in the third period when the game was out of reach. Unfortunately, he just wasn't very effective on the night, save for a nice rush in the first where he used a burst of speed to the outside to get past the defender for a scoring chance. Truthfully, I'm not sure I have a handle on the type of player he'll be at the next level (considering his lack of size).

Oshawa Generals

#4 - Scott Valentine (Drafted by Anaheim)
Valentine had a great game. He still doesn't have a contract from the Ducks, but with the way he's played this season, I'd be surprised if he didn't get one. He'll have to refine his approach for the next level, but the skill set is there for a quality third pairing guy in the NHL. As par for the course, Valentine had a couple of huge checks on players crossing the blueline. Bringing the puck across the blueline along the boards is like a death sentence when Valentine is on the ice. He's learned to pick his spots better this year too, as he was previously run around looking for the big hit and could get a bit lost defensively. Offensively, he did a nice job bringing the puck up ice and has improved his breakout pass and his first few steps (although he's always been a strong skater).

#11 - Alain Berger (Overage free agent)
Berger has had a good season for the Generals. Perhaps not to the level that I expected, but with the balanced scoring attack Oshawa has been employing, being third in goals on the team and on pace for 30 on the season is still solid. Berger remains most effective on the powerplay (third in the league in powerplay goals), where he scored last night (one of two on the night). He's not the most gifted skater, but he plays the game hard, he goes hard to the net and he has good hands in close. Both of his goals on the night were of that ilk. As a big body in front of the net on the powerplay, I think there's a chance he gets a look from an NHL team for a contract this offseason.

#15 - Andy Andreoff (Draft eligible in 2011, but 1991 born)
Passed over in two drafts already, Andreoff has been one of the league's most improved players this season and has a serious shot of getting drafted this year. He has the size, skill, and intensity to get a look. I thought he was Oshawa's best player on the night. The first goal he scored was beautiful, as he stole the puck off Colin Miller at his own blueline, took it all the way to the net, toe dragged around a sliding Derek Hartwick and deposited it past Chris Perugini. The second goal was just as nice, as he came in short handed, stole the puck off Ryan Sproul, and slipped the puck through Perugini's fivehole on the backhand. He was physical, he showed skill and he's made great strides this year. I think he would make a quality late round selection by an NHL club this year.

#17 - Nicklas Jensen (Draft eligible in 2011)
Jensen had a good game, even if he didn't get on the scoresheet. He finished plus three, as part of the big Andreoff and Berger line. He's definitely at his best when he's got the puck on his stick, where he's very hard to stop. His play without the puck offensively is still inconsistent (at least IMO), where at times he's a factor on the forecheck or with the cycle along the boards, but other times he isn't nearly as aggressive. But being able to keep the motor running 24/7, should be able to come to him with greater experience. He was also solid on the PK last night, where he helped to keep the Hounds at 0 for 5.

#24 - Calvin de Haan (Drafted by the New York Islanders)
Even if some people have been disappointed slightly by his offensive production this season, he's really improved in his own end. That's not to say that he's ever been a poor defender, but he's taken his defensive game to the next level this season. The Hounds were just not able to do anything offensively when de Haan was on the ice. He anticipates direction so well and is a very strong lateral and backwards skater, that he's very tough to beat to the net. He's also added a physical element to his game this year and has become tough to win battles in the corner against. I'm not one for NHL comparisons, but de Haan really reminds me of now ex Leaf, Tomas Kaberle, in the way that he approaches things offensively and defensively.

#25 - Colin Suellentrop (Draft eligible in 2011)
There are a lot of quality defenseman available from the OHL this year, and Suellentrop is right in that mix. He was very good defensively on the night, and the Hounds just couldn't really get anything past him. With his size, above average skating ability, and physical willingness, I think he's definitely an NHL draft pick. The offensive game has improved as the season has gone on too, as he slowly increases his confidence in carrying the puck up ice and making good passes out of the zone (instead of chipping it out).

#27 - Christian Thomas (Drafted by the New York Rangers)
What a season Thomas has had for the Generals. He had another solid game on the night and has 10 goals in the month of February (in 8 games). Some people look at his size and question whether he can keep up his play at the next level, but I think he definitely can. He may be small, but he's very quick, he's aggressive and he's hard to knock off the puck. He also doesn't need much room to get his shot off. These are all critical qualities for smaller players to succeed at the next level IMO. He finished the game with a goal and an assist. The goal was off a cross crease pass by Lucas Lessio, which Thomas one timed to the back of the net. He was also fantastic on the penalty kill, much like the rest of his Oshawa teammates on the night.

#38 - Lucas Lessio (Draft eligible in 2011)
This was definitely one of the better games I've seen Lessio play this season. From what I've been hearing around the league, he seems to have really ironed out some of those consistency issues in the past few months and is playing harder every game. Right now, his game offensively still revolves around his speed. He's very quick (especially those first few steps) and he's aggressive in using his speed, either with the puck on his stick or in trying to beat defenders to a loose puck. He needs to work on improving his play around the boards and in using his teammates, but I still think he's got a lot of potential. He did make a very nice pass to Christian Thomas for his goal.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Top 10 - Players in Consideration for the Red Tilson Trophy

Thanks so much to everyone that replied to the request for ideas for this week's list. So many great ideas, but I had to pick one (although I've saved a few for later too, so that they may be future top 10 lists). With the season winding down (heck there's just over a month left of the regular season), I felt that the most compelling idea was that of the top contenders for the OHL MVP, otherwise known as the Red Tilson Trophy.

Just some general stats about the award...

In the last 20 years:

1 goaltender has won the award (Andrew Raycroft, 1999-2000)

1 defenseman has won the award (Brian Campbell, 1998-1999)

3 first year draft eligible players have won the award (Tyler Seguin, 2009-2010, David Legwand, 1997-1998, Eric Lindros, 1990-1991)

0 overagers have won the award

6 players have come from the top team in a conference

13 players have come from the top team in the division

3 players have come from a team outside home ice advantage in the first round (but none in the past 10 years)

8 players led the league in scoring

16 players were inside the top 5 in scoring

2 forwards were outside the top 10 in scoring (Brad Boyes was 21st in scoring for the Western Conference leading Plymouth Whalers & Alyn McCauley was 15th in scoring for the East Division leading Ottawa 67's)

With that in mind, here's the list.

10. Mavric Parks - Saginaw Spirit
Parks certainly has the odds against him. Only one goaltender has ever won the award and no overager has ever won it. Parks is both. But the Spirit have been sensational this year (minus the past month) and Parks has been the biggest reason for that IMO. The Spirit relied upon the great goaltending of Edward Pasquale last year and since being acquired in the offseason, Parks has given them the same type of performance. Standards were meant to be broken, so who's to say Parks can't be the first overager to win the award?

9. Jason Akeson - Kitchener Rangers
As mentioned, no overager has ever won this award. But Akeson has been sensational all season long for Kitchener. The team needed offensive players to step up when it was learned that Skinner and Morin wouldn't be coming back. Akeson was that guy. The team needed someone to keep the offense going when Gabriel Landeskog was out with an ankle injury (and at the WJC's). Akeson was that guy. He's been a consistent offensive performer this season and along with Parks, has to be the top contender for the Leo Lalonde Trophy, at the very least.

8. Christian Thomas - Oshawa Generals
Thomas has a lot of things going for him. He's playing for a team that has to be a near lock for home ice in the first round (at this point). He's second in the league in goals and has a good shot of finishing in the top 5 of scoring by season's end (with the pace he's been on lately). The Generals are such a young team and Thomas has been the steady, veteran presence for that group. On the other hand, history tells us the voters do favor those who play for division leading teams, and those who finish inside the top 5 of league scoring (which Thomas currently is outside of).

7. Mark Visentin - Niagara IceDogs
The Dogs have had a sensational season and winning this award would be absolutely fantastic for Visentin. For all the flak he's taken for his WJC performance, it would be great to shut up his naysayers. After all, Visentin does have the best stats among OHL goaltenders, currently leading in GAA and SV%. All this in front of a relatively young and inexperienced defense in Niagara. But the question is, who's the better candidate amongst IceDog players? Visentin or Ryan Strome? History tells us the voters favor players like Strome.

6. Scott Wedgewood - Plymouth Whalers
There might not be a goaltender in the OHL who deserves this award more than Wedgewood. The Whalers have been excellent this season to the surprise of many (cough, me, cough) and the Devils draft pick has been a huge part of that. The Whalers look like a strong possibility for home ice advantage in the first round (especially with the way they're playing lately) and he's got the 5th best GAA in the league. But again, how many goaltenders have won this award?

5. Tyler Toffoli - Ottawa 67's
2nd in league scoring, 1st in goal scoring, on a team who leads their division. Sounds like a recipe for the Red Tilson. No doubt about it, Tyler Toffoli has been one of the best players in the league this season. The Toffoli, Prince, Martindale line might be one of the best in the entire CHL. But maybe that's the problem. Is Toffoli the league MVP, or is that line the MVP? On any different night, Prince or Martindale might be the best player on that team. With his triggerman feeding him the puck, is he really the league's most valuable?

4. J.P. Anderson - Mississauga Majors
This one is a tough one for me. On one hand, is Anderson really the best goaltender in the league, on a strong and well structured defensive team? I'd probably say no. But the Majors are the best team in the league and Anderson is probably their most important player. Look no further than the performance of Mikael Audette this season. If the Majors hold off the Dogs for top spot in the league, Anderson has a really good shot. If not, then he's probably not nearly as strong a contender.

3. Ryan Ellis - Windsor Spitfires
Really, Ellis has been a man among boys this season. The Spitfires may not be leading the conference as they have in the past, but they could still walk away with their division, and at the very least, home ice advantage in round 1. With such a young defense and shaky goaltending, Ellis has been the pillar of consistency as the war hardened (or at least Memorial Cup hardened) veteran. Ellis is on pace for a similar offensive season as Brian Campbell had in his MVP year, and is currently 6th in the league in points per game. Wouldn't it be great for Ellis to win this award in his OHL swan song?

2. Ryan Strome - Niagara IceDogs
Could we really see back to back draft eligible players take home this award? It certainly seems likely. Strome has been a consistent offensive performer all season long and has recently taken over the scoring lead from Tyler Toffoli. The Dogs are now only 4 points back of Mississauga for the top spot in the East (and the entire league). Could voters really ignore the type of season and the type of impact Strome has had for Niagara, if they end up on top of the league?

1. Joey Hishon - Owen Sound Attack
The Owen Sound Attack have been so good this year, and so good lately, that Hishon has to be considered the front runner for this award, at this moment (IMO). While he's not top 5 in league scoring right now (he's 6th), he's actually tops in points per game, which suggests that he should make the top 5 by season's end. He's also a more veteran player who's had his ups and his downs in this league, making his victory of this award all the more sweet. Owen Sound has the Western Conference lead right now, and by season's end, there's a good chance they could lead the entire league. Both history, and talent put this award in Hishon's favor.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Top 10 - Your Ideas WANTED!

I did this last year and got a ton of good responses, so I'm hoping you're all up to the task again.

I'm looking to use one of your ideas for a Sunday Top 10 article. I've covered a ton of different topics with these lists and it's always good to get a fresh idea.

You can leave your idea(s) as a comment or send me an email.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Game Report: Majors and Spitfires from February 3

It's been a while since I've seen the Spitfires play, so I decided to watch the Majors take on the Spitfires tonight on the Action Pack. Watching games on TV isn't ideal, but it's better than nothing when you haven't seen a team play in a while.

This was a great game and one that would have been even better to see live. A ton of energy, and it almost seemed like a playoff game. It was a tight battle until the start of the third period, when the Spitfires pulled ahead 3-1 (thanks to back to back goals from Taylor Carnevale). But for the second straight game, the Spits gave up a solid lead (lost to Kitchener on Sunday after being up 4-0). The Majors stormed back late in the third period to tie it, and then won it in the shootout on the strength of goals from former Spits Justin Shugg and Marc Cantin.

Player Reports

Mississauga St. Michael's Majors

#2 - Justin Shugg (Drafted By Carolina)
Shugg had some good rushes and showed some good speed tonight, but was largely unable to get through the Windsor defense to the net. While the first line of Cizikas, Smith-Pelly and DeSousa has clicked very well, I think Dave Cameron has had some difficulty finding consistent playing partners for Shugg this year (in terms of chemistry). He scored a beauty shootout goal though, leg fake, avoid the pokecheck, back hand passed Campbell who had sprawled out on the pokecheck.

#5 - Stuart Percy (Draft eligible in 2011)
Percy played as usual, solid game at both ends of the ice. You know what you're getting from him, night in and night out. He had an outstanding shift in overtime where he controlled the pace of play, deked out the Windsor unit, put a good shot on net, got his own rebound, found an open teammate for the point shot (although it was stymied). It often makes me think there is more offense to his game then he shows on a nightly basis.

#11 - Casey Cizikas (Drafted by New York Islanders)
Cizikas had a quiet game. He had a couple nice rushes, but was largely ineffective on the night. Which was the case for most of Missy's big offensive guns on the night.

#13 - Maxim Kitsyn (Drafted by Los Angeles Kings)
I've seen him play some really solid games so far in his OHL career. There's no doubt he's been a bit snake bitten lately, despite producing good opportunities. He was pretty much invisible in the game though, so hopefully he's not losing confidence based on his lack of scoring success in recent games.

#16 - Joseph Cramarossa (Draft eligible in 2011)
This was the best game I've ever seen Cramarossa play. The first Majors goal was a thing of beauty. Took the puck at the red line, exploded into the Spits end, side stepped a check/ran over Nick Ebert along the boards, took it to the net, toe dragged around a sliding Ryan Ellis and put a wrist shot over Campbell's pads. He was also involved in the two other Majors goals with nice plays. On the 2nd goal he dipsy doodled into the slot and made a one handed pass to Schoenmakers at the side of the net for the goal as he was about to lose his balance. On the 3rd goal, he took the puck hard to the net, cut to the middle and used the defender as a screen for a weak shot, but Schoenmakers put home the rebound. Cramarossa is a hard nosed player (also fought on the night, but didn't do as well), who has more offensive upside than his numbers would indicate. If he was on a team where he was getting more ice time (specifically powerplay time), he might be a guy people might talk more about.

#34 - J.P. Anderson (Signed by San Jose Sharks)
JP had a really solid game. He really kept his team in the game when they were getting outplayed for portions of the 1st and 2nd period. He made a tremendous save on Kassian as he broke through the Majors defense and went in on Anderson, went backhand, but Anderson sprawled to make the save. He never gives up on the play and uses his athleticism to make some big saves. His rebound control has come a long way this year too. It still needs work for the next level, but tonight was evidence of his hard work, as he controlled his rebounds really well (which is key against Windsor and Ryan Ellis' point shot). The third Windsor goal was a bit weak, wrist shot through the body, but he played well and got the W.

Windsor Spitfires

#6 - Ryan Ellis (Drafted by Nashville Predators)
Ellis had a tremendous game at both ends of the ice. He absolutely laid out Jamie Wise with an open ice hit in the first period. Offensively, he was bringing up the puck very confidently. He made a tremendous play on Windsor's first goal by alluding the forecheck in his own end (along the wall), sucked in the defense by being patient and found Jeff Brown crossing the redline with a pass that ended up as a tic-tac-toe goal by Kuhnhackl. Defensively, he had a play that really showed his maturity as a defender. Late in the game the Spits came in with numbers, but the play was broken up until the puck bounced back into the slot. Ellis could have MAYBE had an opportunity to get it to put a shot on net, but instead recognized that if he missed, it'd be a two on one the other way, so he peeled back, skated hard and negated the 2 on 1 and the scoring chance. He's been a man among boys this year.

#8 - Craig Duininck (Draft eligible in 2011)
Duininck had a really solid game on the night. He's someone who's really growing on me as an NHL prospect. He's big, physical and a mobile defender (somebody built to play defense in today's NHL). He had one really impressive defensive play on Justin Shugg, as he came across the blueline full speed ahead, but Duininck came up to challenge him, skated with him, angled him off to the corner, and stripped him of the puck, starting the breakout the other way. Offensively, he saw limited time on the secondary PP unit, and is starting to get his shot through to the net more.

#14 - Tom Kuhnhackl (Drafted by Pittsburgh Penguins)
He had a very good game. Was all over the ice, constantly around the puck. Tic tac toe to open Windsor's scoring, where he finished off a play by going hard to the net. Around the net was where he seemed to be doing most of his damage largely, and also picked up a couple of assists finding Carnevale open in the slot and on the wing for goals 2 and 3.

#19 - Zack Kassian (Drafted by Buffalo Sabres)
Kassian had no points, but had a solid game. He was robbed by Anderson a couple of times, including when he broke through Mississauga's defense, got Anderson out of position on the deke to the backhand, but couldn't get it over his sprawling body. Along the boards, he's a man among boys in this league. On the night, he was very tough to get the puck off of, had a couple nice hits and a nice fight. Last year he really struggled to find that balance between physicality and offense. This year, he's been able to put together more consistent performances and understands his role on the ice. He's there to intimidate, but he's also there to score.

#22 - Nick Ebert (Draft eligible in 2012)
Ebert was exposed on the Cramarossa goal (went for the big hit and missed), but has so much potential and is having a great year. His skating is excellent and he has the skill to be a solid two way defender. I like his aggressiveness without the puck for such a young player. With added strength, that element will likely only improve (in quantity and quality), which will really nicely compliment his strong offensive game.

#77 - Taylor Carnevale (Draft eligible in 2011, but 3rd year eligible)
He might be making a case for a selection this year in the draft. I'm not exactly sure where he'd fit in at the next level, but he's solid both ways, good on faceoffs, and is a heady offensive player. He made a nice pass to Kuhnhackl in transition for the first goal, and showed good speed on the 3rd goal by coming down the wing and beating Anderson.

#89 - Alexander Khokhlachev (Draft eligible in 2011)
The Khok had a rough game, the worst I've seen him play this year. He was completely taken out of the play as the Majors didn't give him time and space to work. He was incapable of winning any battles along the boards. On the positive, his defensive play is really coming around and he made a couple nice plays in his own end to take the puck off a Majors player. But he's one of the youngest players in the draft. He obviously needs to add size. The skill and dynamic nature of his offensive game are there, even if they weren't on this night.

#1 - Jack Campbell (Drafted by Dallas Stars)
Campbell had a rough game, even if he only gave up three goals. His rebound control was really poor, especially on low shots. He was kicking out juicy rebounds into the slot, left, right and center. On the first Majors goal, he didnt come out far enough to challenge Cramarossa, and he was caught flat footed going right to left. On the 2nd goal, he was beat side to side by Schoenmakers, on what looked like a minor scoring chance. Where it was the poor rebound control that led to the third Majors goal by Schoenmakers, as Cramarossa got a weak shot away in the slot, that was kicked right back out into play and Schoenmakers put it into the back of the net. He also looked bad in shootout as he fell for the same move twice (the Crosby leg fake to the backhand) by Shugg and Cantin. Campbell needed to be better in a game where his team probably deserved to win.

I Guess You've Heard the News

Well I guess you've heard the news by now, but Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Jerry D'Amigo is heading to the Kitchener Rangers to finish out the 2010/2011 OHL season.

This has long been speculated, but I think I speak on behalf of most Kitchener fans when I say that it comes as a surprise now, this late in the season. Definitely a good surprise though.

The question is...just how much of an impact will he make? And who do you see him playing with?

What do you think OHL fans?