The game started out like so many of the past few games for the Regina team. The young, inexperienced, last-place Moose Jaw squad had a 2-0 lead near the end of the first period. At that point Victor Bartley scored a goal, which seemed to spark the home team. It is a rare occasion when the Regina team can score 5 goals in a game without any points from Jordan Eberle.
One does not often see a Western Hockey League team with no 20-year-olds on its roster, but that is the case in Moose Jaw. They are a young team, but the question is whether or not the young players will develop into top end Western Hockey League talent. I believe that they have at least three 16 -year-olds who will contribute in a substantial way in the club's future; Nathan MacMaster, Dylan McIlrath, and Quinton Howden. For the NHL entry draft of 2010 I would identify Howden as a priority prospect, and therefore I will provide a brief description here. I will also provide a report on Matt Strueby, who is a prospect for the 2009 NHL entry draft.
Quinton Howden (Moose Jaw Warriors, draft eligible 2010)
Quinton certainly has all the tools to be a top three round selection in next year's NHL entry draft. He was the first overall selection in the WHL bantam draft. It is hard to know just how good Quinton will be in the future, but with his size and skating ability he should develop well. Playing for a young team has meant that he is used in all situations, power-play and penalty killing. In terms of his offensive skill level I would like to see more creativity and imagination -- hopefully this will develop over time as he matures. Physically, Quinton does not shy away from giving and taking hits. In this game, he was hit hard a couple of times and left himself vulnerable. In my opinion, he needs to be more prepared to take a hit. I look forward to watching Quinton play next year (his draft year) and hope that he fulfills his vast potential.
Matt Strueby (Regina Pats, #173 CSB)
Matt's offensive production has improved significantly since last season. However, just like his team, he has struggled to score recently. If my math is correct, he has only scored two goals in his last 20 games. This is a concern because Matt's strongest attribute is his offensive skill level. I would describe him as an opportunist, in a positive sense of the term. He scores the majority of his goals from around the net and is not afraid to get in traffic to score. To use a hockey cliché he has a "nose for the net ” -- in other words he uses his instincts to get open near the net in order to take advantage of passes and/or rebounds. In this game he was called for goaltender interference on two occasions. While it is not good to put your team shorthanded, it is necessary for Matt to play close to the net in order for him to be effective. Matt's overall skating ability is adequate, as he is agile and has decent speed -- but no "extra gear ”. He does appear to need to improve his overall strength, as it would help his balance when fighting for the puck. In terms of defensive zone awareness he demonstrates commitment and uses good body positioning to contain opponents. Although I would not recommend drafting Matt at this point, it will be important to monitor his development because he could be a late bloomer. Matt could be the type of player who has a breakout season as a 20-year-old.