Sunday, March 15, 2009

Swift Current Broncos 4 Regina Pats 2

Game Notes:
This game was meaningless in terms of playoff positioning, yet there was still quite a bit of energy expended by both teams. The Pats were outshot badly (32-12) but maintained a 2-1 lead late in the second period. The Broncos tied the game in the last minute of the second period, and then totally dominated the third period.

Prospect Notes:
On this blog last February 12th I provided a detailed report on Swift Current Bronco prospects Cody Eakin and Joel Rogers. From this game, I will just make a few comments on how these players performed.

Despite the fact that this game meant little in the standings I thought that Cody Eakin worked hard for the entire game. Late in the second period he scored a nice goal with a backhand while shooting in stride. Cody looks to be developing nice chemistry with linemate Geordie Wudrick. I like Cody for his competitiveness, hockey sense, and overall offensive contribution. However, it would be nice to see him develop a smoother skating stride and to increase his speed. At the end of January, Cody had 17 goals and 9 assists -- at which time I questioned his playmaking and puck distribution. Since then, he has 7 goals and 15 assists, perhaps a sign that he is using his linemates more effectively. Judging from this game I would still say that Cody could improve his overall vision of the ice and playmaking ability. Without knowing the overall depth of the 2009 Entry Draft, I will estimate that Cody will be drafted in the third round.

As far as Joel Rogers is concerned, I thought he played a similar role as he did when I saw him play in February. His skating style does have upside, but his overall game contribution is minimal right now. For me, I did not see enough improvement in his game to upgrade his draft status. Possible late round consideration only.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Brandon Wheat Kings 2 Regina Pats 1

Game Notes:
This was a game that Regina should have been in a position to win. Brandon was without two of its better players in Scott Glennie and Keith Aulie. It was also Brandon's fourth game in five nights. Much of the game was played on the perimeter as both teams played well defensively. The two Brandon goals were a result of costly turnovers by Regina's defense.

Prospect Notes:
In this game I focused my attention on Brayden Schenn and Brodie Melnychuk of the Brandon Wheat Kings, who are both prospects for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Brayden Schenn (Brandon Wheat Kings, #5 CSB)
Brayden is a prospect who has been watched closely for the past two seasons, and for good reason. He is a definite priority prospect and is the best player I have seen who is eligible for the 2009 draft. Brayden has a smooth skating stride but does not have an elite level of speed. The strongest aspect of his skating ability is his ability to turn, pivot, and change directions quickly -- he also has very good balance and is difficult to knock off the puck. In terms of offensive skill I would say that Brayden has great instincts and is very creative. He handles the puck smoothly -- he seems to know what he wants to do with the puck before he gets it. Brayden "thinks the game ” at a higher level than most. During the course of this season Brayden's offensive statistics have improved -- he started slowly but his numbers have improved as the season has progressed. In the neutral zone he has the instinctive ability to get open and support the puck. However, don't be fooled by the fact that he is a talented finesse player. On one shift in this game he engaged in an intense one-on-one battle for the puck with Colten Teubert (a strong young man), and was not overmatched physically. It was a treat to watch these two talented players compete at a high-level of intensity. Earlier in the season I witnessed another example of Brayden's competitiveness when he fought Garrett Mitchell -- it was a good fight that ended in a draw. Brayden is the type of player that is respected by both teammates and opponents -- he plays the game right. In the defensive zone, he uses good body positioning to contain opponents. Overall, he plays the game with confidence and composure and appears to have leadership abilities -- the “lead by example” type of player. He is used during key situations in the game as his coach obviously has confidence in him. On a couple of occasions in this game he tried a little too hard to draw penalties -- he didn't "dive”, but slight embellishment was involved. To me, this seemed out of character for Brayden as perhaps he was simply tired after playing four games in five nights. As for the 2009 Entry Draft, I would find it difficult to pass over Brayden -- definite top 10 pick.

Brodie Melnychuk (Brandon Wheat Kings, #115 CSB)
Brodie is not a smooth skater with a slightly knock-need skating style. As far as overall speed he is average, with the potential to improve as he gains leg strength. For a kid his size he is actually quite mobile. In terms of offensive skill I would say that this is not part of Brodie's portfolio right now -- and likely won't be in the future. What I appreciated about his game is that he did not over handle the puck, didn't turn the puck over, and made smart and accurate passes. Despite his size (6'3") I would not describe Brodie as a physical presence. In terms of his defensive play Brodie could improve his body positioning when approaching opposing forwards -- he sometimes puts himself at a disadvantage by not staying between his opponent and his own net. However, he is extremely effective in using his stick in defensive situations to intercept passes and to break-up plays. Sometimes he relies too much on using his stick, instead of using his body to contain opponents. Next year Brodie should be an important player on his team that will be in the Memorial Cup. Brodie merits consideration for the 2009 Entry Draft in the later rounds. One thing to consider is that in the past, players in Brandon have had a tendency to develop to their full potential.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Regina Pats 4 Medicine Hat Tigers 3

Game Notes:
In the first period Sean Ringrose scored two goals to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead, and it appeared they were well on their way to an easy victory. The turning point in the game came late in the second period with Medicine Hat leading 3-1, when Matt Strueby scored a goal to close the gap to one. The Pats played their best hockey in the third period, scoring two goals to secure the well-deserved 4-3 victory.

Prospect Notes:
In the game I focused my attention on Linden Vey and Matthew Konan of the Tigers, who are both prospects for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Linden Vey (Medicine Hat Tigers, #108 CSB)
This is my first viewing of Linden this season, which is inadequate to give a proper evaluation. Linden is averaging one point per game in his draft season, which is substantial considering the Western Hockey League is not a high-scoring league. His overall skating ability is average. It would be nice to see him lengthen his stride. He currently lacks an extra gear to give him the speed necessary to let him improve. Linden is a maximum effort skater, who works hard on the forecheck and while backchecking. He would benefit if he would change gears in stride in order to give his attack more variety -- he seems to be skating the same speed constantly. His overall offensive skill level is advanced by his puck handling and passing skills. Linden sees the ice well and passes the puck to the right person at the right time. His coach obviously has confidence in him as he is used on the power play -- and even played on the point on a couple of occasions. Linden distributes the puck well. In one-on-one situations while battling for the puck he has a tendency to get knocked off balance -- needs to improve his overall strength. There are no obvious shortcomings in his defensive zone awareness, as he maintains proper positioning for the most part. Linden does not have the size or strength currently to give him a physical presence in the game. He does compete and appears to have a strong work ethic. The coach uses Linden in key situations, as he played in the final minute while trailing the game by one goal. If an NHL team is looking for a skilled player with hockey sense in the late rounds they could consider drafting Linden. To me, he would be drafted higher if his skating improved. Right now he would be a late round consideration.

MatthewKonan (Medicine Hat Tigers, #197 CSB)
Matthew is in his second year in the Western Hockey League. The first thing you notice about Matthew is that he has good size. His skating stride is underdeveloped but has potential. He has a slight bowlegged style, but his balance needs to improve. At times he can look slightly awkward during turns, pivots, etc. He does use his considerable reach to his advantage. Matthew's ice time fluctuated somewhat in this game because he does not play the power play. However, he is used in penalty killing situations and uses his stick effectively to break up opposing scoring chances. In terms of offensive skill , Matthew does not contribute much. For the most part he makes a good first pass and does not over handle the puck. Despite his size I would not say that Matthew looks to initiate physical contact. In the defensive zone Matthew is disciplined and does not get out of position. As of right now I would not consider drafting Matthew. However, with his size and with the potential for his skating to improve I would continue to monitor his development closely.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Prospect Review: Zach Boychuk

Selected 14th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Zach's skill set is ideally suited to the way the game is played in the "new NHL”. He maintains a slightly bowlegged skating style with full leg extension and good return on his stride. The most impressive aspect of Zach's game is his overall speed. For the third season in a row Zack has demonstrated an elite offensive skill level. He plays the game at a high level of speed -- that is, he handles the puck, shoots and passes without slowing down. This gives him a distinct advantage in junior as he is much faster than most players at that level. As Zach moves on to the professional level, and as the pace of the game is quicker and his opponents have more speed -- it would be nice to see Zach add another dimension to his offensive arsenal. Right now, in my opinion, he relies a little too much on his speed advantage. In the defensive zone Zach knows his responsibilities and doesn't get out of position. In terms of physical play, he does not have the size or strength to be a physical force. However, he does compete well and is willing to go in high-traffic areas to score goals. It is difficult to accurately assess his leadership/character without having interviewed him, his teammates, or coaches. One thing I do know is that he worked hard and played through an injury at the World Junior Tournament in Ottawa.

Zack is definitely one of the top prospects in the Western Hockey League. Right now, I would have difficulty in deciding who is the better prospect; Zach or Jordan Eberle. In comparing the two it is easy to notice that Zach has a distinct advantage in his skating style and dynamic speed level. However, Eberle is one of the smartest prospects I have seen and has more variety in his offensive game.

If Zach develops to his potential he will have a solid NHL career. Currently he projects to be a top nine forward in the NHL. Also, his speed will allow him to eventually contribute in penalty killing situations. This type of player is valuable to an NHL team.

Lethbridge Hurricanes 4 Regina Pats 1

Game Notes:
These are two teams that have underachieved this season. However, this was the first game this season that Lethbridge has had its full lineup on the ice. In terms of overall play, the game was evenly matched. Lethbridge was able to capitalize on their opportunities, despite the fact that it was their third game in three nights. In the third period when the Pats put some pressure on the Hurricanes, the ability to block shots and collapse in the defensive zone helped the Hurricanes win the game.

Prospect Notes:
From a scouting perspective this game was a good opportunity to compare and contrast the five players that were selected in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. In the near future I will attempt to review the development of three Hurricane prospects; Kyle Beach, Zach Boychuk, and Luca Sbisa. In this game I focused my attention on Lethbridge Hurricane left winger Carter Ashton, who is a prospect for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Carter Ashton (Lethbridge Hurricanes, #10 CSB)
This is my first viewing of Carter this season. The first thing I noticed about him is that he has improved considerably from last year. Carter has an efficient, slightly bowlegged skating stride with impressive agility for a young man of his size. His overall skating ability is well above average and he uses it to his advantage. In terms of offensive skill, Carter's most appealing attribute is that he is willing to go hard to the net in order to score goals -- he's not afraid of traffic. He handles the puck well and uses his body to shield the puck from opponents. As far as imagination and creativity in the offensive zone, Carter lacks great vision and I would not regard him as a playmaker. Hopefully this aspect of his game will develop over time as he gains confidence and composure. In terms of defensive zone awareness I would say that he is disciplined and maintains solid positioning overall. Despite his size (6'3", 200 lbs.) I would not consider Carter much of a physical presence -- in other words, not a power forward. He does not shy away from physical confrontations, but he is not one to initiate physical play. His on ice mannerisms are positive -- appears to have a strong work ethic and good attitude, he didn't display frustration. Carter certainly appears to have a solid understanding of the game overall. In my opinion Carter has the potential to play in the NHL. However, he will have to improve his on ice vision if he is going to be a top two line player at the NHL level. Will Carter score at the NHL level? That is the question. His combination of size, skating ability, and offensive skill give him the attributes necessary to be selected in the first round of the NHL draft.