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.
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.