Friday, March 23, 2012

Top 20 NHL Prospects In The WHL

A rundown of players from the WHL that I think will have the biggest impacts on their on NHL clubs in the future.

1. Sven Bartschi LW Portland Winter Hawks - Selected by Calgary Flames Round 1 #13 overall 2011 NHL Draft GP47 G33 A61 P94 +15
- Bartschi attacking style off the wings will be very beneficial to the Flames in the very near future. Can make plays in a multitude of ways. A good blend of power and cerebral play. Got some games in with the Flames this year and made an impact. Bartschi could be playing full time with the Flames as soon as next season.

2. Emerson Etem RW Medicine Hat Tigers - Selected by Anaheim Ducks Round 1 #29 overall 2010 NHL Draft GP65 G61 A46 P107 +29
- Etem plays a power winger style that is tough for defenses to handle. A blend of speed and braun cutting in off the wings. Can score through crashing the net or shooting from the outside. Etem could be ready to play for the Ducks as soon as next year but may see some time in the AHL.

3. Mark Stone RW Brandon Wheat Kings - Selected by Ottawa Senators Round 6 #178 overall 2010 NHL Draft GP66 G41 A82 P123 +45
- Stone is more of a methodical power forward as opposed to the top two. Uses puck possession and vision to put up points. Will likely need a year in the AHL to adapt to the pro style but is very much a hidden 6th round gem that Ottawa may have uncovered.

4. Brett Bulmer RW Kelowna Rockets - Selected by Minnesota Wild Round 2 #39 overall 2010 Draft GP53 G34 A28 P62 +10
- Bulmer is another power rusher off the wings. Not quite the finishing ability of Bartschi or Etem, but will still be a handful nonetheless. Could use a year in the AHL but showed himself to be not out of place in the NHL when he got a 9 game look with the Wild.

5. Brendan Gallagher RW Vancouver Giants - Selected by Montreal Canadiens Round 5 #147 overall 2010 NHL Draft GP54 G41 A36 P77 +19
- Has Jordan Eberle type qualities where he is able to create space and seems and then use a quick release to handcuff goalies. Gallagher is a very smart hockey player that will help the Canadians with their goal scoring woes. Will likely be a AHL/NHL tweener next year.

6. Brendan Shinnimin C Tri-City Americans - Signed by the Phoenix Coyotes GP69 G58 A76 P134 +45
- Shinnimin had about as dynamic a year as anyone in the WHL this year. Led the league in scoring and plays the game the right way. Full of energy and creativity. Phoenix found themselves a real gem here and will likely be an offensive assassin for Phoenix after needing a year or two in the AHL.

7. Patrick Holland RW Tri-City Americans - Selected by Calgary Flames Round 7 #193 overall 2010 NHL Draft GP72 G25 A84 P109 +42
- Saw a 47 point boost in his totals this year. Has emerged as an off the wing type playmaker. Thicker body that can test defenses on the rush. Was traded from Calgary to Montreal this year and will likely be Gallagher's teammate next year in Hamilton.

8. Joe Morrow D Portland Winter Hawks - Selected by Pittsburgh Penguins Round 1 #23 overall 2011 NHL Draft GP62 G17 A47 P64 +6
- Morrow is a smooth puck moving Dman with excellent offensive instincts. Morrow is a decent defender that is at his best when he has the puck. A real asset on the power play. Morrow was a very late cut for the Penguins this season and will push to make the team again next season.

9. Mark McNeill C Prince Albert Raiders - Selected by Chicago Blackhawks Round 1 #18 overall 2011 NHL Draft GP69 G31 A40 P71 -10
- McNeill's game is at its best when he is skating and he has the puck. A dynamic player off the rush. McNeill still needs to learn the finer points of defensive play. Is eligible to play in Prince Albert one more year. It would be wise if he did so to improve his overall game and put up better numbers.

10. Quinton Howden LW Moose Jaw Warriors - Selected by Florida Panthers Round 1 #25 overall 2010 NHL Draft GP52 G30 A35 P65 +10
- Howden is another off the wing speedster. Probably the fastest of the bunch but also the player with the least amount of finishing ability. Howden's biggest asset will be his versatility at the next level. He can play in a variety of roles and be very good at all of them. Will likely play in the AHL next year.

11. Matej Stransky RW Saskatoon Blades - Selected by Dallas Stars Round 6 #165 overall 2011 NHL Draft GP70 G39 A42 P81 +6
- Stransky is a big bodied winger that is dangerous off the rush. Puck possesion is his game but needs to work on strength and balance in order to thrive at the next level. Has a game built for the NHL. To find a player of Stransky's ability in the 6th round is a great find for the Stars. Will likely need a year or two in the AHL. Eligible to play for Saskatoon again next year.

12. Tyler Bunz G Medicine Hat Tigers - Selected by Edmonton Oilers Round 5 #121 overall 2010 NHL Draft GAA2.57 W39 L17 SOL5 S%.921 SO3
- Tyler Bunz has improved year after year after his draft year. To point now, where I feel he is the best goaltender in the WHL. A hybrid style of goaltender. To find a goaltender that plays the butterfly well but still has the athleticism to make recovery saves are very hard to find. Bunz will likely play in the ECHL with some cups of coffee in the AHL next year.

13. Martin Gernat D Edmonton Oil Kings - Selected by Edmonton Oilers Round 5 #122 overall 2011 NHL Draft GP60 G9 A46 P55 +41
- Martin Gernat has had a fine rookie campaign for the Oil Kings. Quickly established himself as the offensive conscience of the defense by using his low, booming shot or through jumping in the play. A big frame that is mobile are hard to find and the Oilers looked to have found a gem in Gernat. Gernat with either be back with the Oil Kings or start his pro career in Oklahoma City. As of right now, I'd say its 50/50.

14. Ty Rattie RW Portland Winter Hawks - Selected by St. Louis Blues Round 2 #32 overall 2011 NHL Draft GP69 G57 A64 P121 +23
- Ty Rattie saw a 42 point increase this season to finish 3rd in WHL scoring. Rattie is an offensive dynamo that creates offense through speed and vision. Need to work on strength to add to his slight frame without losing speed. Should be an intriguing prospect to follow to see if his offense can translate to the pros. Will likely be back in Portland for another year.

15. Brenden Kichton D Spokane Chiefs - Selected by New York Islanders Round 5 #127 overall 2011 NHL Draft GP71 G17 A57 P74 +24
- Kichton's game is one of continual evolution. He broke into the league as smallish defensive defenseman and now his offensive game has evloved so much he is now a puck moving, offensive Dman. Kichton ability to breakdown defenders, especially on the power play, is something that he will rely on heavily at the pro level. Kichton likely could use a year or two in the AHL to work on the finer points of playing defense but playing in the Islanders orgainization, he may get to the bigs sooner than that.

16. Michael St. Croix RW Edmonton Oil Kings - Selected by New York Rangers Round 4 #106 overall 2011 NHL Draft GP72 G45 A60 P105 +40
- St. Croix enjoyed his best season to date and emerged as the offensive catalyst of the Oil Kings. St. Croix game is one built on speed, vision and craftiness. His sense of timing is very good around the offensive zone. Should likely be back with the Oil Kings next season.

17. Michael Ferland LW Brandon Wheat Kings - Selected by Calgary Flames Round 5 #133 overall 2010 NHL Draft GP68 G47 A49 P96 +17
- Ferlund enjoyed a breakout year with the Wheat Kings this year. A bullish winger that is a terror off the rush. Even if the offense doesn't translate to the pros, he should enjoy a significant career as a utility player. A player that can play a variety of roles. Ferlund will start his pro career next year.

18. Duncan Siemens D Saskatoon Blades - Selected by Colorado Avalanche Round 1 #11 overall 2011 NHL Draft GP57 G6 A22 P28 +12
- Siemens has had another solid season for the Blades. Siemens plays the gamea great deal of poise and toughness. Chips in offensively here and there but his real value is he plays the other teams toughs, often to stalemates. Siemens was barley eligible for the 2011 draft having an early September birthday. Will likely be back to Saskatoon next year.

19. Dylan McIlrath D Moose Jaw Warriors - Selected by New York Rangers Round 1 #10 overall 2010 NHL Draft GP52 G3 A20 P23 +7
- As an old school gladiator, you have to admire the toughness and aggression with McIlrath plays the game. As hockey moves towards a more kinder, gentler version, players like McIlrath may be a dying breed. Still plays the game with a lot of poise for a big man and knows when to engage in the physical aspect. Should start his pro career in the fall.

20. Max Reinhart C Kootenay Ice - Selected by Calgary Flames Round 3 #64 overall 2010 NHL Entry Draft GP61 G28 A50 P78 +19
-Reinhart should prove to be a very versatile piece for the Flames going forward. Can play in a variety of roles and still put up offense. Smooth skater that does a very efficeint job of creating quick strike offense. Should join Ferland next year in playing with the Abbottsford Heat in the AHL.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Playoff Matchups Round #1 2012

Eastern Conference

(1) Edmonton Oil Kings vs. (8) Kootenay Ice
Oil Kings:
- Strengths - Very deep. Balance scoring. Formidable defense.
- Weaknesses - Goaltending can be flaky at times, discipline.
- Strengths - Above average goaltending, high end top line.
- Weaknesses - Not very deep, lack of offense from blueline.
Prediction: Oil Kings in 5

(2) Moose Jaw Warriors vs (7) Regina Pats
- Strengths - Rugged. Plays playoff style hockey. Defense is stout.
- Weaknesses - Scoring depth is lacking. Team speed is below average.
- Strengths - Speedy team. Top line scoring. Big mobile defense.
- Weaknesses - Smallish forwards. Not very deep.
Prediction: Warriors in 7

(3) Calgary Hitmen vs. (6) Brandon Wheat Kings
- Strengths - Balanced scoring. Gritty. Solid defense.
- Weaknesses - Inconsistant goaltending. Team hockey IQ is low.
Wheat Kings:
- Strengths - High end scoring. Top end defense. Big bodies everywhere.
- Weaknesses - Inconsistant goaltending. Lack of forward depth.
Prediction: Wheat Kings in 6

(4) Medicine Hat Tigers vs. (5) Saskatoon Blades
- Strengths - Top end scoring. Strong goaltending. Big bodied team.
- Weaknesses - Lack of team depth. Team defense is suspect.
- Strengths - Very balanced team. Methodical. Solid goaltending.
- Weaknesses - Inconsistant. Injury plagued team.
Prediction: Tigers in 7

Western Conference:

(1) Tri-City Americans vs. (8) Everett Silvertips
- Strengths - Top end scoring. Great team defense. Solid goaltending.
- Weaknesses - Smaller team. Lack of defensive depth.
- Strengths - Pretty good defensively. Gritty. Strong goaltending
- Weaknesses - Lack of scoring. Lack of depth.
Prediction: Americans in 4

(2) Kamloops Blazers vs. (7) Victoria Royals
- Strengths - Great team depth. Solid goaltending. Solid top end scoring.
- Weaknesses - Lack of defensive depth. Smaller team.
- Strength - High octane offense. Solid goaltending. Gritty.
- Weaknesses - Little regard for defense. Smaller team.
Prediction: Blazers in 5

(3) Portland Winter Hawks vs. (6) Kelowna Rockets
Winter Hawks:
- Strengths - High end offense. Defensive depth. Speedy team.
- Weaknesses - Suspect goaltending. Lack of grit.
- Strengths - Big bodied team. Physical. Above average goaltending.
- Weaknesses - Lack of forward depth. Low team hockey IQ.
Prediction: Winter Hawks in 5

(4) Vancouver Giants vs. (5) Spokane Chiefs
- Strengths - High end scoring. Solid goaltending. High team hockey IQ.
- Weaknesses - Smaller team. Lack of defensive depth.
- Strengths - Gritty. Solid team defense. High gamesmanship.
- Weaknesses - Inconsistant goaltending, lack of scoring from forwards.
Prediction: Giants in 7

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Game Report: Saskatoon 11 Prince Albert 5

1. P.A M. Winther, (32) (T. Hart), 8:38 (PP)
1. SAS N. Zajac, (3) (B. Benson), 12:48
1. SAS R. Olsen, (14) (M. Stransky), 14:55
1. P.A J. Santucci, (1) , 17:07 (SH)
2. P.A J. Maylan, (26) (A. Bardaro, C. Braid), 6:20
2. SAS J. Trask, (21) (J. Nicholls, L. Sutter), 8:39 (PP)
2. SAS J. Nicholls, (28) (R. Olsen, C. Cox), 13:16
2. SAS T. McEvoy, (5) (L. Muller), 16:11
2. P.A M. McNeill, (31) , 19:51 (SH)
3. P.A J. Morrissey, (10) (M. McNeill, A. Bardaro), 0:37 (PP)
3. SAS D. Dietz, (15) , 3:22
3. SAS R. Olsen, (15) (J. Nicholls, M. Stransky), 7:25 (PP)
3. SAS T. McEvoy, (6) (J. Paradis, M. Stransky), 9:37
3. SAS M. Stransky, (37) (K. Schmidt), 12:36
3. SAS J. Trask, (22) (C. Cox, B. Stovin), 16:52 (PP)
3. SAS B. Benson, (13) (M. Stransky, A. Makarov), 18:33 (PP)

Goalies Prince Albert GA Mins SH SVS PIM
33 Holowenko, Cole 7 47:25 32 25 0
35 Lee-Knight, Luke 4 7:12 11 7 0

Goalies Saskatoon GA Mins SH SVS PIM
1 Makarov, Andrey 5 54:37 33 28 0

3 Players of Note:
1) Ryan Olsen C Saskatoon - Continues to hold a hot hand offensively as the WHL season winds down. Olsen's year has been one of severe ups and downs. Started off the year highly touted, then disappeared of the map entirely as his offensive game was just not there, but has regained his scoring touch down the stretch and likely save his draft status. He's back on the radar and likely be drafted in this years' 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Even with him regaining his scoring touch he is still a bit of a project. His hockey sense in his own zone needs to be refined and a lot better to be consider a legit prospect. His has the build of a two-way center but needs to acquire the skills that go along with that. Tallied with 2 goals and an assist tonight.
2) Matej Stransky RW Saskatoon - Stransky is a player that continues to impress me. Has the game that looks easily tranlatable at the pro level. Bigger body whos biggest weapon is puck control and vision. Looks comfortable with the puck and makes things happen when in the offensive zone. Needs to improve strength in his skating in order to thrive at the next level. Looks like a mini Jaromir Jagr out their in the way he is able to fend off defenders and still make plays. Had a goal and 4 assists tonight.
3) Mark McNeill C Prince Albert - McNeill is a very good player playing on a poor Prince Albert team. McNeill's offense is undeniable in his strength and speed. Where McNeill gets into trouble is in the defensive zone, especially in the defensive zone, this is crucial. McNeill reminds me of a young Mike Modano, just unbridled, until Ken Hitchcock got his mitts on Modano and molded him into a strong two-way center. Mark McNeill will likely need the same tutelege somewhere down the line if he wants to be a true effective center. Otherwise he could still be a very dangerous winger off the rush.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Game Report: Edmonton 3 Moose Jaw 2 (OT)

2. EDM S. Legault, (14) (M. Pysyk, M. Gernat), 7:12 (PP)
2. M.J D. Ehrhardt, (4) (E. Arnold, T. Brown), 12:14
2. M.J T. Eberle, (8) (C. Beach), 13:03
3. EDM S. Legault, (15) (G. Reinhart, T. Foster), 14:02
OT. EDM K. Pelss, (25) , 1:02

Goalies Moose Jaw GA Mins SH SVS PIM
31 Siemens, Luke 3 61:02 38 35 0

Goalies Edmonton GA Mins SH SVS PIM
31 Brossoit, Laurent 2 61:02 26 24 0

3 Players of Note:
1) Dylan McIlrath D Moose Jaw. What a nasty piece of work this player is. Love the way he plays. He's an old school gladiator that you will love if he's on your team but hate if he isn't. Yeah, I know we are moving towards a more kinder, gentler brand of hockey these days, but McIlrath can play on my team. Plays the game with a lot of force and his big frame covers lot of the ice. If I was to build a defensive defenseman, it would look and play like Dylan McIlrath.
2) Tristan Sieban LW Edmonton. Sieban was on the receiving end of a nasty elbow from the aforementioned Dylan McIlrath, that put him down, but much to his credit came coming back for more. Playing even harder after that incident. He kept battling and scrapping to keep the Oil Kings in the arms war with a much larger Moose Jaw team. His energy was infectous and likely kept the Oil Kings in the game. Without his energy tonight, the Oil Kings likely get pushed right out of the rink.
3) Luke Siemens G Moose Jaw. I was impressed with Siemens moxie tonight. The Oil Kings crashed net all game but seemed pretty unflappable tonight. Looks a little odd when using his catching hand to glove pucks but all in all, really stood his ground in between the pipes tonight. Eventually the Oil Kings did break through but he held the fort strong for most of the game.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Game Report: Edmonton 3 Saskatoon 1

1. EDM T. Foster, (26) (S. Legault, H. Samuelsson), 10:34
2. EDM M. St. Croix, (41) (D. Wruck, K. Lowe), 16:31
3. SAS J. Trask, (19) (L. Sutter, C. Collins), 17:58
3. EDM C. Lazar, (16) (T. Foster, G. Reinhart), 19:39 (PP)

Goalies Saskatoon GA Mins SH SVS PIM
30 Todd, Adam 3 60:00 34 31 0

Goalies Edmonton GA Mins SH SVS PIM
31 Brossoit, Laurent 1 60:00 17 16 0

3 Players of Note:
1) Michael St. Croix RW Edmonton - St. Croix has been the most prolific scorer on the Oil Kings and one of the leading scorers in the WHL. St. Croix has Ales Hemsky type puck abilities. What sets him apart from Hemsky is his ability to manage the puck and make sure the puck is going towards the net without putting his teammates in any precarious positions on the ice. Puck management and his ability to be stealthy around the net are two of his biggest attributes. His ability to skate out of trouble is another. St. Croix really stirs the drink for the Oil Kings offense.
2) Dalton Thrower D Saskatoon - I watched this player specifically tonight for Saskatoon. Has a ton of ability but also a ton of rawness to his game. Each game that passes opens up his abilities even more. Plays a ton for a Saskatoon team that is undermanned on defense. Thrower skates well, shoots the puck well, makes deft plays, but is prone to brain cramps from time to time. All this while being tough as nails. If he was playing on a middle pairing on a good team, he'd likely shine more, but since he plays a ton on a middling team, his warts show a little more. All that being said, he's on the right track and just need to get more games on his belt. Anyone who loses out on Mathew Dumba at the draft would be wise to look at Dalton Thrower with a 2nd round pick.
3) Laurent Broissoit G Edmonton - Playing a lot better over the last couple of weeks. Went through January and February looking pretty flaky. Now he is back to his old confident, sturdy self. Might have been a case of fatigue with Broissoit as he has played a ton this year and as of late Tristan Jarry has gotten more starts. When Broissoit is on, he plays sqaure to the puck, plays low and swallows all the rebounds. Good to see him find his game back heading into the playoffs.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Game Report; Edmonton 2 Swift Current 1

2. EDM M. St. Croix, (40) (T. Maxwell, C. Corbett), 3:37
2. S.C R. Nedomlel, (10) (T. Vause, R. Scarlett), 5:26 (PP)
3. EDM K. Pelss, (24) (G. Reinhart, H. Samuelsson), 17:12

Goalies Swift Current GA Mins SH SVS PIM
30 Groenheyde, Jon 2 58:41 34 32 0

Goalies Edmonton GA Mins SH SVS PIM
30 Jarry, Tristan 1 60:00 19 18 0

3 Players of Note:
1) Jon Groenheyde G Swift Current - Former Oil King netminder played hard and played well tonight. Was really keen on sticking it to his former team tonight. His team could not mount enough of an offense tonight and he was left to battle tooth and nail to keep the game a stalemate. Groenheyde is more of a positional goaltender, no overly athletic. He used his big frame to confront the Oil Kings crashing the crease. Hasn't been a good year for him statistically.
2) Tristan Jarry G Edmonton - Jarry wasn't anywhere near as busy as Groenheyde was but his saves were just as difficult, every save came with a lot of pressure as the goals were limited tonight. Jarry looked cool in the net, trusted his Dmen and made the saves he needed to make. The Oil Kings goaltending is in good hands with Jarry going forward.
3) Richard Nedomlel D Swift Current - Came away impressed with the great deal of poise he plays the game with. Positionally sound, and knows what to do with and without the puck. The Red Wings and Nedomlel are a perfect match. Nedomlel brings the tools and the Red Wings will take the time to sculpt and groom him into the Dman they want him to be. Scored a nice goal on a rocket one-timer from the point.