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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Friday night OHL roundup: Murphy, Landeskog put on a show in Kitchener

By now, you've probably heard about the insane individual efforts that defenseman Ryan Murphy and forward Gabriel Landeskog put up against the Erie Otters (and yes, B's fans that is old B's coach and Needham's finest Robbie Ftorek behind the Erie bench if you're watching the highlights) in the Kitchener Rangers' 7-3 win Friday night. These two are showing just why they are going to be top-10, possibly even top-five selections in the 2011 NHL Draft.

You can see the highlights here.

Murphy had a goal and four assists-- he currently leads the OHL in scoring (3 goals, 6 assists, 9 points in 3 games). Oh, and he was a plus-five on the night, so maybe that defense of his isn't as bad as originally thought, eh? If he keeps up this torrid pace, then he's going to be right in there with Adam Larsson all season long in terms of who the top defensemen are in 2011 draft discussions. Vancouver's David Musil belongs in those talks, too, but he's not generating the production Murphy is right now. Larsson is playing against men, so he's in a different category altogether.

His first assist-- the slap/pass to Andrew Crescenzi is a thing of beauty. That's a purely offensive move from the point, and should have Bruins fans licking their chops if the team can somehow be in position to take him (and yes, I know it's only October). Murphy is demonstrating that his being left off of Team Canada's Ivan Hlinka team was a total joke with his play in the first few games of the OHL season. His point blast shows the unreal power he generate on his shot-- can you imagine what he might be able to do if he were about three inches taller? Brian Rolston once told me (when he was still with the Bruins) that you can practice your slap shot all you want-- at some point, there is a genetics element involved and that some players are simply going to be predisposed to getting more ooomph and torque on the shot than others. Murphy appears to be one of those naturals.

And let's talk about Landeskog. This kid, whom I was told plays an "angry" style that would seem to any observer that he was born in places like Moose Jaw or Yellowgrass or Timmins as opposed to his native Sweden, also proved in the highlights that he can score from anywhere and do pretty much whatever he wants in aspect of the game. Want to see a finesse scorer? He can do it. Want a guy who will bull his way to the net? He can do that, too. Want a guy who will drop the gloves and splatter his opponent's snot from ear-to-ear? Yup-- Landeskog's got that skill in the bag, too.

His first goal was on a shot from the outside after he gained the zone and cut to the middle of the high slot, wiring a bullet top to the glove side. His second (and fifth on the season) was a dynamic backhander that looked just too easy as it knocked the water bottle in the air. Simply put, he turned a lot of heads last season with Kitchener. Now, with a year in the OHL under his belt, Landeskog is emerging as a true force as an NHL prospect. As tough as it is for preseason top-10 picks to raise their stock, that's precisely what this kid is doing.

Here are some comments on Landeskog from a sharp observer who attended the game and emailed me these comments:

"(There is) So much to love about Landeskog. Kid does absolutely nothing wrong. Plays all 3 forward spots, in all situations. Has really proven to be a leader. The one thing I noticed especially last night that after every shift he comes to the bench and asks the coaches what he could have done differently. "

He saved some love for Murphy, too (and to his credit, has been on Murphy's bandwagon since early last season):

"(Murphy)Now leads the league in scoring with 3 goals 6 assists in 3 games and is a plus 10. And he has been in on 50% of the Rangers offence so far this season. And still no goals against while he's been on the ice. (doesnt get enough credit defensively IMO). Hard to imagine the kid has improved from last year. And his shot....most accurate shot from the point since Ray Bourque."

That's some high praise indeed, but from the looks of things, not too far off the mark. Murphy, like Ryan Ellis and of course, Bourque before them, is proving that you don't have to be a gigantor to possess a fearsome cannon from the point.

Not to be outdone was another Ranger who looks like he's going to be first-rounder in June: German forward Tobias Rieder (2 assists, giving him 7 points in 3 games thus far on 2g, 5 helpers) who got it done with some very heady plays on offense. Kitchener coach Steve Spott has a ton of firepower and the amazing thing is that his team is doing all of this without the services of Jeff Skinner, who is still with Carolina. They may not get Skinner back from the Hurricanes, but if they do, watch out. Check out '91 small forward Michael Catenacci's backhander (with assists to both Murphy and Landeskog)... that's just sick speed and puckhandling.

Rieder is an interesting story-- he's German but worships and idolizes Bobby Orr. He's one of those guys who would be a great storyline if he ended up in Boston and you have to give credit to a kid who understands just what Orr did for the sport of hockey.

Erie didn't have a lot of good news, but David Broll did have a very nice assist on Erie's first goal. Broll is one of those big, physical guys with some offensive upside, but his skating is an issue right now.

The OHL, once again, is looking like the producer of another bumper crop of future NHL talent. Murphy came into the season with a lot of questions to answer, but he's blowing the doors off the skeptics. Just watching those highlights should make anyone a believer. There is a lot of hockey to be played, but if the Bruins end up with this kid somehow in June, then they'll have a premium skill player at the defense for sure, and will have some scary organizational depth.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Kirk, Just to touch on Erie Otters goalie Christopher Festerini a bit here. Yes, he gave up 7 goals and probably only could have had one, I would have liked to see him pulled, but with Erie playing 3 games in three days it was hard to do. Kid was thrown into the fire against the Rangers. Had to be hard for the rookie.

    But in fairness to him, i liked what i saw last night. He possesses super quick reflexes, is postitionally and technically sound, is able to find the puck through bodies in front of him and has good rebound control.

    And while last night was the only time i've seen him play and he gave up 7 goals, i noticed all those things. Hoping you can talk to your guys in the OHL and see what they think of him. I believe this is his draft year too.

    As for Rieder and his love of Bobby Orr, i'll never forget this quote from him : "I was an athiest and i saw Bobby Orr play. I knew then, there was at least o hockey God."