*(Not affiliated with the Boston Bruins or the New England Hockey Journal)

Monday, August 23, 2010

B2011DW's Official QMJHL Watch List

I'm back with the third of the Canadian Hockey Leagues- the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which features Sean Couturier at the top, one talented center who may go first overall next June. He has the size, skill and natural hockey sense to be a very good one.

So, without further ado, here's the preseason list of QMJHL players to keep tabs on:

1. Sean Couturier, C Drummondville Voltigeurs: A December 1992 birthdate, this big gun has spent the last couple of seasons in the QMJHL and tied for the league scoring lead in '09-10 (he also accomplished the ignominious honor of doing so without hitting the 100-point mark for the first time in league history, scoring 96 points on the strength of 41 goals). At 6-4, he has a huge frame and still has a lot of growing/filling out to do. The son of former NHL journeyman Sylvain Couturier, Sean was born in the U.S. but raised in New Brunswick. He left the Maritimes to spend a season with the storied Notre Dame Hounds AAA program in Wilcox, Saskatchewan where his teammates included Brandon Gormley, the top selection of the Phoenix Coyotes in June. He's not the fastest skater, but has a powerful stride and uses his immense body to ward off would-be checkers and drive hard to the net. He's still developing his coordination, so his balance and agility are still works in progress, but he's improving both in speed and lateral mobility. His real assets are his soft, soft hands and outstanding hockey sense and vision, which allow him to make magic from the mundane. He's so big and talented that he's entering that zone where he's manhandling the competition, so look for big production and a real dogfight with Adam Larsson for the top overall pick, as centers (he's also spent a lot of time on the wing) as huge and skilled as Couturier is don't grow on trees and are always coveted. Of course, so are big, fast uber-talented defenders, so buckle the seatbelts. "He's a complete package," said one NHL scout who works the Quebec region when asked about Couturier. "I've been watching him for years and he just keeps showing that improvement you want to see in a top player. I think he's the best prospect to come out of the 'Q' since some guy named (Sidney) Crosby."

2. Tomas Jurco, RW Saint John Sea Dogs: This skilled Slovak helped get the 'Dogs all the way to the Quebec League finals last season and impressed a lot of people with his high-end offensive potential in just one North American season. Although only average in size (6-0, 180) Jurco skates extremely well, with some real elusiveness and slippery moves. An excellent puckhandler with a bevy of moves, he can also really rip the biscuit as evidenced by his 26 goals as a rookie last year. Another late December '92 birthdate, he's a little older and more mature than a good percentage of the competition, so Jurco should take a quantum leap in his production and play this season. He's made the cultural transition and speaks pretty good English, so watch for Jurco, with minimal distractions, to be one of the more electrifying players on the Q circuit this year. Like most players his size, adding strength and mass to be able to handle the physical rigors of pro hockey is paramount to his development.

3. Nathan Beaulieu, D Saint John Sea Dogs: Jurco's junior teammate is a pretty good package of skill, size (6-2, 175) and upside for this draft, and will no doubt have the scouts flocking to the Maritimes this season to get a closer look. After a real solid performance at Team Canada World Junior Evaluation Camp last month, Beaulieu seems in store for bigger and better things. Another December 1992 born player, he's entering his third season of major junior after breaking out with a 12-goal, 45-point effort last year (he tallied two goals 10 points as a rookie in '08-09). He's a smooth skater with nice acceleration and an ability to rev it up into another gear, and is a player who isn't afraid to jump up into the play. A strong puck-moving defenseman, he uses a combination of vision, hockey intellect and good hands to set the breakout and help his team with the transition game. Beaulieu is also willing to fight when the opportunity presents, and isn't bad in that regard, with a flamethrower style and a willingness to stand in and take punches to give 'em. He's also got a strong background in the sport, as his father is an assistant coach with the London Knights and playedmajor junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, even serving as head coach and GM of the Sea Dogs during Nathan's rookie season. Like Couturier, Beaulieu is from New Brunswick and at first glance, appears to have the kinds of traits and skills that would appeal greatly to the Boston Bruins, who lack high-end defensemen in their prospect stable. This is definitely a player to watch, especially if he makes the cut for the Canadian World Jr. (Under-20) squad which will try to unseat the U.S. team in Buffalo this winter. "I thought he had a very good (evaluation) camp and has come a long way from when he first started in this league," the NHL scouts said. "

4. Jonathan Huberdeau, C Saint John Sea Dogs: With the third Sea Dog in the top-four for the QMJHL, you're starting to understand why they pushed Moncton in the league championship series last spring. A skinny beanpole of a kid at 6-1 and just 155 pounds or so, this is one player who is going to have to invest in some serious weight-gainer supplements. That said, he's a very talented player who skates well, has quick hands and is creative with the puck. A member of the gold medal Canada team at the Ivan Hlinka, Huberdeau chipped in with some offense, but didn't have the greatest camp nor tournament by some accounts. As you might expect, his lack of solid mass and strength works against him at this stage of his development, as he can be pushed off the puck easily and tends to retreat into perimeter mode when the hitting picks up. This player is going to be an interesting one to follow, because his overall game is not all that strong even with his high-end offensive upside. If he struggles with play in all three zones or doesn't show the kind of commitment scouts want to see in terms of going to the traffic areas and being willing to take hits to make plays, you could see a precipitous drop over the course of the year. As it stands right now, however, he's so skilled offensively, that you could make a case that he needs to be No. 3, possibly even No. 2 on the Quebec list, but concerns about his overall package move him down a tad.

5. Phillip Danault, C Victoriaville Tigres: If you like upside, then Danault is your guy to watch this season. He's an average-sized player who isn't very strong, but who can really skate and jump out at you when he's on the ice because of his ability to back defenders up. Known more as a playmaker prior to the Hlinka, Danault ripped it up at Canada's camp and opened some eyes among the scouts in attendance. Some aren't yet convinced that he's going to be able to carry that kind of offense consistently this season, but admittedly, his August has raised some eyebrows. He's shown that he can create and finish, so the question remains whether he can do enough this year to develop his body of work to be a top-two round pick and possibly grab some traction for the first 30.

6. Xavier Ouellet, D Montreal Juniors: He's one of those 'tweener guys who can give scouts fits at times. At 6-0, 175 pounds, he's undersized for a defender. And, he's a pretty average skater, too, which always sends up the red flags (and Bruins fans know Dennis Wideman well). But, Ouellet is smart and has the puck skills to move it up and out of the danger areas. More elusive than fast, he relies on his positioning, vision and hockey sense to get the job done, but he's not going to get much leeway from the scouts during the course of the season if he makes too many mistakes simply because of his lack of size and mobility issues.

7. Andrei Makarov, G Lewiston Maineiacs: Admittedly, don't know much about this guy other than the fact that he's tall and lanky (6-1, 155), has freakish athleticism and flexibility, and could become a real draw for scouts if he delivers on the promise he showed at the Hlinka (despite Russia's disappointing finish). That said, I've spent some time in Washington talking to some Russian hockey people and they always tell me the same thing: you don't see an overabundance of Russian goalies in the NHL because most of them don't get much coaching and have to rely on tremendous raw ability to get things done (see: Varlamov, Semyon). In the case of Makarov, the fact that he's over in North America bodes well, because he isn't going to just be left to fend for himself. Whether he can make the cultural and hockey transition remains to be seen, but this will be an intriguing player to keep an eye on. Red Line has him in their preseason top-50 at 47.

8. Jean-Francois Leblanc, C Val d'Or Foreurs: At 6-4, 197, this defensive centerman has the size and raw ability to be an NHL player one day, but probably lacks the skill and upside to be anything more than a checker/grinder. Still, he is someone to watch because he skates pretty well and possesses and inordinate amount of hockey sense, not to mention solid face-off ability, which are always in demand at any level. He had a solid if unspectacular Hlinka tourney, and if he could somehow add an offensive dimension to his game, Leblanc could evolve into a role player somewhere. This isn't someone to get excited about right now, but he's a gritty competitor and brings a lot of the intangibles you win with.

Other QMJHLers to watch for:
Zac Phillips, C Saint John
Olivier Archambault, RW Val d'Or
Jonathan Racine, D Shawinigan
Dillon Donnelly, D Shawinigan

Sunday, August 22, 2010

B2011DW's Official WHL Watch List

Hope you all enjoyed the OHL player preview yesterday. Talked to NHL and independent sources about the WHL this season, and this is what they had to share with me in terms of players to keep an eye on.

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C Red Deer Rebels: Clearly the cream of the WHL draft-eligible crop right now, the "Nuge" has proven himself to be a scoring savant. He led Canada to an unprecedented 15th gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka tournament this month, and then did himself more favors at the NHL's R & D camp this week, showing off his high-end speed, hands and overall scoring chops. He was a finalist for the CHL's rookie of the year honors, missing out to Matt Puempel, but Nugent-Hopkins appears to have eclipsed the OHL forward this summer given his tremendous international showing and outstanding upside. He's got an explosive burst and the ability to slide in and out of skating lanes effortlessly. His hands are made of gold and when the puck is on his stick, he's always a danger. The gold medal-winning shot he put past Steve Michalek from the outside would not have been stopped by most NHL goalies-- hard, high and up where not many could get it. The knock? He's only average-sized (6-0, 160) and doesn't have the functional strength right now that would make him the undisputed No. 1 player in the draft, but this kid is going to give Sean Couturier and Adam Larsson (both of whom are a few months older as late '92s) a run for their money at the top of the 2011 class (Red Line Report has him at No. 3 in their August rankings, the first for the 2010-11 season). "He's got everything: speed, he can shoot and create for his linemates," said one NHL scout who covers the WHL. "He's smallish. His build reminds me of Kyle Turris; he's going to have to eat a lot of porterhouse steaks."

2. David Musil, D Vancouver Giants: If size and athleticism were all that counted, Musil would be at the head of the class. Both parents are former world class professional athletes, with dad, Frantisek, having patrolled NHL blue lines (now a scout for the Edmonton Oilers) after defecting from Czechoslovakia when that country was still behind the iron curtain, while mother, Andrea Holikova (Bobby Holik's older sister) was a tennis pro and comes from a highly accomplished and competitive family of parents and brothers who all played pro sports in their native country. In a little irony, it was Andrea who escaped to North America first, and actually attended the 1989 NHL Draft, going onstage to receive her younger brother's Hartford Whalers jersey when that team made Holik the 10th overall selection. Musil at 6-3, 190 has the size and frame to be a monster when he fills out. He's extremely agile and skilled on his skates and has an interesting backstory in terms of how he ended up in Vancouver last season. Born and raised in the Czech Republic, his parents moved to Vancouver and the Giants, catching wind of this, listed Musil as a local player per their right, setting off a firestorm of controversy as other WHL teams (and even some outside the CHL) lodged complaints given that he had not been drafted in the WHL bantam draft and was technically a European and subject to the CHL's import draft rules. To resolve the WHL conflicts there was a drawing, and the Kootenay Ice were "awarded" Musil's rights. However, it was made clear that with his folks living in Vancouver, he would not report to the WHL frontier town and would return to the Czech Republic. Therefore a deal was struck between the Ice and Giants to keep him in Vancouver. Now that you know the backstory, you can keep an eye on this big, powerful, skilled defenseman who physically has everything you look for in a player, but may not have the natural instincts and intangibles to be the sum of his very impressive parts. Time will tell, but as of now, he deserves consideration in the top-five of the 2011 draft class.

3. Shane McColgan, RW Kelowna Rockets: Like Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem, McColgan is a Southern California kid who has gone north of the border and will likely earn a high draft grade in June. Although undersized (5-10, 160), McColgan is an explosive skater with high-end elusiveness and terrific hands to handle the puck in traffic and create offense on the fly. An injury prevented him from competing for Team USA in Slovakia this month, and the Americans certainly missed his scoring prowess. He's been on a lot of scouts' watch lists since he joined the Rockets late in the 2009 campaign, and after his first full WHL campaign, has done nothing to dissuade anyone of the opinion that he's a first-round caliber prospect even though he has a lot of work to do on his strength and overall conditioning before he's ready to challenge for an NHL job. "He's small, but super skilled," said an NHL scout who's seen him since he came into the Dub. "In terms of scoring ability, he's not that far away from (Nugent-Hopkins), but he's smaller and that's a consideration."

4. Jesse Forsberg, D Prince George Cougars: Although this rugged rearguard does not possess ideal size (6-0, 195), he's a nice skater and plays a solid two-way game. He likes to hit and take the body and moves the puck pretty well, though wouldn't at present be considered a high-end offensive defenseman but more of a safe second-pairing 'D' who is a complete player in all zones. His younger brother was just the top bantam pick in the WHL for the Cougars, so there is some natural talent in the family and the two will hopefully get some time together on the blue line there. "He's a very physical, well-rounded player-- there's a lot to like there," said the NHL scout. "You wish he was a couple of inches taller, but he's skilled and intelligent, so you can see he has the ability to compensate for the lack of height and reach."

5. Duncan Siemens, D Saskatoon Blades: About as young as you can get with a September 11, 1993 birthdate, Siemens is also the kind of intriguing player with some rough edges you would expect from a player with size (6-3, 196) who is still growing into his body. A key contributor for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka, he skates pretty well in a straight line, but has issues with his footwork, agility and pivots/turns. Siemens is at his best when keeping it safe and simple. Plays with a real physical edge and can be mean and nasty when he wants to. His puck skills are average to below-average and what could keep him from cracking the first round, but at present, he has the size and potential to be a solid second-rounder with the chance to move up if he can improve his mobility and puck handling, because he's big, smart, aggressive and has the ability to do things at both ends of the ice. "He plays pretty mean," the NHL scout said. "He can do a bit with the puck, though. He's not an offensive whiz or as smooth as Musil or Forsberg, but he's got some upside."

6. Reece Scarlett, D Swift Current Broncos: Some scouts really like this guy (RLR, who have him 15th on their August list) and some not as much. Just about everyone I talked to recognizes his high-end talent that could see him land somewhere in the top-20 come draft time, but a few have expressed misgivings about his consistency and ability to put it all together enough between now and June. Another great name to go along with Boone Jenner, Scarlett will be one of the more watched players this season because of his impressive tool box. A skinny beanpole who has to put on another 40-50 pounds before he'll have the functional size for his 6-1 frame, he's a mobile skater who can activate quickly and jump into the play with ease. The lack of strength became evident in Slovakia, as RLR said that Scarlett was bulled over by bigger, stronger players and had trouble keeping containment down low. However, with his speed and puck skills, he's a project worth following. "He's a legit high-end talent with some first round potential," the NHL scout said. "He looked good last year at the Under-17s and is a finesse d-man who needs to put it together. The raw skill is there, but he needs a lot of work."

7. Adam Lowry, LW Swift Current Broncos: Although not as talented as teammate Scarlett, Lowry is the kind of player who could, through sheer will and determination, earn a higher draft position when all is said and done. At 6-2, 165 pounds, he has a lot of filling out to do, but already plays a big man's game with some real sandpaper and anger. His skating needs to get a lot better, and he didn't have the greatest Ivan Hlinka, so we're talking a work in progress here. It's a cliche, but this relentless forward is the kind of kid who will go through a wall for his coaches and teammates, and even though he's got a slight build, brings a lot of force and physicality with him wherever he goes. His hands and instincts aren't as developed as Ryan Kesler at the same age, but Lowry is a player who reminds some scouts of the gritty Vancouver forward, who is far more valuable than his modest stats line would indicate. "He's a big banger who loves to go into the dirty areas of the ice and actually has some pretty decent hands," the NHL scout said. "I wouldn't go so far as to say he's as good as Kesler was at the same stage, but the way he works along the walls and in front of his net reminds me of the same kind of player. If he can bring some offense this season, people will take notice."

8. Ty Rattie, RW Portland Winterhawks: Portland doesn't have a Fab three this year as they did in 2010 with Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter and Brad Ross, but Rattie will bring the scouts out west to Oregon once again in 2011. This small, but skilled winger can move and create, showing a deft touch with the puck. He doesn't have the kind of blinding speed some small guys possess, but he's got some fine edge control and can really scoot laterally. The size and lack of strength is a problem for him when he goes into heavy traffic or tries to take the puck to the net; relies on quick hands and individual moves to gain penetration.

9. Myles Bell, D Regina Pats: This offensive defender is an interesting player to watch because he's pretty accomplished at advancing the puck and setting up plays, but is below average defensively. The question with this kind of player then becomes: is his offensive talent good enough to overcome the defensive issues which could make him a liability at crunch time? This is the question that Mike Green has answered in the affirmative for Washington, and while Bell is not the pure talent Green is, it is still the kind of problem set that will come up in scout meetings across the NHL's Original 30 this season. Bell is a pretty good skater with decent acceleration, but doesn't have some of the high-end speed you want from an offensive d-man. RLR feels that he's the rare player who is a better skater with the puck on his stick than without, however. He has nice vision and a touch on the puck, which allows him to send forwards out on the jailbreak play with relative ease. He's not tall, but squat and strong with powerful lower leg drive and a willingness to stick his nose in. Has a booming shot that he can get off quickly from the point. Probably should be higher on this list based on his upside, so we'll see. It's only August, after all, and he only just turned 17 this month.

10. Colin Jacobs, C Seattle Thunderbirds: Power center is another interesting prospect to come out of the non-traditional hockey hotbed of Texas. Possessing very nice size (6-2, 195), he's a solid skater who doesn't possess high-end offensive skills, but will play a hard-nosed game and likes to get involved physically. Red Line Report did a very nice in-depth feature on him in their August issue, but if you want to know more about him, you'll have to subscribe, or hope that Kyle Woodlief shares some info. on the youngster in one of his gratis USA Today columns

2012 draft watch: Ryan Murray, D Everett Silvertips: (H/T to Jerome from Montreal who pointed out that Murray is a late-September 1993 birthdate and therefore ineligible for the 2011 draft. A shame that he missed the September 15 cutoff by less than two weeks) This is a decent two-way defenseman who doesn't flash a lot of high-end ability, but by certain accounts, is pretty safe. He played a solid game at the Ivan Hlinka and according to RLR, is "the type of player a coach can trust." Moves the puck well and shows some power play potential, but keeps things simple and doesn't attract a lot of attention when he goes about his business. Could be someone who moves up draft boards because of his solid skill set, or he might not gain much upward mobility because of the lack of flash. Keep an eye out on this one.

2013 draft watch: Hudson Fasching, C Apple Valley H.S.: Might as well preview another big, promising young power forward who will be eligible in three years' time. Fasching really turned heads at the Select-15 Festival last month. At 6-3, 190 the Minnesota machine already one big hoss who skates well and drives the net with impunity. Unstoppable force with excellent hands who can beat you any way he wants. Like Brandon Saad and Seth Ambroz back in 2008, he's emerged as a dominant presence on the U.S. scene and we expect that two years from now, he'll be headlining posts as we prepare for the 2012-13 campaign and are analyzing the high-end prospects for that class.

Other WHLers to watch
Marek Tvrdon, LW Vancouver
Mitch Topping, D Chilliwack
Kale Kessy, LW Medicine Hat
Sven Bartschi, LW Portland
Michael St. Croix, C Edmonton

2011 Sleeper alert: SETH GRIFFITH

I got a tip on this kid from one of my most dedicated readers (not to mention friend), so I wanted to try to bring everyone else up to speed on London Knights center Seth Griffith.

A January, 1993 birthdate, Griffith is a little on the small side height-wise (5-10, 180) but is naturally strong and spends a lot of time in the gym working on his strength. An accomplished lacrosse player in addition to hockey, he's an excellent athlete and may have a knack for standing in tough spots and taking a beating just to make a play the way accomplished lacrosse players do when they take to the ice.

He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 Priority Selection by the Knights at 65th overall, but has developed well, scoring 43 goals last year (in 49 games) for St. Mary's Lincoln's Jr. B and then seeing 15 OHL games at the end of the season and playoffs, tallying two regular season goals and following up with a pretty good postseason run as his ice time increased.

From what I understand, the book on this kid is that his skating needs to improve, namely in his initial burst, but that he has very soft hands and nice offensive hockey sense. Playing with Jared Knight this season could boost his production in the all-important draft year. He's also a character kid, having captained his lacrosse team and has a strong work ethic on and off the ice.

Keep an eye on him to see how he does. Seems like one of those typical sleepers who isn't appearing much of anywhere on the radars, but could attract some notice if he can make an early splash.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

2011 Sleeper alert: MIKE McKEE

All of the big names generated the buzz at the NHL's Research and Development Camp this week (we're talking some Ryan 'full bluntal Nugity' Nugent-Hopkins here), but one kid who came in as a virtual unknown is now reportedly drawing interest from the NHL scouting community.

Defenseman Mike McKee, a native of Newmarket, Ontario who plays for former Bruin Matt Herr at the Kent School. Scouts are not sure why McKee, who could play for the Ottawa 67's or even the USHL's Lincoln Stars (they own his rights) is playing in a hockey backwater in the New England prep ranks instead of the OHL, but after the performance he had in Toronto last Wednesday, things might change.

McKee at 17 is already 6-4 and 230 pounds and apparently skates extremely well for such a big boy. He's an August 1993 birthdate, which means he's on the young end of the spectrum. He had three goals and 11 points last season for the Lions, and watch for him to breakout in a big way (pun intended) this season if he returns.

He and USHL defender Scott Mayfield looked quite good as a defensive pairing on the ice this week, and it will be interesting to see how his hockey skills and intellect grade out, as clearly, the fact that he's such a physical specimen already but one who can actually skate, makes him one kid that NHL teams are zeroing in on this season no matter where he ends up playing.

B2011DW's Official 2010-11 OHL Watch List

Here is a list of some players who, going into the 2010-11 season, some NHL and independent scouts think are worthy of first- or second-round consideration. Once again, Ontario is providing a good percentage of the potential NHL talent coming down the pipeline in the next 2-5 years.

1. Brandon Saad, LW Saginaw Spirit: At 6-2, 200 this big-bodied American has a lot of skill and is arguably the best prospect the OHL has to offer this season and could be NHL-ready in 2011-12, he's that good and physically developed. Along with Seth Ambroz, Saad has been a force up front for about three years now and continues to develop on an upward curve at a time when big, skilled power forwards are more in demand than ever. "He's a great skater, playmaker, has good hockey sense and has that goal scoring ability you look for," said an NHL scout familiar with his game.

2. Gabriel Landeskog, RW Kitchener Rangers: This Swedish power forward prospect has come on like gangbusters since coming over to the OHL last season and big things are expected of him this year. He loves to take the body, goes hard to the net and has the size (6-1, 200) to go with excellent skating chops to be the kind of complete package every NHL team covets. "He's an angry, angry player some nights. He bangs, he scores and even plays some defense, too," another NHL scout said.

3. Matt Puempel, LW Peterborough Petes: The word on the street right now is: don't be fooled by the points production Puempel put up at the Ivan Hlinka-- he wasn't that good. The reigning CHL rookie of the year is coming off a 33-goal season with the Petes at age 16 who can skate and score, but who also reportedly had a pretty poor Team Canada evaluation camp. Add Red Line Report to the list of people unimpressed with Puempel this summer: they called him the "most disappointing" player on Team Canada, and while acknowledging his outstanding physical and skill package, said that he had a lot of trouble finding his comfort zone and consistency up front. For a kid thought to be a consensus top-five pick next June, this is an interesting development and bears watching.

4. Ryan Murphy, D Kitchener Rangers: Ah, if he only had another three or four inches on his frame. This offensive defenseman has been described to me alternately as "unreal" and "fabulous" offensively, and a "disaster" and "complete gongshow" defensively. But even with the critiques of his defense, those folks say he's just so good at skating and generating offense that you can overlook the defensive problems with this kid. He's a premier puck mover and blazing skater with high-end speed and agility and the creativity to do whatever he wants with the puck. But at 5-10, 160 pounds, has a lot of growing to do and is not ever going to have the size that makes Drew Doughty a future Norris Trophy winner and a player everyone salivates over.

When compared to Ryan Ellis, Nashville's top pick in 2009, an NHL scout had this interesting bit to say about Murphy: "I think he's a much more dynamic player than Ellis is." And honestly, that's a mouthful right there. Another scout said this: "If you don't stop this kid at your own blue line, you're ****ed. He's right by you and is creating a scoring chance, because he's pretty unstoppable if he cranks it up through the neutral zone." The bad news for Bruins fans: He's another small defenseman, and the team already has a surplus of those, albeit none with Murphy's pure talent. Curiously enough, Murphy was left off Team Canada's gold medal-winning Ivan Hlinka squad, a decision that most every scout I've talked to has derided at ludicrous.

5. Alan Quine, C Kingston Frontenacs: Heady centerman has the speed and intelligence to produce offensively, but plays on a bad team. He only has average size at 5-11, 175 pounds, but shows a willingness to go into traffic. He performed well at Team Canada evaluation camp and was in the Hlinka team that captured gold. He was solid if unspectacular in that tournament, and he'll need to improve on the 11 goals he scored last year to make a legitimate run at a top-20 selection.

6. Garett Meurs, C Plymouth Whalers: Often overshadowed on the Whalers because of the presence of Tyler Seguin, Meurs has managed to capture the attention of scouts nonetheless because of his excellent hockey skills. "Meurs always seems to be the 'other guy' on whatever line he plays on, but he produces," one NHL scout recently. He's probably not going to be a star NHLer, but Meurs is the kind of complementary player with the ability to score 30-35 goals and be a valuable contributor for years.

7. Dougie Hamilton, D Niagara Ice Dogs: At 6-4, 190 pounds, and some speed and solid footwork, this player is a raw, but intriguing talent. What Derek Forbort was last season to people who desired a defender with legitimate size and some offensive chops, Hamilton is to this draft. He's well behind Adam Larsson and David Musil in terms of pure talent and upside at the defense position, but could develop into one of the better players in this class over time. Moves well in all directions and will jump up into the rush. Right now seen as more of a physical defense-first player who is gangly and still rounding into his athletic form. But, he has tremendous athletic bloodlines, his parents Doug (rowing) and Lynn (basketball) having both been Canadian Olympians. Depending on what kind of season he has, he's either going to shoot up the board or fall precipitously, because there will probably be little middle ground for a project like him.

8. Scott Harrington, D London Knights: On paper, this 6-1, 190-pound rearguard may be another guy for Bruins fans who believe the team desperately needs size and talent on defense to put some time and energy into following. He's big, strong, skilled, skates well and plays a very good shutdown game. Even his supporters acknowledge that he may not be much of an offensive presence at the next level, but he's one of those players you can put the term "upside" on. That said, others aren't so sure. "I think he's overhyped and needs to show more," said one NHL scout. "He's got good size, is a good skater and is good defensively, but he doesn't do a lot for me. At least, he's not someone I'm looking at in the first round right now unless he picks it up and shows me some more."

9. Boone Jenner, C Oshawa Generals: Beyond the great name, this is a pretty good-sized (6-1 195) centerman with some real skill and upside. Bad news up front: His skating is not NHL-caliber, and he's definitely going to have to improve on his first few steps and overall agility if he's going to have a chance at being a top-two liner in the show one day. However, he's so good on the puck and oozes hockey sense, plus has a tremendous work ethic (two scouts have used the ubiquitous "He skates his bag off!" line with me) to boot. If he can improve the skating/speed, he's got a shot to be a player. But, where you take a guy like this is the big question right now. Red Line has him 14th overall, but others I have talked to see him more as a late-first/early second, while yet another said the skating could drop him a lot lower if he hasn't addressed it this season.

10. Lucas Lessio, LW Oshawa Generals: Jenner's new teammate comes over from the St. Mike's Buzzers of Jr. A after deciding not to follow a path to the University of Michigan. The two had a chance to skate together at the Ivan Hlinka and get some chemistry down for the upcoming OHL season. A pure talent with speed and goal scoring instincts, but doesn't always give it his all on the defensive side of things and can be a one-man show at times. He's definitely a player to watch this season to see how he handles the challenge of the OHL after tearing it up last season for the Buzzers and having a good showing at the Ivan Hlinka.

More OHL players to keep tabs on:

Austen Brassard, RW Belleville Bulls: Traded from Windsor in the Philipp Grubauer deal, this power forward lives up to his team's name. He's a powerful, physical player who will go through people on his way to the net. Can skate OK, but has a nice modicum of skill to his package, so if he can pick up a step or three, could be a real monster when he fills out (6-2, 192).

Brett Ritchie, RW Sarnia Sting: If he were a better skater, a lot of people would be pretty excited about this kid. At 6-3, 204, he's already a horse and real tough to contain when he gets it going and grabs possession of the puck in the offensive zone. Protects the puck well and showed some scoring panache in Slovakia at the Ivan Hlinka, but has a lot of improving to do before he can be considered a legitimate top-six forward prospect.

David Broll, LW Erie Otters: The third of three big power forward prospects, Broll is a mean, nasty hitter who is the most intimidating of the three, but also possesses the lowest ceiling at present. He's got a really poor first few steps and lacks agility/turning ability, but is one of those straight-ahead skaters who's fine once he gets going. Another Hlinka alum, Broll's got some skill, too, but his real effectiveness is when he's bowling guys over and opening up space for his linemates. Because of the size (6-2, 220) and nastiness, he'll be a top-two round pick in June, but like Ritchie and Brassard is a work in progress and probably comes with more risk than the other two. Because Mississauga is hosting the 2011 Memorial Cup, scouts will get a chance to see how he progresses this season from start to finish-- should be very interesting to see.

Daniel Catenacci, LW Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds: The top selection in the OHL draft two years ago is a flashy, explosive player who doesn't have a lot of size (5-10, 180), but has the jets, hands and dash to attract notice. He's very skilled, good on the puck and can finish in a variety of ways, but some wonder how his game is going to translate at the next level. He's the classic player who will fool the novice or uninitiated fan who will be easily dazzled by his pure speed and slick moves, so when watching this player, you have to focus on the little things like his awareness, presence and willingness to work as hard in all zones as he does when the puck is on his stick. Because of his pure talent and draft pedigree, Catenacci will be closely scrutinized this year, but will need to do more than just score to earn a high grade and early selection in June.

Carter Sandlak, LW Guelph Storm: At 6-2, 199 this is just a big, no-frills up-and-down winger who grinds and brings the physicality, but not much else. Not a very good skater, but he hustles the best he can and is at his best when taking the body and laying into people. Doesn't have the skill or creativity to be much more than a fourth-line NHL player, but has the kind of desire and other intangibles to watch and see where he gets himself.

Stuart Percy, D Mississauga St. Mike's Majors: A B2011DW favorite-- but is on the outside looking in to start the season. Has a nice 6-1 frame, but skating is just ehhh. If he can pick up a step, he could work himself solidly into the 1st round. "He's got some good hands and hockey sense," said one NHL scout familiar with him. "His skating needs some work; if he's not moving his feet or if he gets caught flat-footed, he can have issues out there, but he's got the potential to be a solid puck-mover and first-round pick if he can improve his overall mobility." Percy is the kind of player the Bruins normally target under the radar because he does have the nice size and skill package. Red Line said he was "unnoticeable" at the Ivan Hlinka, but that can be a pretty good thing when you play defense. Watch this guy.

Vince Trocheck, C Saginaw Spirit: Smallish Michigander has some real speed, skill and moves. He was on the USA team that won silver at the Hlinka and has a real shot to be one of those second-round picks who ends up impressing a lot of people over the course of the season. "He's dynamic and has an edge for a smallish guy. He plays hard in traffic," one scout said.

Craig Duininck, D Windsor Spitfires: Another American who opted for the OHL and who won a Memorial Cup last spring with Taylor Hall. He's got good size, feet and the ability to move the puck although is nothing flashy. He's also got some guts; dropped the gloves against a much bigger, more accomplished opponent and got tuned, but stood in there and took one for the team. "He's a nifty little player; he would have gotten more hyped if he had played on any other team last year," said an NHL scout.

Matt Mahalak, G Plymouth Whalers: A big frame and some real athleticism are only the beginning of Michigan native's promise. He also plays a fundamentally sound game and shows the kind of calm and poise you want to see in a netminder. This will be an interesting year for him, with Seguin expected to be on the Bruins.

Tyson Teichmann, G Belleville Bulls: Very slight (145 pounds dripping wet) goalie shutout Team USA to capture gold in Slovakia, but wasn't sensational (and with that team in front of him, didn't have to be) in the Under-18 tourney this month. Makes a good first save, but could stand work on rebound control. Good glove and stick and overall has some strong attributes, but is not considered to be anything all that special in what is shaping up to be a weak goalie class.

Other OHLers to watch (mostly Europeans that I don't have a baseline for yet)

Nicklas Jensen, LW Oshawa
Vladislav Namestnikov, C London
Andrei Pedan, D Guelph
Tobias Rieder, LW Kitchener
Rickard Rakell, RW Plymouth
Danny Elser, C London
Colin Suellentrop, D Oshawa
Steve Broek, LW Kingston
Cody McNaughton, RW Guelph
Seth Griffith, C London

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

NHL Research and Development Camp

The NHL had its Research and Development Camp today in Toronto.

I'm not all that interested in re-capping all of the zany ideas the NHL had in play today such as a single big faceoff dot, 3-on-3 overtime, a double-wide blue line and so on. For more on that stuff, here's a pretty nice writeup complete with video from NHL VP Brendan Shanahan and former Stars-Flyers-Blue Jackets bench boss Ken Hitchcock. The only NHL coach in attendance was the Washington Capitals' Bruce Boudreau.


I'm more interested in observations on the 2011 draft prospects from the CHL who were in attendance and how they looked to some of the NHL personnel and media in attendance.

I'll update this post with some thoughts on how some of the guys looked when I get a chance to hook up with some of my sources.

UPDATE 8/21: Talked to someone who was there, and the word is that it was a productive thing for NHL front office personnel and scouts to see, as there were scrimmages and an opportunity to see a lot of the top 2011 draft-eligible players from the various leagues before the season kicks off.

"From a scout's point of view it was great. I hope they do it every year. The kids were skating hard, throwing the body and working their (butts) off," said one scout in attendance.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Slow news day

Technically not a Bruins prospect, but...

The Windsor Star reported that Windsor Spitfires defenseman Marc Cantin, who participated in last month's Boston Bruins development camp, got sucker punched during an altercation in a bar there early Sunday morning while he was out with teammates celebrating the receipt of their Memorial Cup championship rings.


Cantin, 20, is a veteran junior blue liner who was acquired from the Belleville Bulls at the OHL trade deadline and was a solid addition to the club that went on a 12-game winning streak to capture the OHL and Memorial Cup championships after falling into an 0-3 hole to the Kitchener Rangers in the league semifinal series.

Cantin was solid, but unspectacular at the development camp. He's got nice size and decent mobility, but keeps it pretty simple and conservative. Cantin is more of a traditional, shutdown/stay-at-home d-man, but did show off some modest skills at moving the puck and shooting.

He told me that he wasn't sure if he would end up being offered a contract by the B's (they're only a few away from their maximum of 50 allowable deals), and mentioned that he had received other invites but opted for Boston more out of choice and the chance to skate with an original six franchise than anything else.

If his jaw is in fact broken, it's not certain how that will affect his standing and ability to participate in any NHL training camps if invited.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ivan Hlinka Day 6: Canada defeats USA 1-0 to capture gold

Team Canada needed just one goal to secure the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament championship Saturday in Piestany, Slovakia.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Red Deer Rebels scoring star, continued his outstanding scoring run by putting a shot past Stephen Michalek less than two minutes into the game, and it stood up as the winner in a 1-0 victory to give Canada a perfect 5-0 record in the tourney and a 15th gold medal since this competition began in 1991.

Canada goalie Tyson Teichmann made 22 saves for the shutout, while Michalek made 23 stops, allowing only Nugent-Hopkins' wrister (unassisted) from the right circle as he gained the zone with speed and let it rip.

Congratulations to Canada-- they always ice one tough team and although USA had a tremendous tourney despite not having the talent, the Cinderella run ended today and the best team won. USA coach Tim Army did a masterful job with this group and the Americans have nothing to be ashamed about. It's a shame that the winning goal happened at 1:42 and there was nothing else to follow, but that just speaks to how well both teams played.

USA went 3-2 to capture silver, losing a shootout game to Russia during round robin play, but beating Sweden in OT yesterday to advance to the final. Canada gets a third consecutive gold at the Hlinka. And, leaving Ryan Murphy at home did not come back to bite them...imagine what would have been said if the Americans had pulled off an upset?

Sweden blasted Czech Republic by a 6-1 score to secure the bronze medal for the tournament.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ivan Hlinka Day 5: USA downs Sweden in OT, Canada crushes Czechs

Well, folks-- it's USA- Canada in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament championship game to be played Saturday. It's a competition the Canadians have owned since it began in 1991, with 14 gold medals, and barring a major upset by the Americans, they'll make it 15.

USA overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to lose a 4-3 lead late in the third period to Sweden, but got a goal from defenseman Connor Murphy 41 seconds into sudden death to advance to the championship game and clinch at least a silver medal. I mentioned Murphy in the previous post about Team USA, but he's having an excellent tourney and should see his draft stock get a boost here to start the season. He's the lone member of the U.S. NTDP program, having played for the Under-17 team last year after coming up through the Columbus Jr. Blue Jackets program.

Seth Ambroz (1g, 1a) continued his offensive dominance to give the Americans a 4-3 lead, while Alaska native and Shattuck St. Mary's standout Tanner Sorensen tallied his second goal of the tournament in the game. Lukas Sutter had another strong game for the Americans, scoring twice, and looks like he could use this tourney as a springboard to a successful and productive season at Saskatoon this season.

The shots were 17-14, but Steve Michalek was in net for the USA to go 2-0 since getting the start in place of Jay Williams against Finland on Wednesday.

Canada rolled once again in their game against the Czechs, winning 6-2 to go 4-0 for the tourney. They were never threatened, taking a 3-0 lead and staying in control. Lucas Lessio scored a pair of goals after not having done much on the scoresheet over the past several contests when he got off to a hot start. Lessio has all you look for in an NHL prospect: size, skating, shot and sense. If he can bring the intensity to match with the Oshawa Generals this season, he'll be a highly-rated draft prospect in June.

Matt Puempel, who's a preseason top-five candidate after winning CHL Rookie of the Year with the OHL's Peterborough Petes last season, also scored and has, along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (the WHL's ROY finalist) had a very strong, consistent tourney to pace Canada in scoring. Alan Quine, Brett Ritchie and Garrett Meurs also scored for Canada, while Václav Tomek and Petr Šidlík tallied for the Czechs.

Well, nobody's surprised that Canada is in the final, but the Americans? Give them and coach Tim Army and staff credit-- they've gotten a tremendous performance thus far from their horse, Ambroz, while little dudes John Gaudreau, Tanner Sorensen and Cason Hohmann have gotten it done offensively for them.

Let's face it, though-- Canada is HEAVILY favored on Sunday. And, I can't emphasize that enough. The Canadians have a top-notch club at all positions, and if the past is any inclination, a huge percentage of these guys will be first-round picks in Minnesota next June. And, they even left the small but uber-skilled Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers at home! On the USA roster, only Ambroz is a first-round lock at present. On paper, it looks like Canada will cruise to another gold medal.

But, the games aren't played on paper, are they?

USA is in a good position: they aren't expected to win, and if they can keep it loose and close, they'll have a shot. But, Canada has been a juggernaut, and I see no reason that they won't continue their prolific scoring ways and smothering D. I've had one Canadian reader of this blog tell me privately that he's worried about a USA upset, but I would say that I'm counting on a Canadian win.

They're just too skilled, too deep, too good all the way around, but I'm certainly proud of what the young Americans have done and they deserve all the praise and credit they can get. This team has outperformed the one last year that boasted four first-round picks in Austin Watson, Nick Bjugstad, Kevin Hayes and Charlie Coyle.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka: Analysis

Today is an off-day for the four teams playing in the semifinal games at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Piestany, Slovakia, so I figured it was a good time to call your attention to some of the players on the Team USA squad that went 2-1 in round robin play for Group A and could have gone undefeated if not for a 6-5 shootout setback to Russia on day 2.

The Americans have done better than anticipated thus far given that they don't send their top talent from the U.S. NTDP to the Hlinka, allowing for players outside of Ann Arbor to get a crack at some international play. Last year, some notable 2010 draft names who played on the USA team (which failed to medal) were: Nick Bjugstad, Kevin Hayes, Charlie Coyle and B's prospect Zane Gothberg to name a few, but there weren't many on this year's squad with the first-round pedigree of Bjugstad, Hayes and Coyle. So, big names from the U.S. Under-18 Team like Brandon Saad, J.T. Miller, Adam Clendening, Tyler Biggs, Mike Paliotta, Matt Nieto and Rocco Grimaldi just for starters weren't put on the Hlinka roster, which speaks to how well this team, coached by Rhode Island native Tim Army, has played in Slovakia.

In fact, of all 70 of Red Line Report's top-70 players on the list they published in their June draft guide for the 2011 NHL draft, only Seth Ambroz (10th) made the cut out of the Americans on the list (and there are quite a few!)

They'll play a potent and deep Swedish team Friday, and if they prevail will meet the winner of Canada-Czech Republic in the title match on Sunday.

As for the Americans, Ambroz is the focal point of the team's offense, and has been a big name (pun intended) for the 2011 draft class since he emerged as a dominant force out of New Prague H.S. (Minnesota) at the Select 15 Festival back in July, 2008. He's big, nasty, can skate pretty well (although his feet are a bit heavy and his agility isn't high-end), and has that hard, powerful shot that NHL scouts salivate over. He establishes body position down low, and few people can move him. He's a legitimate power forward prospect, and is primed for a big year in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers.

They got a strong game in net from Steve Michalek (not to be confused with fellow draft eligible netminder Matt Mahalak) who made 26 saves in the win over Finland. The Glastonbury, Connecticut native plays for Loomis-Chafee and has an opportunity to raise his profile against Sweden tomorrow. His hands will be full for sure.

Here is a quick look at some of the other players on the U.S. squad in Slovakia who you could be hearing a lot more from this season:

Cason Hohmann, RW-- It's a shame he's so small because he does everything else so well: a superb skater and offensive talent who can both set up the play and finish, and a real abrasive sonuvagun to play against. He left his native Arlington, TX to play for the storied Detroit Compuware midget major program and is now with the USHL's Cedar Rapids Rough Riders before going to BU. He's been a real productive presence and strong two-way player for the Americans in this tourney.

John Gaudreau, RW-- He's not quite the agitating presence Hohmann is, but Gaudreau is cut from a similar cloth: big man trapped in a small man's body who is explosive and can really score. Like Hohmann, he's headed to Boston for his NCAA play, but Gaudreau will be at Northeastern instead of Commonwealth Ave. His dad was a star for Norwich in the late-70's and the younger Gaudreau will be challenged more this season as he leaves the comfort of home for the rough-and-tumble USHL.

Lukas Sutter, F-- When Rich Sutter played for the St. Louis Blues in the early 90's, his son was born there, and although Lukas is a native Albertan, his dual citizenship gave him an opportunity to play for the USA. He's got above average size (6-1, 210), but has the two-way game, offensive presence and hockey sense you look for. Sutter is raw and a project, but has reportedly played pretty well in Slovakia. He's going to play for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL this season. Unfortunately, he's an Oct. '93 birthdate, meaning he won't be eligible for the NHL draft until 2012.

Vincent Trocheck, C-- The Pennsylvanian and former Little Caesar's midge major star now plays for Saginaw of the OHL. He's another undersized, but dynamic and abrasive presence who could be a player to watch in the 'O' this season. He's one of the U.S. team's more talented guys, but has yet to really get it going in the tourney. They could use a Trocheck breakout game against Sweden.

Connor Murphy, D-- He proves the apple doesn't fall far from the tree as the son of former NHL rearguard and Bruin Gord Murphy. He's got dad's size (6-3, 195) and is a pretty good skater (though gangly and needing improvement in his footwork) but can see the ice well and is a solid puck mover. The Dublin, Ohio native is also the team captain, so he brings some nice intangibles to the mix as well.

Craig Duininck, D- Solid, unspectacular but game for any challenge. That's how I'd qualify Plymouth, Michigan's Duininck, who was on the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires last spring and has a wealth of junior experience and stay-at-home savvy for the Americans. He plays a sound defensive game with physical bite, and even though he's not a great fighter, won't back down from a challenge.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ivan Hlinka roundup Day 3: Canada rolls in Group B, USA, Sweden, Czechs also in the semi-final

Team Canada continued its dominance in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament Wednesday in Slovakia, thrashing the host team by a 6-1 score to go 3-0 in the tournament.

The Canadians won it thanks to a pair of first period goals from defensemen Duncan Siemens and Scott Harrington, which gave them a 2-0 lead before Matt Puempel, Myles Bell and Boone Jenner (two goals) closed out the scoring. Puempel and Siemens also added helpers to the scoresheet, while Garett Meurs and David Broll each had two assists on the game.

Team USA closed out Finland to move to 2-1and win the Group A round robin while dropping their opponent out of medal contention with a 5-2 victory today. Cason Hohmann had another two point contest with a goal and an assist, John Gaudreau scored for the second straight contest. Justin Selman, Tanner Sorensen and Sean Kuraly also scored for the Americans. Connor Murphy (two assists) paced the USA blue liners in scoring today. USA got a solid performance in net from Nutmeg stater Steven Michalek, who made 26 stops. Markus Granlund had one of Finland's goals in the loss, Robert Leino the other.

Sweden blasted the Swiss to earn a spot in the semifinal round against the USA on Friday, topping their opponent 7-1. Oscar Klefbom (four assists) Pontus Åberg (3 points- too bad he's a 2012-eligible or the Swedish class would be even more insane this year), Joachim Nemark and Mika Zibanejad paced the Tri Kronor assault, who popped in the first four goals of the game and cruised from there.

The Czech Republic defeated Team Russia 3-2 to eliminate them from medal contention, again leaving the highly-skilled Russians to wonder why they weren't more successful in this tournament, where talented individuals couldn't do enough to form a team dynamic. The Czechs will hope goalie Jaroslav Pavelka can be as sharp against Canada as he was today. On paper, they don't have the talent and ability of Canada, but they did take them to OT in the exhibition round, and could pull an upset if they can pull it together for 60 strong minutes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ivan Hlinka roundup Day 2: Canada goes 2-0, USA drops SO to Russia

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins turned the hat trick in Canada's 7-3 romp over Switzerland today, showing NHL scouts the world over why he's been considered for some time as a draft favorite in 2011.

This is a guy who when you watch him doesn't bring the dynamic game that jumps out at you, but it doesn't take long for you to start realizing that he's usually the best player on the ice. His hockey sense and hands are so good, and from what I hear, he's showing both off very nicely in Slovakia.

Nugent-Hopkins and 2009 OHL priority selection top pick Daniel Catenacci (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) have wreaked havoc in the first two games, with Catenacci assisting on two of Nugent-Hopkins' goals today while popping home a pair himself yesterday. Catenacci didn't have a great rookie OHL season, but has the talent, grit and upside to explode this year when it matters most. His size isn't great, but he's an ultra-competitor and appears to be on the verge of a big year. The biggest challenge will be the fact that he toils on a pretty mediocre team, but real players find ways to get it done. Catenacci is opening eyes in Slovakia this week.

Canada faces Slovakia tomorrow and a clear shot to win Group B play with a win, as they would be 3-0, while every other team has at least one loss, with Slovakia and Switzerland being 0-2.

USA dropped a hard-fought game to the Russians by a 6-5 score, getting a strong game from big name (and big dude) Seth Ambroz and a nice performance from the diminutive but skilled John Gaudreau. The two staked the Americans to a 2-0 lead in the game, but couldn't hold on, as Russia got a nice game in the nets from Andrei Makarov, who faced 48 shots. Russia tied the score at 5-5 late on Alex Kuvaev's goal, just a little over three minutes after Cason Hohmann gave USA the lead. Hohmann is an interesting player: he's a Texas native (Dallas suburb of Arlington) but is a Detroit Compuware midget major grad and plays for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL. He's committed to Boston University. Hohmann's tiny at 5-7 (listed) but has some real skill and has been productive in the tourney thus far. He idolized Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow as a kid who got caught up in the Texas hockey craze (he was six when the Stars won their first and only Stanley Cup).

Ambroz finished the game with shorthanded goal and an assist and also tallied on his first try in the shootout, but the Russians got strikes from Kuvaev and Igor Levitsky. Ambroz was denied by Markov in the second.

Gaudreau is another interesting player with Boston/New England ties. He's another small winger, but the Philly native has some scoring chops (18 goals, 42 points in 13 high school games at Gloucester Catholic), and is committed to Northeastern University and expected to arrive in the fall of 2011 after spending a year with the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints. His dad, Guy, played for and captained Norwich University from 1976-80 and is in the school's athletic hall of fame. Gaudreau's explosiveness and playing style evoke comparisons to Brian Gionta. Lukas Sutter also had a goal and an assist for the Americans. He's making a nice name for himself in this tourney, and with his bloodlines, he's definitely one to watch for the 2012 draft.

In other action, Sweden torched Slovakia by a 7-3 score. Mika Zibanejad got his first of the tourney, while Pontus Åberg tallied two, giving him three for the tourney. As a unit, Zibanejad, Åberg and Victor Rask form an extremely potent, high octane offensive line that few defenses will have an answer for. The question is, can the rest of Sweden's depth match up against the sheer talent that Canada brings to the table? Åberg is a 2012-eligible and player to watch for next year.

The Czech Republic edged Finland by a 4-3 score to go 1-1 in two games after losing to USA yesterday. Finland dropped to 1-1 after beating Russia in a shootout on Monday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Boston Bruins 2011 draft picks update 08/09/10

With five picks in the first 90 selections at present, the Bruins will again have an opportunity to re-stock their system. However, given the makeup of the NHL squad going into the season, you can almost be assured that Peter Chiarelli will deal a couple of these extra selections for immediate help by the time spring weather begins to thaw the winter snows and ice.

The Bruins have a lot of prospects right now, so stockpiling picks isn't the greatest strategy. Instead, the team needs to focus on areas of need (defense, goaltending) and can probably afford to use highly appealing assets like top-three round picks to help bolster the Boston roster.

That won't be welcome news to all of the draftniks out there, and to be fair-- I lambasted the B's GM for his trade deadline deal that sent the Tampa Bay second-rounder to Florida as part of the Dennis Seidenberg-Matt Bartkowski package, but Chiarelli did a nice job of re-signing Seidenberg to a cap-friendly four-year extension, so I have to give credit where due. So long as the team trades these valuable picks for players who aren't simply going to be short-term rentals, you can't take much of an issue with the moves if they help the club win hockey games. Seidenberg was very good for the Bruins before suffering the freak tendon cut against Toronto which cost him the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

Again, draft fans won't like the thought of trading any of the 1st- or 2nd-round picks in '11, but between Seidenberg and Nathan Horton, we've seen a willingness on Boston's part to surrender high draft selections for legitimate NHL players, and I don't expect much to change by June. Five picks in the top-90 would certainly be fun in Minnesota, but I doubt the B's will keep all five and might have about three to work with when all is said and done.

Of course, if they are short on picks, it will be interesting to see who is skating around wearing the spoked-B come early April (and given how close Horton was acquired to the draft this past June, no choice will be safe until the pick is in the books).

Boston Bruins 2011 Draft Picks

1st Round- 2
Toronto (Completes Phil Kessel trade)

2nd Round- 2
Minnesota (Completes Chuck Kobasew trade)

3rd Round- 1
Phoenix (Completes Derek Morris trade)
Boston (To Florida; Completes Nathan Horton trade)

4th Round- 1

5th Round- 1

6th Round- 1

7th Round- 0
Traded to Chicago for their 7th rounder in 2010 (Zach Trotman)

Ivan Hlinka: The 2010-11 hockey season begins today

The annual under-18 extravaganza in Piestany, Slovakia, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament (named for the star Czech forward, IIHF Hall of Famer and former Pittsburgh Penguins coach who was killed in a car accident in 2004) gets underway today and the annual competition has become a who's who of the upcoming draft class.

The tournament, originally known as the Pacific Cup and Nations Cup , it differs from the April IIHF Under-18 World Championship tournament in that the Ivan Hlinka is not an official IIHF-sanctioned event. That said, it's usually a tournament that brings much more higher-end talent to the mix especially on Team Canada, because the CHL season is not yet underway and therefore the playoffs in the three major junior leagues do not conflict. As an example, Tyler Seguin led Team Canada's Ivan Hlinka squad (who won gold) in scoring last August, but did not play for the Under-18 championship team because Plymouth was in the process of getting swept by Taylor Hall and the Windsor Spitfires. Ryan Spooner was also on the Canada squad that took gold in '09.

Last year, Jeff Skinner used the Hlinka tourney as a springboard for his impressive run from being considered a non-1st-round pick in the preseason by many public scouting sources, to top-10 selection with what was a tremendous performance offensively.

Just to underscore Canada's dominance in the tourney since its inception in 1991, they've come away with the gold 14 times and have 17 total medals (failing to earn a medal just twice-- in 2003 and 2007). Russia/USSR (3), the United States (1) and Sweden (1) are the only other countries to capture gold.

This year, Canada looks stronger than ever, with a formidable roster lacking only in potential top pick Sean Couturier, who as a late '92 birthdate, is not eligible (Hall did not play for Canada last year for the same reason-- his late '91 status). Couturier did play in the '09 Hlinka, so he's at least gotten a taste of the storied competition.

Guys to watch up front for Canada as top-10 candidates in 2011 include: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer Rebels, WHL) not all that big (6-0, 166) but is tremendous with the puck and can create offense on the fly with his superior hockey sense and vision. He lost out on CHL Rookie of the Year honors to Matt Puempel of the Peterborough Petes, who followed Spooner as only the second 16-year-old in Petes history to score 30 goals in a season. Boone Jenner has a great name, and at almost 6-2, 197 pounds is a big man in the middle for the Oshawa Generals with skill and a knack for offense, not to mention the character and leadership that wins you hockey games. Phillip Danault of the Victoriaville Tigres is another player to watch in this tourney-- he could pull a Skinner and elevate his stock if he can keep putting the puck in the net, as he had quite a productive evaluation camp. Don't forget about tall, lanky center Jonathan Huberdeau, who had an excellent QMJHL playoffs for Saint John last spring. He's a stringbean at 6-2, 166 pounds, but has the skill level to make a run at a top-30 selection in June. I also like the look of Sarnia Sting power winger Brett Ritchie, who is already about 6-3 and tipping the scales at over 200 pounds. He's a decent skater who works hard and be a handful at this tourney with his big frame and willingness to do the dirty work along the walls and in front of the net. One forward who could generate some buzz this year is former St. Michael's (CCHL) winger Lucas Lessio. Originally committed to the University of Michigan, Lessio opted instead for the OHL and the Oshawa Generals (who acquired his draft rights from the Niagara Ice Dogs) and folks will get to see what kind of chemistry he can put together with Jenner in Slovakia. At 6-1, 195 he has good size, wheels and scored 30 goals and 72 points in 41 games last season for the Buzzers, so he's got some offensive pop, bringing Canada a real embarrassment of riches up front (so what else is new, eh?).

On defense, Canada left the small but ultra-skilled Kitchener Rangers star Ryan Murphy at home, which is a curious decision, as he has evoked a lot of comparisons to another player with the same first name and similar game in '09 top-rounder Ryan Ellis. It seems that Murphy is the kind of player tailor-made for this competition, so for him to be left off the Canada roster is an ongoing source of debate. If Canada wins it all as expected, there won't be an issue, but if they don't, then expect a lot of second-guessing to occur.

I like Mississauga defender Stuart Percy and am intrigued with him and how his season will unfold. He was the 15th overall pick by the St. Mike's in the '09 OHL priority selection and has nice size and skills, to go along with some toughness. Check out video of his two fights last season if you can find it on the web-- he can throw 'em. I got a tip from one of my Ontario sources that he could be a guy who shoots up the various draft boards between now and June because he has all the tools to do it. And, he'll be appealing to Boston because he's got some size (although he's not a monster at about 6-1) which would put him in a different category from the midget brigade the B's have assembled in their prospect stable thus far at the position. London Knights defenseman Scott Harrington is another two-way defenseman with some real skill and given Boston's time spent scouting Jared Knight and keeping tabs on Mike Hutchinson, expect that he's already on their radar in the first round.

Team USA will have their hands full in this tourney. The U.S. NTDP doesn't send the cream of their crop, giving players who come from other developmental programs a chance to compete. There aren't a lot of big-name players on this roster outside of Minnesota power forward Seth Ambroz, but there are several sons of former NHLers who could make names for themselves: Connor Murphy (son of former Bruin Gord Murphy), Lukas Sutter (Rich Sutter's boy, born in St. Louis when his dad played for the Blues) and Keegan Lowe (Edmonton Oilers president and 6-time Stanley Cup champion Kevin Lowe's son) are all on the squad. Ambroz is the top draft candidate on the USA roster at present, a big body who has the size, shot and edge to be a true power forward in the NHL someday.

For the Americans to have a chance, they're going to need great goaltending, and they don't ge the luxury of going to the well to use Jack Campbell this year. Connecticut native Steven Michalek and Jay Williams (from the hockey hotbed of Virginia) will have to shoulder the load. The team's medal hopes took a big body blow when skilled forwards Shane McColgan and Alex Gacek had to bow out because of injuries.

Team Sweden has a few interesting players on the roster, namely Mika Zibanejad and Victor Rask, who is big, skates very well and brings a high energy level with him. Rask was impressive in international play last season and could see some playing time with Leksands this year given his nice size (6-1, 195), skill level and maturity. He's definitely one to watch. Unfortunately for Sweden, Adam Larsson and Kitchener forward Gabriel Landeskog aren't playing by virtue of their late '92 birthdates. But fear not, you'll get to see Larsson and probably Landeskog as well in Buffalo this winter, skating for Team Sweden's WJC (Under-20) squad. Zibanejad has a high-end skill level to go with good size (6-1) and the kind of natural hockey sense and offensive creativity that could see him earn a first-round grade in the 2011 NHL draft. Zibanejad, who is a member of the Djurgården hockey club, opened a lot of eyes at the World Under-17 Challenge last year in Timmins, Ont. and he brings the kind of swagger to go with a very high upside that you normally don't see from the Scandinavian ranks.

On defense, the New Jersey-born Joakim Ryan is an interesting draft story for 2011. The son of Swedish tennis pro Catarina Lindqvist and agent Bill Ryan was cut by the U.S. NTDP, so Sweden grabbed the lanky, but skilled rearguard and added him to their national team. He's got nice wheels and good puck-moving ability; he can lead the rush or play a sound positional defense. He'll play this season in the USHL for the expansion Dubuque Fighting Saints and is headed to Cornell University next fall. He aappears to be one who got away for the Americans. Ryan's been a prolific scorer from the blue line over the past two seasons skating with the New Jersey Jr. Devils (midget AAA) and Christian Brothers Academy in his native Garden State.

The Czechs are more known for who isn't playing for them than who is. Lukáš Králík is a big, right-shooting forward who plays for HC Olomouc has shown some nice offensive potential, and is expected to carry much of the team's scoring duties. Also, keep an eye on Matěj Beran of HC Karlovy Vary, who has the tools and upside to break out in this, his draft season.

Czech skill forward Martin Frk is not playing (due to commitment to the Halifax Mooseheads), nor is huge defenseman David Musil (due to injury). Musil is already considered a top-five selection this season because of his size (6-5) and athleticism/upside. He is the son of former NHL rearguard (and current Edmonton scout) Frantisek Musil and Bobby Holik's sister, Andrea Holikova, who was a world-class tennis player. Holikova, you may not recall, actually attended the 1989 NHL Draft in her younger brother's stead to receive Holik's Hartford Whalers jersey when the team took him with the 10th overall pick (he was unable to travel to the U.S. back then because Czechoslovakia was still behind the Iron Curtain). With those bloodlines, the younger Musil is a raw, but very intriguing prospect with a very high ceiling.

I don't have a lot of detailed insight on Team Russia, Slovakia or Finland, but Markus Granlund, Mikael's younger brother, is skating in this tournament for Team Suomi. He doesn't have his older brother's sublime hockey sense and playmaking ability, but is still considered a player to watch this season.

Canada kicks off the play today with a match against Sweden, while USA takes on the Czech Republic, Slovakia versus Switzerland and Russia against Finland in four games split in two venues of Piestany and Breclav.

UPDATE: Canada defeated Sweden by a 6-3 score in the opening contest today-- no surprise. Also not surprisng was the fact that Nugent-Hopkins, Puempel and Lessio scored. Sault Ste. Marie forward Daniel Catenacci scored twice. Joachim Nemark had a goal and a helper in the loss.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Boston Bruins Preseason 2010-11 Prospect Depth Chart

Here is my list of Boston's 39 prospects in rank order with links to their profiles and/or writeups over on my old blog, Bruins 2010 Draft Watch.

If you have any questions, fire away. I will update the list at midseason and then again after the 2011 draft.

Bruins 2011 Draft Watch Boston Bruins Prospect Depth Chart- Preseason 2010

1. Tyler Seguin, C/W
2. Joe Colborne, C
3. Jordan Caron, RW
4. Maxime Sauve, C/LW
5. Jared Knight, RW
6. Ryan Button, D
7. Brad Marchand, RW
8. Ryan Spooner, C/W
9. Yuri Alexandrov, D
10. Zach Hamill, C
11. David Warsofsky, D
12. Adam McQuaid, D
13. Jamie Arniel, C
14. Tommy Cross, D
15. Michael Hutchinson, G
16. Alexander Fallstrom, RW
17. Andrew Bodnarchuk, D
18. Steven Kampfer, D
19. Yannick Riendeau, RW
20. Jeff Penner, D
21. Mikko Lehtonen, RW
22. Matt Bartkowski, D
23. Craig Cunningham, LW
24. Matt Dalton, G
25. Lane MacDermid, LW
26. Zane Gothberg, G
27. Jeff LoVecchio, LW
28. Tyler Randell, RW
29. Jordan Knackstedt, RW
30. Maxim Chudinov, D
31. Justin Florek, LW
32. Nick Tremblay, C
33. Zach Trotman, D
34. Levi Nelson, C
35. Ben Sexton, C
36. Cody Wild, D
37. Zach McKelvie, D
38. Mark Goggin, C
39. Alain Goulet, D
40. Adam Courchaine, G
* Defenseman Radim Ostrcil does not appear on this list because his status in the organization is unclear as of 09/04/10.

Welcome to Bruins 2011 Draft Watch!

Welcome to Bruins 2011 Draft Watch and thank you for following me over to this new blog site, where I hope to raise the bar on coverage here in 2010-11.

It's another interesting year for the Bruins and their draft picks, as they have four picks in the first two rounds next June, assuming they hold onto them all (which is probably a bad assumption).

They get to go to the well one more time with Toronto to complete the Phil Kessel trade, but even the most pessimistic of fans would have to concede that the early returns of Tyler Seguin and Jared Knight look pretty good. Chances are, the Leafs aren't going to be another bottom-two team again, but if the Bruins can land somewhere inside the top-10 (with top-five being even better obviously), it will be another fun year of analysis and speculation.

So, here it is. Welcome to the new blog. Things will be a little slow as we are in the dog days of summer, but with the WJC evaluation camps and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tourney in Piestany, Slovakia right around the corner, we'll be getting things revved up.

Be sure to become a follower of this blog if you haven't done so already, and keep the old site bookmarked, as I will leave it up as an archive should you ever wish to jump in the wayback machine.

Thanks again for all the comments and support, and I hope you enjoy reading as much I as love cranking the posts out.

We have just 321 days until the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.