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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

QMJHL notes: Couturier, Huberdeau, Filippi and Danault in top-20

Was looking over the QMJHL scoring standings and noticed that four 2011 draft eligibles of note are in the top-20 of league scoring.

Not surprisingly, Sean Couturier is sitting in third place with 13 goals and 31 points in 21 games. He tied for the league lead in scoring last season, so he'll push the league leaders all season. Top scorer is P-M Devos of Victoriaville. Couturier is a stud-- the right package of size, skill and sense. His skating isn't great, but it won't hold him back either.

In ninth place is Saint John Sea Dogs center Jonathan Huberdeau. A stringbean with lanky frame and long limbs, this guy could develop into a monster up the middle some day when he fills out. He skates well for having such a high center of gravity, but has beautifully soft hands and superior vision for making plays. He's also been firing pucks to the back of the net this season after many thought he'd have a higher assists-to-goals ratio. In 19 games, Huberdeau has 13 markers and 24 points. Interestingly enough, neither he, nor fellow Sea Dogs 2011 eligibles Tomas Jurco, Zack Phillips or Nathan Beaulieu registered any points in Saint John's 7-0 pasting of Rouyn-Noranda today.

Tomas Filippi was passed over in the draft last season, but is doing his darndest to prove all 30 NHL teams wrong for snubbing him. He's got 12 goals in 17 games with the Quebec Remparts this year, and he's got very nice speed and puckhandling ability with a lightning release. The biggest difference from what scouts saw last year is that he's actually competing hard and showing a real effort. That should see him get picked at some point, but you never know.

I thought Marek Hrivik was a lock last year after being passed up in 2009, and he didn't get a call either. Hrivik, you may recall, was a big, skilled Slovak winger with a nice shot (but some heavy feet) who was on Moncton's Memorial Cup entry last year. Coach Danny Flynn told me before the 2010 draft that he figured Hrivik would get picked as well, so the Wildcat forward not going at all had to be news to his coach. In fact, when I heard that the Bruins had acquired the last pick in the draft from Chicago, I had visions of them using it on Hrivik, but they opted for Lake State defenseman Zach Trotman instead. He's currently in 10th place in the QMJHL scoring race with nine goals and 23 points in 17 games.

Finally, Phillip Danault rounds out the top-20 with eight tallies and 21 points in 19 games. He had a very strong Ivan Hlinka camp and a solid tourney. Danault has some real speed and brings a hard working attitude to the ice with him. But, he's small (5-10, 160) and not very strong. Some scouts think he'll have a hard time at the next level in dealing with the much bigger, stronger, faster players. He'll get drafted because he's got some nice skills, but he's a project that will have some hills to overcome.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Brock Otten breaks down the OHL

Bruins 2011 Draft Watch is pleased to have noted OHL blogger and analyst Brock Otten on this space to break down that league for the early portion of the 2010-11 season. The native of Oakville, Ontario, near Toronto, has been following the OHL since he was a youngster and his father would take him to Mississauga Ice Dogs games.

Like me, he got his start writing for HockeysFuture.com and further developed his passion for the Ontario Hockey League. He started his comprehensive OHL blog in October of 2008, and it’s been going strong ever since. Be sure to check out his pages over at: http://ohlprospects.blogspot.com/

I hope you enjoy his insights, and we'll try to touch base with Brock again as the season progresses and we see the OHL playoff picture shaping up. My thanks to Brock for taking time out to answer the questions and help to expand on what we know about the OHL prospects for the 2011 draft.

Bruins 2011 Draft Watch: The OHL has been widely considered the top producer of NHL talent for some time now. What are some of the main factors, in your view, of Ontario being such a prolific pipeline when compared to the other major junior circuits in Canada?

Brock Otten: That’s a good question. I’ll try to answer it without appearing biased (considering that I am an Ontarian). I think the main factor is just sheer population size to select from. Ontario has near double the population of any other province in Canada. While, the WHL and QMJHL draw from multiple provinces, together they STILL don’t add up to the number of people that the OHL has to draw from. Then, you throw in the fact that the OHL has the zoning rights to five of the most populated states (New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), it increases the pool to select from even more.

B2011DW: What does the 2011 OHL draft crop look like on the whole? How would you compare it to the 2010 class?

B. Otten: The group of players available for the NHL Draft this year from the OHL is absolutely sensational. I’m not being irrational when I say that it compares to the tremendous group that got selected in 2003 (widely considered to be one of the best drafts ever). Now I’m not comparing the entire draft crop to 2003, just the players available from the “O.” I’m not the only one saying this either, as I’ve read from numerous sources that the OHL is the cream of the crop in 2011. I saw a list of a scout at the beginning of the season, and he had 16 players from the OHL in his top 30…and that was BEFORE the strong showings from players like Ryan Strome, Vincent Trocheck, etc. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the OHL could make up half of the first round this year…perhaps even more. Just because of that, it overshadows last year’s crop (or any crop really).

B2011DW: Gabriel Landeskog and Brandon Saad are being thought of right now by many as the guys who will go No. 1 and 2 out of the OHL. What are your thoughts on both players and who do you think right now possesses the edge?

B. Otten: Right now, I’d actually have Ryan Murphy ahead of any of them, but that’s just me. The way he moves the puck and the progression he’s made defensively is really impressive. He was made for today’s NHL, where teams need that Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Mike Green type of puck rusher to be successful offensively. But Landeskog and Saad are close behind at 2 and 3. I’d probably give Landeskog the nod at two because he’s currently the more complete player. There really isn’t a negative to his game. Where as Saad is a little less polished…and could become the power forward that Landeskog is…but isn’t quite there yet.

B2011DW: Based on what I've seen, Landeskog reminds me of a cross between Mats Sundin and Brendan Shanahan. Is that the kind of presence he's provided for Kitchener, and what do you think his recently being named captain says about him and the kind of style/intangibles he brings?

B. Otten: I think that’s definitely the style of play you’re looking at with Landeskog. He carries and protects the puck like Sundin, but is hard nosed and determined like Shanahan. I’m not sure he’ll ever develop the type of shot that both Sundin and Shanahan had, he’s more of a bullish, take the puck to the net goal scorer. If we’re talking comparisons, I see a lot of Jarome Iginla in Landeskog. And as for being named captain…this is a HUGE deal. Not only is he an Import (very rare to see an Import captain in the CHL), but he’s only in his second year in the league. It shows that he made an immediate impact in that dressing room, as early as last year and that he’s a take the bull by the horns kind of person. Leadership potential is certainly something that doesn’t go unnoticed by scouts.

B2011DW: Ryan Murphy-- is he going to be the first defenseman taken out of the OHL this year? Why? (Or why not?)

B. Otten: The opinion on Murphy is so polar. Those who love him, love him, and those who don’t are merely lukewarm. It’s definitely between Murphy and IceDogs defenseman Dougie Hamilton at this point. I think it really depends on the development of BOTH players. If Murphy continues to round out his game and really becomes a quality two way defender by June, people will overlook the lack of elite size. But, if Hamilton continues to improve offensively and starts looking like a potential two way physical defender, he might be hard to keep down in the rankings. 6’4, mobile, physical, two way defenseman don’t grow on trees. But neither do defenseman with the vision, creativity, speed and puck carrying ability that Murphy possesses. As I mentioned earlier, I just think Murphy’s game is really tailored to the way the NHL game is played now, with speed and skill on the back end coming to the forefront.

B2011DW: Which, in your view, are the three top organizations in the OHL and why are they so highly-rated? What are the OHL teams (aside from the Majors) you see challenging for a spot in the Memorial Cup?

B. Otten: I’d say that the three top organizations in the OHL would probably be the (Windsor) Spitfires, (Kitchener) Rangers, and (London) Knights. Year in and year out, these teams are competitive because they draft well (or have the resources to draft well), utilize the import draft, and have management that is competitive. Doesn’t hurt that they draw well either.

As for the Memorial Cup, it will be really interesting to see by season’s end, who the real contenders and pretenders are. Right now the Owen Sound Attack and Saginaw Spirit are looking REALLY good because everything is working for them. Kitchener is also someone who could really make a push, if they can work out their consistency issues. From the East, the IceDogs and 67’s look like the teams who could push the Majors (how angry would the West be if two Eastern Conference teams made the Memorial Cup?)

B2011DW: Matt Puempel is the reigning CHL Rookie of the Year, but there appears to be some divergent opinions on him this year. Are you hearing some of the same things, and where do you see him stacking up against his peers in the OHL draft class this year?

B. Otten: I think right now everyone still sees Puempel as a top player from the OHL for this draft. I did a recent poll of some of the media members of the OHL and none of them had him outside of the top five (from the OHL). I think the biggest problem with Puempel is that he isn’t a flashy guy. When you’re going up against so many good players from this crop, we’re starting to see people focus in on more complete players (Landeskog, Saad, Alexander Khokhlachev) or players with more flash and dash (Lucas Lessio, Strome). This isn’t a knock on Puempel, but he’s kind of one of those guys who you don’t really notice on the ice, until he finishes the game with a hat trick. He’s an opportunist and a pure goal scorer, but he relies on his hockey IQ to put himself in good position for scoring opportunities. He’s not Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. Puempel’s a great player in his own right, I think some people would just like to see him round out the rest of his game more.

B2011DW: Who are some of the players this year who have exceeded expectations in your mind, and look like they could be on their way to 1st- or high 2nd-round billing in Minnesota?

B. Otten: You saw that Ryan Strome goal the other night. This was an eye opener for a lot of people, but he does these sort of things on a nightly basis (maybe not quite as amazing, but you get my drift). If he keeps producing at the clip he is, I’ll be really surprised if he isn’t garnering attention for the top 10 (never mind the late first or high 2nd). Outside of Strome, I think you’re probably looking at Vincent Trocheck and Shane Prince. Trocheck is the best player from this draft no one is talking about. He’s the complete package (minus elite size). Great speed, hustle, tenacity, skill and he’s a huge part of why the Spirit have been so good this year. But I think because he plays in Saginaw (and he’s American), he’s not getting his due respect from the OHL media. Prince has definitely exceeded expectations offensively this year, but he is a late 1992 and I worry about the type of role he could play in the NHL.

B2011DW: Who are some of the underachievers that you expected more from but who have not delivered on some of the promise they showed last year?

B. Otten: The two that immediately come to mind are Brett Ritchie and Austen Brassard. Two big power forwards who I expected to come out guns a blazing this year (since both are surrounded by more talent this year). But neither is scoring or dominating enough physically to warrant serious consideration for the first round at this point. I think the other guy who’s really disappointed me with his production is Kingston’s Alan Quine. A lot of talent offensively, but he still looks too soft and weak to put up points on a consistent basis.

B2011DW: Who are some of the guys you see flying under the radar right now?

B. Otten: I mentioned Trocheck in Saginaw. How about Stuart Percy and Mark Scheifele? Percy is just a rock solid two way guy who’s going to get a lot of exposure playing for Mississauga in the Memorial Cup. And Scheifele is a rangy playmaking center with Barrie who’s putting up some impressive point totals in his rookie season. Another name to throw into the ring for this question would probably be Sarnia’s Brandon Francisco. Part of it might be because half the world thinks he’s eligible for 2012 (when he’s actually eligible this year). He’s also getting moderately overshadowed by (Nail) Yakupov and (Alex) Galchenyuk. Francisco is undersized, but he’s got elite vision, speed and hands and has a lot of offensive potential moving forward. Also, keep an eye out for Saginaw goaltender Tadeas Galansky. He’s a late 1992, but he’s been great in the OHL so far and could be the top rated goaltender from the league this year.

B2011DW: Finally-- the imports this season. Is this one of the best groups of Europeans you've seen in the OHL as a whole/competing at the same time that you've seen in a while? How much do you think Alex Burmistrov's high selection last summer may have had to do with guys like Alex Kokhlachev and Andrey Pedan coming over from Russia this season?

B. Otten: Definitely the best group of imports I can ever remember. So many guys making a big impact (too many to name). I think Burmistrov’s high selection last summer definitely had a lot to do with a significant number of Russian players coming over. We’ve heard so much about the whole KHL factor, that I think many teenagers want to prove to NHL clubs that they’re committed to coming to North America (and staying in North America), adjusting to North American hockey, and acclimatizing themselves with our culture.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Very good article on Kitchener captain Landeskog

TSN is running an informative piece on Gabriel Landeskog on their website.

If you have even a modicum of interest in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, then this is worth reading.

It wasn't an accident that Rangers coach Steve Spott named him captain-- he deserves it. I'm telling you-- this guy is a cross between Mats Sundin and Brendan Shanahan.

Don't be surprised if he goes as high as No. 2 overall in June.

(Thanks to friend Jerome and his NHLDraftVideo for this YouTube clip)

What a goal by Strome!

If you want an indication of why Niagara Ice Dogs center Ryan Strome is such the topic of big buzz around the OHL this year in the midst of his breakout, here's proof.

Hat tip to Brock Otten who posted the link, but this goal is a beauty-- scored against the Plymouth Whalers last night. Look at the way he takes the puck and then accelerates around the 'D'. I'm liking that long, loping stride of his...

Always a premium playmaker, Strome is proving this season that he can put the puck in the net as well.

Size? Check.
Skating? Check.
Shot? Check.
Creativity? Check.
Hands? Check.

First-round pick? You betcha!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Full frontal Nugenty

Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins really is, in fact, gaining some momentum for a potential first overall selection in June.

Yes, folks-- he's that good.

A slight frame is the only thing counting against him, because he's an elite talent at just about everything else. Explosive. Dynamic. Heady. Skilled. Opportunistic.

Kale Kessy: A guy you should know

Last year, B2010DW started talking up Dylan McIlrath in late November as the draft's toughest customer and a skilled enough defenseman to be a first-round pick.

This season, we're ahead of the power curve for those of you who like your guys tough and who can really throw 'em in making our first mention of 6-3, 190-pound Medicine Hat Tigers center Kale Kessy.

One NHL scout I talked to called him a "poor man's Milan Lucic" which won't have anyone lining up to spend a top-10 pick on him, but Kessy has some good hands and now that he's back in action after missing the first few weeks of the WHL season with an injury.

"This is a kid who's legitimately tough," the scout said. "Last year, he'd blast people and then turn around, looking for someone to take him on. And, he fought some guys older than him and more than held his own. He can go."

Last year, Kessy tallied 11 goals and 29 points in 71 games, adding 123 penalty minutes. This season, he's got two goals in six games, and has racked up another 18 minutes in the sin bin. As mentioned, he's a big open-ice hitter and one of those players who can alter the tempo of a game on a shift when he gets the physical, aggressive forecheck going.

Here's what Red Line Report said recently about the Dec. '92 left-shooting pivot: Another late-bloomer, this undrafted kid from Saskatchewan with a huge and athletic frame was a brilliant find by The Hat. Has some hands and a lot of toughness.

On the downside, the skating isn't great, but I'm told that he doesn't need huge improvement either-- just needs to pick up a step and keep working on his agility.

It's hard to say right now where Kessy might end up in the draft, but if past trends tell us anything, if he can show the kind of offensive upside scouts think he has in him, then that nasty quotient will take him far. Don't get wrapped around the axle about the Lucic comparison-- the bottom line is this: hockey players who can fight are always far more valuable to NHL teams than fighters who can play a little hockey.

Kessy appears to be on the verge of establishing himself in the former category.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

And here come the Russians...Subway Super Series roster announced

And, as expected, the Russian roster for the CHL Subway Super Series next month is full of names, but not a lot of guys you've heard of or are really going to give the major junior teams a lot of work, IMO. Kings 2010 pick Maxim Kitsyn is on the team, but most of the roster are undrafted '91 birthdates who are not likely to press the QMJHL, OHL or WHL squads much as has been the trend over the last few years.

One guy who jumps out at me as a legitimate 2011 draft prospect is defenseman Zakhar Arzamastsev, who had a good Under-18 tourney last spring and is one of those "under the radar" guys who is really good and has a nice upside, but will fall at the draft because of where he plays and signability concerns. He's a pretty mobile, offensive-minded defender who can rush the puck with aplomb and plays a pretty smart, composed game. Unfortunately, nobody gets to see him all that much with him playing for Novokuznetsk (2-24 in 19 games-- not bad for a 17-year-old in the KHL), but the 6-0, 190-pounder will be the one guy to key on if you're going to the games. In addition to Kitsyn, he plays with Capitals prospect and 2009 2nd-rounder Dmitri Orlov, who has been highly impressive in the two development camps I've taken in recently. If he's anything like Orlov (small, but explosive and a legit puckmover) then he'll come off the board in Minnesota even with the Russian factor that dissuades a few teams these days.

I've put the teams who own the few drafted players rights in parentheses, but may have missed one here and there. Then again, maybe not. Talk about a group of no-names... UPDATE: Russian Prospect.com has piece up saying that Andrey Pedan, Nail Yakupov (2012 eligible), Vladislav Namestnikov and a few others will augment the Russian team. That site also says Alexander Burmistrov will also play, but given he's with Atlanta, that doesn't sound right. Speaking of Russian Prospect.com, if you want more info. on Arzamastsev, here's a pretty detailed profile on him.

So, if you like to see high-scoring games where your team is spending most of the time in the attacking zone and pouring it on with the ice tilted in their favor, then this series is for you. But, if you're trying to get an honest read on where some of these CHL draft eligibles stack up, not the greatest forum for that. It will be interesting to see how Arzamastsev fares, but he's just one guy on a roster of largely unknown talent, and the youngest kid there. Hopefully, he plays a lot.

Shikin, Dmitry 08/28/1991
Ivannikov Eugeny 04/29/1991
Garipov Emil 08/15/1991

Berezin, Maxim 01/29/1991
Yurychev Yuri 03/04/1991
Pivtsakin Nikita 07/23/1991
Sergeev, Andrei 03/26/1991
Ignatovich Maxim 07/04/1991
Yakovlev, Yegor 09/17/1991
Berdyukov Georgy 08/19/1991
Grigoriev, Mikhail 02/01/1991
Arzamastsev Zakhar 11/06/1992
Marchenko, Alexey 02/01/1992

Sobchenko Daniil 04/13/1991
Dvurechensky Nikita 07/30/1991
Lebedev Kirill 01/10/1991
Zdunov Paul 06/18/1991
Malinovsky, Vladimir 06/09/1991
Golubev Denis 11/07/1991
Bocharov Stanislav 06/20/1991
Panarin Artemije 10/30/1991
Burdasov Anton 09/05/1991
Voronin, Artem 07/22/1991
Sander, Denis 10/24/1991
Kalinin, Sergei 03/17/1991
Kitsyn Maxim 12/24/1991 (LAK)
Kruchinin Alex 09/06/1991
Goldenkov Dmitry 02/25/1991

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

European roundup: Armia making noise

For obvious reasons, it's harder to keep the finger on the pulse of what is going on in Europe early in the season, but Finnish forward Joel Armia's offensive excellence in the SM-Liiga has emerged as one of the important storylines from across the Atlantic.

I chatted with one NHL scout based in Europe about Armia last month, and he was pretty high on the kid. "Very nice size, even better hands," he said on the condition that I wouldn't disclose his affiliation. "I like him pretty much, although I say his skating needs to get a little better. He showed some good things last year, and I think that if he can make himself more of a consistent player on every shift, he will have a great year and go high in the draft. He knows how to score, it's just the little things he needs improving on. "

So far, Armia is living up to the promise. You can see his release and nose for the net on display here at the Ivan Hlinka in August and for Ässät Pori in Finland's highest pro league (h/t to NHL Draft video). In 12 big league games, the 17-year-old who is 6-3, 187 pounds, has six goals and 10 points. Some rookies his age in that league are lucky to get five points over an entire season, so his statistical body of work is impressive.

That said, he obviously needs to get stronger and keep working on his initial burst and acceleration. If he can do that, then he should have no trouble making a run at an NHL job someday and could be looking at a top-10 selection come June. He's not quite there on a lot of lists, but nothing gets scouts more impressed than kids who prove they can skate with the big men and then put up the kind of offense beyond their years like Armia has. He's cooled off of late, but if he can rack up 20 or more points over the course of the year, you'll be hearing a lot more about him in the coming months.

Swedish defender Adam Larsson is still playing with the big boys in the elite league there for Skelleftea, but his production is down after an eye-popping (within the context of being a 17-year-old rookie DEFENSEman in his country's highest pro league) '09-10 campaign in which he scored four goals and 17 points in 49 games, while standing out as the best blue liner on Team Sweden's World Jr. Championship entry last winter. This season, Larsson has managed just a pair of helpers in the first 13 games. Could be a matter of teams keying on him, could be a matter of things just not breaking right for him like they did last year. But the one thing I'm hearing is that the skill is still there and he plays an extremely poised game for one who's still several weeks away from his 18th birthday.

So, in other words, if you're thinking Larsson is going to drop far in the 2011 draft, think again.

Victor Rask is off to a slow start this season after a lot of hype coming into it. He's scoreless in eight games with Leksands and has been called "sluggish" by a few of the scouts who have seen him. That said, this guy just has a knack for getting it together in the spring months, when the scouts are in proliferation at the various international tourneys and some of the last impressions make for the best ones. He's a very good puckhandler and creative playmaker who is able to give defenders fits for his ability to exploit weak d-zone coverage and work the puck down near the net.

The Swede who's making some real moves upwards in draft discussions right now in draft talks is Joachim Nermark, who tore it up at the Ivan Hlinka and has ridden that wave into the first couple of months of the '10-11 season, earning a promotion to Linköping's SEL team. He's a very smart, heady player with excellent hands and instincts for putting the puck in the net and setting up his teammates. He had an outrageous 5 goals and 12 points in 5 games for the Tre Kronor at the Hlinka, demonstrating that when the games matter, he's a handful to keep under wraps.

Looking for a name out of Eastern Europe, then check out Czech winger Dmitrij Jaskin, who has played well for Slavia Praha of the Extraliga in early season action. Red Line Report featured him in their October issue, and they like his size, shot and willingness to go hard to the net. Radim Jelinek is their regional scout there, and he's proven over the years to have a pretty good eye for talent. If Radim is onto something (and he has Jaskin ahead of Marek Tvrdon, who is playing well for the Vancouver Giants, btw), then watch for Jaskin to gain some notoriety and move up the boards in the process. Radim is a character who once shouted that "David Krejci has a beautiful mind!!!!" in my ear at a Vancouver bar, but the guy knows his hockey (he also was the one who taught me the correct pronunciation of Milan Lucic's name when I was talking to him about how the Bruins had just drafted Muh-lonn Loo-chick. Embarrassing, really.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bruins 2011 draft pick update; Oct. 25

I'm back with the draft pick update for this week.

Toronto has fallen back to earth a bit as expected, but expecting them to bottom out the way the Leafs did last season is expecting an awful lot. Of course, after watching the way Dion Phaneuf played against Philly the other night, one can only wonder. I would expect a lot more from the captain, and if Leafs fans are honest with themselves, they'd say the same thing. They better hope that was just an aberration.

I'll do these Monday or Tuesday of every week from now until the season ends in April, so if you ever want to know where the picks stand, just swing by and see them for yourself.

1st Round

16th overall- Boston (8 points; 4-2)
18th overall- Toronto (9 points; 4-2-1)- Completes Phil Kessel trade.

2nd Round

41st overall- Minnesota (7 points; 3-3-1)- Completes Chuck Kobasew trade.
46th overall- Boston

3rd Round

64th overall- Phoenix (6 points; 2-2-2) - Completes Derek Morris trade.
Boston pick traded to Florida; Completes Nathan Horton deal

4th Round

106th overall- Boston

5th Round

136th overall- Boston

6th Round

166th overall- Boston

7th Round

Pick traded to Chicago (Zach Trotman)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Homage to Tim Thomas

I don't often link my work at New England Hockey Journal to this blog, but this one I felt might be of interest to those of you following Tim Thomas and his tremendous start.

I've known Thomas since he was an unknown. We even took in a Bruins-Islanders game together in the B's pressbox way back in March of 2002, before he ever took the ice in an NHL contest.

Sometimes, we forget that players aren't robots and health issues can have a major impact on their effectiveness. Thomas has done an unreal job of bouncing back after successful hip surgery and is really helping the team not only with his play, but the GM, who now has some significantly more trade leverage should he decide to exercise it.

With the kind of chip Thomas has on his shoulder right now, I would not expect a major downturn in his play. Vezina Timmy is back.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

WHL Super Series roster announced

Here are the skaters for the two Dub vs. Russia games next month, just hit the streets from the WHL. Disappointing if you were hoping to see some of the other 2011 draft eligibles like David Musil, Myles Bell, Sven Bartschi, Marek Tvrdon, etc. Darian Dziurzynski and Neil Manning were not drafted (Manning attended Philadelphia Flyers, Dziruzynski went to Phoenix Coyotes camps on tryouts but did not sign), so they also appear in bold as potential overage selections. Ryan Murray missed the cutoff, so he's a 2012 draft prospect. A shame, because he'd be a solid 1st-rounder in this class and only missed by a couple of weeks.

Team WHL Roster – Kamloops, BC – November 17, 2010

Forwards (12): Year: Club: Hometown:
Schaber, Chase (91) Kamloops Blazers Red Deer, AB
Vey, Linden* (91) Medicine Hat Tigers Wakaw, SK
Howden, Quinton* (92) Moose Jaw Warriors Oak Bank, MB
Herrod, Brandon (91) Prince Albert Raiders Meadow Lake, SK
Froese, Byron (91) Red Deer Rebels Winkler, MB
Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan (93) Red Deer Rebels Burnaby, BC
Ashton, Carter (91) Regina Pats Saskatoon, SK
Weal, Jordan (92) Regina Pats North Vancouver, BC
Hamilton, Curtis (91) Saskatoon Blades Kelowna, BC
Dziurzynski, Darian (91) Saskatoon Blades Lloydminster, AB
Shinnimin, Brendan (91) Tri-City Americans Winnipeg, MB
Gallagher, Brendan* (92) Vancouver Giants Delta, BC

Defence (6): Club: Hometown:
MacKenzie, Matt* (91) Calgary Hitmen New Westminster, BC
Pysyk, Mark* (92) Edmonton Oil Kings Sherwood Park, AB
Murray, Ryan (93) Everett Silvertips White City, SK
Madaisky, Austin (92) Kamloops Blazers Saskatoon, SK
Elliott, Stefan (91) Saskatoon Blades North Vancouver, BC
Cowen, Jared (91) Spokane Chiefs Allen, SK

Goaltenders (2): Club: Hometown:
Simpson, Kent (92) Everett Silvertips Edmonton, AB
Pickard, Calvin (92) Seattle Thunderbirds Winnipeg, MB

Team WHL Roster – Prince George, BC – November 18, 2010

Forwards (11): Year: Club: Hometown:

Glennie, Scott (91) Brandon Wheat Kings Winnipeg, MB
Bubnick, Jimmy (91) Calgary Hitmen Saskatoon, SK
Howse, Ryan (91) Chilliwack Bruins Prince George, BC
Vey, Linden* (91) Medicine Hat Tigers Wakaw, SK
Howden, Quinton* (92) Moose Jaw Warriors Oak Bank, MB
Johansen, Ryan (92) Portland Winterhawks Port Moody, BC
Ross, Brad (92) Portland Winterhawks Lethbridge, AB
Rattie, Ty (93) Portland Winterhawks Airdrie, AB
Connolly, Brett (92) Prince George Cougars Prince George, BC
Eakin, Cody (91) Swift Current Broncos Winnipeg, MB
Gallagher, Brendan* (92) Vancouver Giants Delta, BC

Defence (6): Club: Hometown:
MacKenzie, Matt* (91) Calgary Hitmen New Westminster, BC
Pysyk, Mark* (92) Edmonton Oil Kings Sherwood Park, AB
Barrie, Tyson (91) Kelowna Rockets Victoria, BC
McNabb, Brayden (91) Kootenay Ice Davidson, SK
Ponich, Brett (91) Portland Winterhawks Beaumont, AB
Manning, Neil (91) Vancouver Giants Nanaimo, BC

Goaltenders (2): Club: Hometown:

Simpson, Kent (92) Everett Silvertips Edmonton, AB
Pickard, Calvin (92) Seattle Thunderbirds Winnipeg, MB

QMJHL, OHL Super Series rosters announced

I was going to wait until the WHL roster was put out, but with the QMJHL and OHL being on the streets, don't want to get too far behind the power curve for the 2010 CHL vs. Russia Super Series.

These have pretty much been walkovers in recent years, with the CHL clubs manhandling Russian squads who haven't the best the country has to offer. I don't expect this year to be any different, especially with so many of Russia's top 2011 draft eligibles skating in (gulp) the CHL-- Alexander Khoklachev, Andrey Pedan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Andrei Makarov and so on.

Here's the QMJHL entry with the 2011 draft-eligibles in bold:


Jean-Francois Berube, Montreal Juniors
Maxime Clermont, Gatineau Olympiques
Olivier Roy, Acadie-Bathurst Titan

Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John Sea Dogs
Nicolas Deslauriers, Gatineau Olympiques
Simon Despres, Saint John Sea Dogs
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, Rimouski Oceanic
Brandon Gormley, Moncton Wildcats
Ryan Kavanagh, Rimouski Oceanic
Jean-Philippe Mathieu, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Xavier Ouellet, Montreal Juniors
Charles-Olivier Roussel, Montreal Juniors

Guillaume Asselin, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Louis-Marc Aubry, Montreal Juniors
Michael Bournival, Shawinigan Cataractes
Jonathan Brunelle, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Sean Couturier, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs
Brandon Hynes, Victoriaville Tigres
Louis Leblanc, Montreal Juniors
Philippe Lefebvre, Montreal Juniors
Jonathan Lessard, Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Philippe Paradis, PEI Rocket
Trevor Parkes, Montreal Juniors
Zack Phillips, Saint John Sea Dogs

There will be two games-- one in Saint John (Nov. 8) and one in Drummondville (Nov. 10). Berube, Kavanagh and Lefebvre are scheduled to play only in Saint John, while Clermont, Mathieu and Brunelle are on the docket for Drummondville.

OHL-- One game in London (Nov. 11), one in Sudbury (Nov. 15)

London roster

Scott Stajcer, Owen Sound Attack
Scott Wedgewood, Plymouth Whalers

Jesse Blacker, Owen Sound Attack
Calvin de Haan, Oshawa Generals
Taylor Doherty, Kingston Frontenacs
Erik Gudbranson, Kingston Frontenacs
Scott Harrington, London Knights
Ryan Murphy, Kitchener Rangers

Taylor Beck, Guelph Storm
Sam Carrick, Brampton Battalion
Joey Hishon, Owen Sound Attack
Peter Holland, Guelph Storm
Boone Jenner, Oshawa Generals
Michael Latta, Guelph Storm
Lucas Lessio, Oshawa Generals
Michael MacDonald, London Knights
Ryan Martindale, Ottawa 67’s
Christian Thomas, Oshawa Generals
Tyler Toffoli, Ottawa 67’s
Ethan Werek, Kingston Frontenacs
Garrett Wilson, Owen Sound Attack

Sudbury roster

JP Anderson, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Mark Visentin, Niagara IceDogs

Defense men
Brock Beukeboom, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Jesse Blacker, Owen Sound Attack
Taylor Doherty, Kingston Frontenacs
Ryan Ellis, Windsor Spitfires
Erik Gudbranson, Kingston Frontenacs
Dougie Hamilton, Niagara IceDogs

Casey Cizikas, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Marcus Foligno, Sudbury Wolves
Joey Hishon, Owen Sound Attack
Zack Kassian, Windsor Spitfires
John McFarland, Sudbury Wolves
Greg McKegg, Erie Otters
Matt Puempel, Peterborough Petes
Justin Shugg, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Devante Smith-Pelly, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Ryan Spooner, Peterborough Petes
Ryan Strome, Niagara IceDogs
Ethan Werek, Kingston Frontenacs

Now, we're waiting on the WHL (Nov. 17- Kamloops, BC; Nov. 18- Prince George, BC) and Russian rosters to be released.

Matt Nieto: A guy you should know

I neglected to mention him in my NCAA notes posted last night, but Boston University's Matt Nieto scored his first goal for the Terriers last week and is looking good out of the gate over on Commonwealth Ave.

Nieto's not big-- standing under 6-feet and weighing in at around 180 pounds, but he's a very heady offensive player. He's a nice skater with the hands and offensive instincts to be a scoring threat every time he hits the ice. He's one of these offensive zone predators who can do a lot of things with the puck and create on his own or for his linemates. Last season, he tallied 15 goals in 24 USHL games on a very good U.S. NTDP under-18 squad (he finished his combined USHL and tournament scoring run with 28 goals and 54 points for Team USA), so the potential for him to pile up the points is there.

Like Emerson Etem, Nieto's a Long Beach native who's had to spend much of his young life away from home and family pursuing his pro hockey dreams. Nieto and Etem are close pals, having played together growing up in local YMCA roller hockey circles and on the L.A. Selects development program before the two headed east with both going the prep route- Etem at Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota, Nieto at the Salisbury School in (Groton) Connecticut. They spent one season together in the NTDP ('08-09) before Etem hooked on with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL in '09-10.

He was named the tournament MVP in last February's Six Nations tournament in Minsk, tallying a hat trick against Team Czech Republic. On the downside, he was also one of the players involved in the off-ice imbroglio that saw him suspended from the NTDP along with New Jersey Devils 2nd-rounder Jon Merrill. He's probably learned from the mistake of being involved in what was, if you got the straight scoop from scouts (and I pretty much heard the same story from several sources in and outside of the NHL), an ugly prank that got way out of hand. Anyway-- Nieto has the benefit of having an entire season to put it all behind him and focus on successful hockey at BU, but I would imagine he'll field questions about it when the Draft Combine rolls around.

Nieto and fellow frosh blueliner Adam Clendening are both gold medal-winners from last spring's Under-18 World Champion Team USA squad (and Nieto copped another one in '09) trying to make an impact in the Hockey East. Nieto (1 goal in three games) and Clendening (1 assist in same amount) are gaining some notice and if they can continue to progress, you could see both land somewhere in the first round. Either way, neither is likely slipping out of the second.

Speed kills. Nieto with the USNTDP last year:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

USHL notes: Not a great year in the "U"

Red Line's Max Giese also briefly talked about the USHL and what he saw at the Fall Classic earlier this month:

"After (Scott) Mayfield and (Seth (Ambroz) there's a huge dropoff," he said. "Then you get to (Colten) St. Clair, and after him, there's another huge dropoff."


But, let's take a look at these guys and what the early returns are on them. Giese has been a supporter of Mayfield's from jump street, and that's big because if Mayfield ends up going top-10, then you'll be able to look back at what Max was saying about him over the summer and realize he had the inside track on this big, mobile PMD from St. Louis. Ambroz is someone Giese has been less impressed with, and his reasons are pretty much the same I'm hearing from other scouts in the community: simply put, Ambroz hasn't progressed. He's essentially the same player he was a couple of years ago when he was bulling his way through the USHL as a manchild. Only problem is-- now the physical gap has decreased. And, he's in for a real awakening when he heads off to Minnesota and the NCAA next year.

Here are some snippets from Max's reports he filed and which appear in the October issue of Red Line Report. For more, you can go to www.redlinereport.com -- it's a pay service, but you can't beat the depth of analysis the RLR staff provides every month.

Scott Mayfield, RD Youngstown 6-4, 185 14 Oct. 92
A huge workhorse on the backend. A commanding skater with a long, powerful stride. Shows terrific lateral agility and strong edgework...
(And that only scratches the surface of the writeup)

Seth Ambroz, RW Omaha 6-3, 210 3 Apr. 93
Heavy power forward with a nose for the net. He's the same skater he was two years ago-- hasn't improved his quickness, still labors to accelerate and struggles to gain separation. ...
(Again- there's more, but it's proprietary information, so that's about all I can do)

Colten St. Clair, RC Fargo 5-11, 180 22 Nov. 92
Played with a healthy chip on his shoulder and is embracing a leadership role this year. Made opponents' blood boil with his tenacious puck pursuit and by finishing his checks...

Giese said that two players from the USHL available in next year's 2012 NHL draft are worth paying attention to this season: Sioux City defender Jordan Schmaltz (6-3) a smooth, cerebral puck-mover who just could be one of those special talents with the size and skills to be a high pick, and Latvian forward prodigy Zemgus Girgensons, a big, skilled creative center who is already having an immediate impact with expansion Dubuque Fighting Saints.

I saw Girgensons last spring when he was the best player on an overmatched Green Mountain Glades team in the EJHL-- they got manhandled by the Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner-led South Shore Kings, but Girgensons was noticeable, and he's a smart kid who's on the fast track to be at the University of Vermont next year.

College notes: a few guys you may not be tracking

The NCAA season is off and running (for a few weeks now) and I thought I'd check in with accomplished Red Line Report scout Max Giese on some of the guys he's seen from the 2011 draft class.

First up is North Dakota defenseman Dillon Simpson, who is solidly ranked in that publication's first round right now. The son of former Bruin killer Craig Simpson, he turned down his dad's alma mater Michigan State in favor of the Sioux and Grand Forks.

"He looks pretty good," Giese said of Simpson. "He's real solid, a really smart player. He's fairly mobile with a fair amount of skill, too. I'm looking forward to seeing him more this season so I can get a better read, but I like what I see so far."

Former U.S. NTDP forward Mike Mersch, who is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, has some promise, but is much more of a project that Simpson is, and as such, will be tabbed a little further down the draft.

"He's intriguing," said Giese. "From the waist up, he's pretty good. He's got a strong, wide upper body, has good hands and is a really smart, two-way player.

"The problem is, he's an awful skater; he's got slow feet, no burst in his stride and despite his good size, gets knocked around. He's a project. He's got the potential to be pretty good a few years down the road, but he's going to take some time to develop and is really going to have to improve the skating."

Giese was not as upbeat about Wisconsin defenseman Frankie Simonelli, a small but mobile player and puck mover. I'll save his comments for a later date, but let's just say that at first glance, Simonelli is a considerable "work in progress."

Giese conceded that it's a tough racket for these freshmen who are physically and emotionally underdeveloped compared to the junior and senior NCAA players they go up against. This can be a tough challenge to overcome for a player in his draft year, so it's the guys who have the benefit of good genes and come into collegiate play bigger and stronger than many of their peers who tend to have more of an immediate impact.

One kid to keep an eye on is RPI blue liner Pat Koudys, an Ontario native and former OHA standout last season (defenseman of the year) who happens to be 6-4 and is pushing 200 pounds. He's a mobile, two-way defenseman who attended the NHL R&D camp back in August and is a topic of intrigue among NHL scouts on the NCAA beat in the east. The Engineers used to be an NHL factory for the ECAC, but haven't produced a lot of big leaguers since the heyday of the mid-80's/early 90's (Adam Oates, Darren Puppa, John Carter, Joe Juneau anyone?) You can bet that with a player with the size and upside of one Koudys (pronounced COW-dice), Troy, NY will be a destination for scouts this season.

2011 Boston Bruins draft pick update

Well, it certainly isn't like last year, when the Toronto Maple Leafs got off to an 0-7-1 start and energized the weekly draft pick updates all the way to April and the eventual selection of Tyler Seguin.

But, it's still way early and even Boston's early success will bear watching in the coming months, just as we'll soon see whether Toronto is a good enough team to sustain this torrid pace.

So, with all that in mind, here is the first official draft pick update of the 2010-11 season.

1st Round

18th overall- Boston (6 points; 3-1)
30th overall- Toronto (9 points; 4-0-1)- Completes Phil Kessel trade.

2nd Round

43rd overall- Minnesota (5 points; 2-2-1)- Completes Chuck Kobasew trade.
48th overall- Boston

3rd Round

66th overall- Phoenix (4 points; 1-2-1) - Completes Derek Morris trade.
Boston pick traded to Florida; Completes Nathan Horton deal

4th Round

108th overall- Boston

5th Round

138th overall- Boston

6th Round

168th overall- Boston

7th Round

Pick traded to Chicago for 7th round selection in 2010 (Zach Trotman)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Christopher Gibson: A guy you should know

After being named the CHL Goaltender of the Week for 4-11 October, Finland native Christopher Gibson isn't going to be flying under the radar much longer. Some might argue that he was not flying under the radar at all, but when at least one scouting source doesn't even have the player ranked, then you can make the case that he's underexposed.

I got a tip on Gibson (who is a December '92 birthdate), because to be honest-- I wasn't tracking him all that closely, but the outstanding Chicoutimi Sagueneens stopper has clearly outplayed another 2011 draft-eligible in more diminutive but quick teammate Robin Gusse.

The 6-1, 198-pound Gibson has a 4-3-1 record with a 2.28 GAA, .924 save percentage and 2 shutouts for the Sagueneens (I always think of Felix Potvin when I see those black, blue and white jerseys). The 16th overall pick in the 2009 CHL Import Draft got his 1st QMJHL whitewash against the Montreal Juniors and more are likely to come given his big frame, athleticism and the fact that he plays that butterfly technique that is the norm in hockey right now. If you look at him, he resembles Tuukka Rask in terms of his stance and playing style.

He's from the Espoo Blues developmental system in Finland, but came over to North America a few years ago and also an alumnus of the storied Notre Dame Hounds AAA program, for whom he was a part of the 2009 midget championship.

He's got the size and reflexes to play that butterfly style effectively, and there are vids out there that you can access to see for yourself (h/t nhldraftvideo). This prototypical goalie specimen with the quick glove and interesting backstory should be garnering more attention as the season goes on.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

QMJHL notes: Quebec still without regulation loss

The Quebec Remparts have started extremely well in the QMJHL, posting a 10-0-1 record.

The Remparts are getting a lot of their production from older, veteran players and don't have a lot of 2011 draft prospects on their roster, although one player in particular who was a '92 and passed over last June in L.A. is starting to gain some notice after having scored 11 goals (20 points) in as many games to begin the year.

Czech center Tomas Filippi, who has excellent puck skills and offensive instincts, didn't get the call in 2010 because of questions about his intensity and compete levels. At 6-1, 177 pounds, he's still got a lot of work to do in the weight room, but has a long, loping stride and has done a much better job of staying motivated in the QMJHL, his first North American season. He's currently fourth in the QMJHL scoring race alongside fellow Rempart overagers Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Joël Champagne (1st and 3rd respectively). Anytime you're talking about a guy who can score at a goal-per-game clip in any league, he's going to get on the radar. If Filippi continues to play hard, he'll likely get a draft ticket. Of course, I thought Marek Hrivik was a sure bet last year and he was passed over for a second time after putting up a solid, solid year in Moncton. So, we'll have to see where Filippi ends up.

Also keep an eye on goaltender Jimmy Appleby, who is Louis Domingue's backup and wasn't thought of much in preseason draft discussions, but has put up impressive numbers with a 3-0 record in five games, 1.54 GAA, .927 save percentage (with a shutout). Although small (5-10, 165) Appleby is extremely quick and athletic and his style and attitude remind me a bit of Andy Moog and Mike Vernon; aggressive, combative and effective. Appleby wasn't expected to see much action this season behind Domingue, but his outstanding play and composure mean that he'll get more of the goaltending chores so long as he can keep it up.

Victoriaville's Phillip Danault is also making a little noise in the scoring department, as the 6-foot, 170-pound left winger has five goals and 14 points in 12 games for the Tigres. This kid reminds me a lot of current B's prospect and Providence (AHL) leading scorer Max Sauve at the same age, and while he's not going to be a highly-touted draft pick, I think he will end up in the second round somewhere and will ultimately raise his stock because of his skating and scoring acumen.

I hear than Nathan Beaulieu is recovering from the rough start to his season and playing a much better all-around game. He was tremendous at Team Canada world junior evaluation camp as a skilled two-way defenseman who can do just about everything, but wasn't scoring or playing a particularly effective defense when the 'Q' kicked off. Nice to hear that his play has improved and he's rounding into form.

WHL notes: Rattie hatty keeps Portland rolling

Portland fans may have been spoiled by the dynamic draft trio of Ryan Johansen (4th overall to CBJ) Nino Niederreiter (5th overall to NYI) and Brad Ross (2nd round- TOR) last season, but this year is no slouch for the Winterhawks, either, with Ty Rattie, Sven Bartschi and defenseman Joe Morrow making positive early impressions.

Red Line Report has some terrific writeups on the WHL prospects in their October issue. They ranked Rattie as the sixth-best prospect in the Dub as of now and have him 32nd overall, but he'll likely move up if he keeps putting the puck in the net and setting the table for his mates.

Rattie, the second overall pick in the 2008 WHL Midget Draft, is all offense and tallied a hat trick (and assist) in Portland's 8-6 win over the Kamloops Blazers last night. That gives him six goals and 17 points in just 10 games, surging him near the top of the WHL scoring standings. The production jives with his reputation for being one of those players who has the quick hands and high-end hockey sense to create instant offense. Although not big (6-0, 170), he compensates for the lack of size by bringing the kind of quickness and slippery style that allows him to exploit seams in defenses and create havoc on the opposition. He lacks true top speed/separation gear, but that's not a huge issue for him because he's so elusive and smart.

Bartschi is right behnd Rattie with eight goals and 14 points. The speedy and opportunistic Swiss player doesn't have Niederreiter's grit and complete power game, but he's certainly proving he can handle himself in the scoring department. It will be interesting to see if Bartschi can maintain his early season pace as the year drags on, the bus rides get longer and the dog days of winter set in. But, so far, so good. Size/strength (5-10, 180) is the big issue for him, and that's something that could see him susceptible to breaking down over the grind of the long season.

Finally, defenseman Joe Morrow is a player to keep an eye on, too. He's been injured (groin) and has only played three games (four assists) but he's shown some promise as a puck-rushing offensive-capable defender. He's got some upside, apparently, and when he gets back in action, will be a player to watch this season. He's only hovering around 6-feet in height, but he's stocky with a fire hydrant-like build and has the quick feet, hands and vision to project as a potential top-pairing 'D' No. 2 or 3 if he continues to progress and show a willingness to work hard on all shifts.

Edmonton Oil Kings center Mike St. Croix has been a bit of a polarizing figure thus far. On paper, his 4-5-9 stats line in eight games looks pretty solid for a 17-year-old, but when you consider that he recently had a four-point game, a little luster comes off the performance. St. Croix reportedly had one of the poorer showings at Team Canada's Under-18 Ivan Hlinka evaluation camp in July, and has not played with the kind of vigor and involvement that scouts expected from him. He's got the kind of speed and hands to be a handful for opposing defenses, but has yet to show off the skills on a consistent enough basis.

Leafs bolt out to 4-0 start

Last season, Toronto started with a moribund record of 0-7-1, but they've jumped out to a hot 4-0 start for the first time since 1993-94.

With the changes the team made last season and over the summer, most felt that another second overall selection to Boston wasn't happening, but are the Leafs this good?

My belief after watching them blow a 3-1 lead in New York last night, only to get a power play winner from Phil Kessel in OT for the win is...no. Don't get me wrong-- J.S. Giguere will win them some close games that Vesa Toskala could not last year, but the offense is overachieving right now, and when the forwards inevitably come back down to earth a bit, so will Toronto's record.

However, coming away with a top-10 selection next June may be a bridge too far. Toronto's playing well, and you have to give them some credit, too.

I'll post the first standings watch of the year on Monday, after we've seen how the Bruins fare against the Devils this weekend. Weird schedule with the Europe opening-- everyone is playing a lot of hockey it seems, and the B's have just those two games to hang their hat on right now. Seems kind of like they're in limbo.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stefan Noesen: A guy you should know

Although Tyler Seguin has left the Plymouth Whalers for the bright lights of the NHL and Boston, his former teammate Stefan Noesen is working well with Alex Aleardi to take some of the sting out of losing Seguin's huge presence in the offense.

Noesen (pronounced NAY-sen) was born and raised in Plano, Texas, a Dallas suburb (developing in the Dallas Ice Jets AAA system), until he and his family moved to Northville, Michigan when he was 12 so that he could play for the Detroit Compuware program. He scored 24 goals and 48 points in 2009, en route to leading Compuware's U-16 squad to the USA Hockey National Under-16 championship, and was a fourth-round selection of the Whalers in the OHL Priority Selection.

Last season, he had a tough adjustment to the speed and pace of the OHL, but started to make headway later in the year, when he carved a niche for himself with some strong penalty killing. He finished the '09-10 campaign with three goals and eight points in 33 games.

This year, he's been an offensive revelation, already with five goals and nine points in just eight contests.

He has nice size (6-1, 190), skating ability and a big-time shot. He relishes contact and is a horse along the boards and down low, where he's able to protect the puck and establish possession on offense. He's still relatively raw and developing, but at the rate he's going, won't be considered a "sleeper" prospect for much longer. Red Line Report had him 149th in their October issue, but the guess here is that he'll easily be a top-three selection come June, and may even break into the top-60 if he can keep the offensive contributions going.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

WHL notes: McColgan still looking for 1st goal

Shane McColgan has been pretty high on most scouts' radars since showing up for some late-season action with the Kelowna Rockets in 2009.

Unfortunately, the small but highly skilled South Californian was injured at the Select-17 festival in July and not able to participate in the Team USA entry for the Ivan Hlinka (ditto USHL forward Alex Gacek, who has yet to get into a game with the Indiana Ice). He missed the first few games of the Rocket's season after having his tonsils removed.

He did post a three-assist night in a 5-4 losing effort against Kamloops Wednesday, raising his totals to four assists in four games, but he's still trying to pot his first goal of the season. Last year, he netted 25 tallies and 69 points for the Rockets and that's a big part of why he is so high on a lot of preseason scouting lists for the WHL.

The size is a concern with this kid, but he's an excellent skater with slippery moves and the agility to turn defenders inside-out when he attacks them with speed. His hands are superb; he can stickhandle in the proverbial phone booth.

McColgan will break through, but the lack of goals could see him moved down on a few lists because if he's not scoring, then he's not rising. Again-- skill is not an issue with this right winger, but size/durability concerns are.

EDIT: McColgan may not have scored a regular season goal when this was posted, but he did tally a shootout goal. You can check it out in the WHL's Plays of the Week posted Oct. 15 here.
McColgan also got off the schneid to tally a goal and assist in Kelowna's win over Chiliwack Friday night.

The WHL scoring race isn't as prolific with 2011 candidates as the OHL is. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads the way at 6th overall with three goals and 14 points in nine games for Red Deer. Prince Albert's Mark McNeill is right behind him with five goals and 13 points in 10 games. I'll need to track down McNeill and get some more detailed notes on him. The 6-2, 210-pound right-shooting center was 85th overall in Red Line Report's September issue, and I think he's likely going to be a riser if he can keep the production going. Portland's Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi round out the top-20.

Bruins fans will be pleased to know that Craig Cunningham is currently in the league lead with five goals and 17 points in 10 games for the Vancouver Giants as their captain.

OHL notes: Strome hat trick fueling his rise on draft boards

Niagara Ice Dogs center Ryan Strome was listed here recently as a "guy you should know" from the OHL when he got off to a hot start.

One of my key OHL sources was effusive in his praise of the 6-1, 183-pound pivot who is enjoying a coming out season in his draft year, telling me that his early OHL-leading points production was not a fluke but rather the real deal.

Now, Strome is coming off his first major junior hat trick (while adding an assist) in a 5-4 win over Belleville last night. That gives Strome six goals and 16 points in just eight contests. That puts him into a three-way tie for the league lead in scoring with Toronto prospect Greg McKegg (a steal at the top of the third round last June, btw) and Ryan Murphy, the Kitchener offensive defenseman par excellence that you know all about if you've been keeping up with this blog. McKegg gets top billing because he has more goals (7 in the same amount of games), but Murphy has played one fewer game than Strome has.

Strome, I'm told, was a gangly, awkward player over the last two years as one of these kids who gets a big growth spurt and then needs some time for his coordination to catch up with the long limbs. Well, so far, he looks like the legitimate goods as a solid first-round pick, although I'm sure teams were hoping they could snatch him in the early second. Unless he goes into some kind of crazy scoring drought, it looks like Strome will keep moving up the charts as a dangerous scorer who can set up the play and finish as well. He's a strong skater with the quick release, soft hands and vision/hockey sense package that usually means a player will carry it over to the next level.

Other 2011-eligible names in the OHL who are looking good early on especially in the scoring department are: a pair of Kitchener imports in Gabriel Landeskog (Sweden) and Tobias Rieder (Germany) who both have identical stats lines of 6-6-12 in seven games. Both players have a lot to like in their games: Landeskog is that bruising, skilled power forward, while Rieder's wheels and lightning hands make him a going concern offensively every time he's out there.

Vincent Trocheck is another player to keep an eye on. He's been important to Saginaw's early-season success, and may not have a lot of size, but can do everything else to include fighting. I don't know if his offensive skills translate into a top-six role at the NHL level, but his speed, abrasiveness and high energy level make him a strong candidate to go all the way as a checking/energy player at the least.

Russian Alexander Khoklachev is making a name for himself in Windsor as well. He's supremely talented and can do just about anything he wants with the puck. His play away from the puck is what scouts will heavily scrutinize this season, but he's been a highly impactful player for the Spitfires to date, with six goals and 11 points in nine games.

Ottawa 67's winger Shane Prince is another player gaining some traction for the draft. With two goals and 11 points in nine games, the November '92 birthdate from New York (acquired by Ottawa from Kitchener last season) is pacing the 67's in scoring this season. His production is good for 20th in the league so far, and if he can keep it up, the average-sized forward who has some legitimate skill is going to garner a lot of attention going forward.

Although there are reports that the 2011 class on the whole is middle-of-the-pack when compared to other recent groups, the fact that eight of the top-20 OHL point producers are 2011 candidates (and two of them-- Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk of Sarnia are 2012-eligible- yowzas) perhaps speaks to more depth than the group is getting credit for. Speaking of Yakupov, check out the way he protects the puck beautifully from the attempted sweepcheck and then roofs it in the OHL Plays of the Week video for October 14th.

There are three older/overagers whohaven't been drafted as of now in the top-20 as well: Erie's Mike Cazzola (here's a nice article on him quoting former Bruins coach now bench boss for the Otters Robbie Ftorek), Tyler Peters and Zack MacQueen, whose dad, Dave, is the Sarnia GM/head coach and traded him to Windsor for a 12th-round pick last summer. MacQueen appears to be making Spits GM Warren Rychel look like a genius while showing his pops up a little bit.

Given Boston's recent trend of picking older, previously passed-over players in recent drafts (Nick Tremblay in '08, Lane MacDermid in '09 and Craig Cunningham, Justin Florek and Maxim Chudinov in '10) there's a possibility that one of these guys could get a call from the B's or another one of the NHL's 30 teams come June, so keep an eye on how they perform. You'd think at least they'll get an opportunity as a free agent if not drafted, at least.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

USHL notes: Grimaldi earns CCM Offensive Player of the Week honors

He may be small, but Rocco Grimaldi packs an awful lot of explosive offensive talent into that 5-6, 160-pound frame of his.

The high-flying forward for the U.S. NTDP Under-18 team was named the USHL's CCM Offensive Player of the Week for the second week of the 2010-11 regular season. You can read the league's release here.

Grimaldi's three goals and four helpers in two wins over the weekend against Dubuque and Muskegon in which Team USA outscored the expansion franchises by a 14-5 margin.

The Southern California native who played midget major in Michigan (with the high visibility Little Caesar's program) and is currently committed to the University of North Dakota next season, is a dynamic scoring presence much in the mold of Brian Gionta when the Montreal captain was coming up through the amateur ranks.

He's a brilliant skater with superior speed, quickness and a mastery of his edges. When scouts talk about undersized players needing to have "plus-skating" ability, then Grimaldi is one of those textbook examples you point to as Exhibit A (much like Theoren Fleury was back in the day).

Beyond the skating, Grimaldi has unreal hands for stickhandling and a wicked little shot that allows him to bury the puck from pretty much anywhere he wants to. He's as deadly a scorer as you can find anywhere in the 2011 draft.

It's just that pesky size thing-- he's not just small, he's tiny.

But, Grimaldi's spent his whole life rising up to challenges that have sunk others with far less talent and drive, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up in June.

AnnArbor.com's Jeff Arnold has a pretty nice piece on him here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

One year ago today...

Bruins 2010 Draft Watch was born out of a love for the NHL draft and wanting to capitalize on the buzz surrounding the potential for a high pick as a result of the Phil Kessel trade.

Well, one year later, we have a different name, newer look but it's still the same blog dedicated to keeping tabs on the top draft prospects (and other stuff of course).

I want to thank all of you for your continued support and for being followers. I invite you to continue to ask questions and as always, I'm open to suggestions on how to make the content better.

Speaking of better, 2011 is looking pretty nice-- an improvement of how it appeared a year ago. This draft has some high-end talent and better depth than a lot of us originally thought.

So, if you're not paying attention to the draft because it's only October, that's cool. I'll be here all year.

Happy Columbus Day everyone!

EDIT- And Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian brothers and sisters- neglected to give everyone north of the border their due.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Murphy continuing his assault on OHL scoring race

Defenseman Ryan Murphy shows no sign of slowing down. He posted a four-point night (1 goal, 3 assists) in his team's 7-5 win over the Barrie Colts Friday. You can see highlights here.

That gives him a ludicrous (with h/t to one of my favorite movies Spaceballs) stats line of 4-9-13 in just five games so far. The goal he scored last night was an absolute perfect example of how dangerous a player he is-- he uses his speed to get around the defense and then beats the goalie on the wrap-around after the rebound wasn't controlled.

If NHL scouts aren't on his bandwagon already, I don't think it will take much more to get them on board. He's always had the offense, but this year, his defense is improved and the bottom line is-- he's getting it done in all areas including special teams, where he is an absolute stud as point man, who can either distribute the puck beautifully or can unleash a howitzer blast himself. Size is really the only issue with this kid, but if he keeps up his torrid pace, that won't matter, as Jeff Skinner proved last year.

Speaking of Skinner, the amazing thing is-- the Rangers are doing all of this offensive wizardry without his services. He made a lasting impression in his first NHL game with the winning shootout goal against Minnesota.

German ace winger Tobias Rieder also tallied twice in the win, and now has four goals and nine points.

Here's more on the former York Simcoe Express star

Friday, October 8, 2010

The 'Nuge red-hot entering the weekend (Updated with WHL video link)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or the 'Nuge-- the Red Deer City Madman as he's becoming more known as on this blog space-- is justifying all of the preseason hype as a candidate for top-three consideration in June.

The only knock on this kid is that he has a slight frame, because everything else about him is top-shelf. He's explosive, dynamic and an offensive machine who has terrific hands and hockey sense.

In his first seven games, he has three goals and 13 points, and believe me-- the best is yet to come with this one.

I'm guessing that he's going to be a ongoing player of discussion as the hockey season progresses. He was immense at the Ivan Hlinka in August, scoring the gold medal-winner and confounding every team he played with the ability to put the puck in the net.

You can see a little of the 'Nuge's prodigious passing talent on the WHL's Plays of the Week video.

But check out the No. 1 play- made by Regina Pats defenseman Myles Bell. Just beautiful. And, you can now see where some of the Mike Green comparisons come from after watching him finish off that rush. He may or may not have Green's NHL ceiling, but that's definitely a dangerous offensive d-man in development there with Bell. Last year, he had 4 goals in 61 games for the Pats. It took him just seven games to pot his fourth this season.

Keep an eye on him, because with his offensive production, he's going to be moving up the draft boards for sure.


On a more somber note-- thoughts and prayers to Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who lost consciousness and collapsed to the ice just 2:25 into the season opener at Philips Arena. He was wheeled out in a gurney and no other updates have been forthcoming. Obviously, we hope he's going to be OK, but he was largely motionless and it didn't look good at all. The play had been stopped on an icing and all the players were at the other end, so it wasn't a result of contact or anything related to game action.

Couturier not being made available until after Christmas?

Saw a tweet yesterday from a pretty good source that Sean Couturier's agent, Gilles Lupien, is not making available to scouts and media for interviews until after Christmas.

If true, I don't understand this. Couturier certainly has the English skills to pull any engagement off, and if it's to "protect" him, it could be well-intentioned and smacks of bad business by the agent. It's certainly not a good way to give an NHL team the kind of confidence you want in investing the top selection in a player who might be held too much in the sway of his agent before he's even been drafted.

I hope that this is not accurate or a misunderstanding on my source's part, because there is a lot of hockey to be played between now and late December. Young Couturier should be getting ready to deal with the glaring spotlight rather than being sheltered from it.

One of the things Tyler Seguin told me after the draft was that being exposed to so many demands by the media and the mega-attention he got last season really prepared him for what he was going through in Boston.

Again-- this could be a misinterpretation of Lupien's intentions, so I'm going to confirm, but it's a situation that warrants watching.

Bergeron's extension the right move at right time for Bruins

The Boston Bruins announced that center Patrice Bergeron has agreed to a three-year extension that will pay him $15 million.

Regardless of whether you think the cap hit is a little high given his production, it's the right move because Bergeron's contributions go well beyond a myopic focus on numbers alone. He plays a lot of minutes and with Marc Savard out, he's more than capable of being a solid second-line center for the team. Bergeron is one of the most unheralded defensive forwards in the game, and his high-end hockey sense and passing ability doesn't garner him enough credit because he hasn't put up huge numbers over his career. This could be a year more in line with his 70-point production, however, which would be huge for Boston.

It's hard for me to fathom that it's already been seven years since the B's drafted the relative unknown in the second round of the '03 draft with the compensation pick they got for Bill Guerin signing with Dallas.

I lucked out in that I was staying at the same hotel with Patrice, and spent a Sunday afternoon with him after seeing him hanging out in the hotel lobby, using the one lobby computer to surf the net. He was an earnest, mature-beyond-his-years kid back then, and in hindsight, it wasn't tough to predict that he would have the immediate NHL success he did. I'm happy to say that the Bergeron I got to know that day is the same guy he is today-- success never spoiled him or went to his head. Establishing a strong personal relationship with Bergeron was one of the first real breaks I got covering the Bruins, and I'm glad to say that I've had a front-row seat for his continued growth and maturation as an NHL player over the past seven years.

It's a shame that his progress was derailed by the Randy Jones hit that cost him much of the '07-08 season, but he appears to be getting stronger as we go, and people sometimes forget that he's only coming into his prime at age 25.

Bergeron is one of those players winning teams possess in spades, and Peter Chiarelli knew that. It's why the team won't leave Prague without the modern "Mr. Bruin" in the fold for three more years.

Now, if they can get Zdeno Chara to lock in at a reduced rate for the next few seasons, the GM's to-do list will be about complete.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome: Two guys from Niagara you should know

The latest edition of my "Guy you should know" series is a two-fer from the OHL's Niagara Ice Dogs.

Huge and skilled but raw defenseman Dougie Hamilton you already know a bit about if you read my OHL preseason watch list. He was No. 7 there and if you don't remember it, here's the link for a quick refresher.

However, center Ryan Strome is a player who has come out of nowhere early this season to capture the attention of NHL scouts with his size, skill level and productive play-- he briefly led the league in scoring with nine points in five games (actually tied with Ryan Murphy at the time)until a pair of Sarnia Sting players in Nail Yakupov (Oct. '93 birthdate- not eligible until 2012) and Tyler Peters (overager) eclipsed him with 10 points to move to the top of the scoring list.

Strome has nice size, is a good skater and is emerging as yet another potential high-end prospect to come out of the OHL this season. One of my sources has seen him and had this to say about Strome last night:

"He's legit; nice size, nice skills and is really playing well right now," he said when asked if the early production might be a fluke, given that he only produced 14 points in 34 games last year with Barrie. "I'd say that right now, he looks like a solid early second-rounder, but if he keeps it up, then he'll move up into the first, somewhere in the early twenties, I would think."

Hamilton, already well established on the radars of most NHL scouts working the OHL beat, appears to have taken his development and overall game to the next level and is clearly trending upward as that "complete package" of size, mobility and offensive upside. Watch him this season: he's got one goal and three points in the early going, and at 6-4, 193 pounds, has that natural size that every team covets.

"This is a guy who already looks like a solid No. 2 for the NHL and it's still early," the scout said. "He's got a very nice upside and I think is only starting to show what he's capable of."

So, there you have it-- Hamilton and Strome. Two players on the same team, but who are just a pair of latest examples of how strong a league the OHL is in terms of being a pipeline of talent to the NHL.