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Thursday, January 20, 2011

CHL Top Prospects Game Analysis: Team Orr- the goalies and D

To the victors go the spoils, and despite looking like a tough matchup when the rosters were initially released, the Doug Gilmour- coached Team Orr put on an offensive display after their starting goalie, Liam Liston, kept Team Cherry off the board after an initial surge where the ice was clearly tilted in Orr's end.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was interviewed at one point and he reiterated that one game does not a draft decision make, but that through multiple viewings, he has to trust his scouts to make the right calls on the list. Given how New Jersey's drafts have gone over the past decade, they're living off of past glories in the 1990s. Hard to believe that they've handed what could very well be the critically valuable 31st overall pick to Nashville for Jason Arnott and his 10 goals, 20 points. Ouch. But, the Devils are 4-0-1 over the last five games, so things might be looking up for them a bit.

Anyway- back to the top prospects game. Here's the analysis. Might have missed a few players, but decided to cover the ones who I took active notes on in the first viewing and may add more later as I watch the game a few more times. I'll finish up the forwards in a separate post because it's getting late and I ended up watching the Bruins-Sabres game and got behind schedule.

Team Orr (White sweaters)


Liam Liston, G Brandon (WHL)-- Interesting game for the Wheat King stopper. He didn't allow a goal, and was primarily responsible for Team Orr pulling a reverse move on Team Cherry and putting a chokehold on the game. But from a technical standpoint, Liston is clearly a work in progress. He looked shaky at the outset, playing deep in his net and flopping around. He got some fortuitous bounces, however, and gradually found his mojo and form. He seemed to be fighting the puck at times, and failed to catch the puck cleanly on at least one shot that led to a secondary scoring chance that if I recall, was chipped over his shoulder and went wide. That was the play that sprung Daniel Catenacci for the shortie, so it was a play where not catching the puck paid dividends, but had that second Cherry shot got in, it would have looked bad on Liston.

Jordon Binnington, G Owen Sound (OHL)-- Aside from giving up the Prince goal pretty soon after coming into the game, Binnington did a nice job of stifling the chances that Cherry did generate (and there weren't all that many). He got some help from his posts and from a stifling defense, not to mention four goals in the third period from his team. So, he wasn't tested but appeared to be fundamentally sound and was solid, though not tested all that much and only let one shot beat him through the five-hole. His breakaway stop on Schiefele was a pretty good reflex stop, as he didn't appear to be squared up to the shooter, but got his blocker on it and then turned it out of harm's way so there wasn't a juicy rebound on the doorstep.


David Musil, D Vancouver (WHL)-- Huge game from the son of Frantisek Musil, Oilers scout who was in the stands watching his son. Musil's stock has been dropping steadily all season for a variety of reasons. Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report talked about some of them in an interview I did with him in late December. But in this one, Musil looked every bit the top defense prospect he was in many preseason lists and in the WHL pecking order. He showed off his excellent mobility and fluid stride, plus hard point drive which provided an assist on Jonathan Huberdeau's goal when he got it low on net and in bounced off Christopher Gibson's pads to the pouncing Saint John Sea Dog. He moved the puck crisply, activated well and even got into a fight with Duncan Siemens, jumping in when Siemens went after Sven Bartschi and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got involved. It was a spirited fight with Siemens getting the edge in a lot of punches thrown, but credit Musil for doing the right thing without hesitation. That's character, even if he did it in a game he knew a huge percentage of NHL scouts were at.

Dougie Hamilton, D Niagara (OHL)-- Although he lacks the pure offensive game of Ryan Murphy, Hamilton has the 6-4 frame that Murphy can never have no matter how hard he works in the weight room. Hamilton is a good skater, though clearly more of a "big man" mobility than the kind of fluid, dynamic speed Murphy brings. Hamilton was active in all zones, showing off his two-way potential. He scored the game's final goal on a bomb of a slap shot that David Honzik came out of the paint to stop, but it rocketed past his outstretched glove, hit the far post and bounced into the net. His size, coupled with his mobility and two-way game is what makes Hamilton such an enticing prospect. He helped himself in Toronto on Wednesday.

Nathan Beaulieu, D Saint John (QMJHL)-- Another superb performance from the Team Orr backend. This two-way stud struggled in the early part of the season, but looked like the player who turned heads at Team Canada Evaluation Camp (WJC) over the summer in Calgary. He was involved at both ends of the ice and showed off the kind of mobility and puck skills to be a factor in the offensive dimension. He scored one of the Orr goals when he jumped in from the point, gathered a pass and then rifled a wrist shot to the back of the net. His dad, London Knights assistant coach, Jacques was on hand to see his son turn in a pretty solid game. Some scouts like Beaulieu more than others, but he plays with an edge, has some toughness to him and can do pretty much everything well even if he doesn't have the kind of dynamic upside of Murphy or even Hamilton (minus the word dynamic there with Dougie). This is a player to watch keenly in the second half of the season.

Xavier Ouellet, D Montreal (QMJHL)-- Hamilton's defense partner kept things simple and played a largely unnoticeable game. As one of the better scoring defenders in the 'Q' he's not known for his size (only about 6-0, 180) great speed, but Ouellet sees the ice extremely well and is excellent in puck distribution. Watching him in this one, he looked like a solid third-round pick, maybe late-second.

Reece Scarlett, D Swift Current (WHL)-- Entered the season on some watch lists as a player with some real offensive potential, but hasn't really delivered. Raw, work in progress showed some of his passing chops in the game and is a fine skater, but without being able to see his play away from the puck, it's hard to truly get a feel for his effectiveness in this one. He makes the crisp outlet pass and seems to be able to read the play and hit his teammates in stride, and it will be interesting to see where he ultimately ends up as a project pick but one with upside.

Stuart Percy, D Mississauga (OHL)-- If Scarlett is the raw player with upside, then Percy is the defenseman who made some noticeable defensive plays throughout the game, but probably won't bring much of an offensive element with him to the pro ranks. As a player with good size and skating abilities, Percy was thought of to have some potential to be one of those draft year risers, but hasn't been able to do that this season. Still, he keeps things safe and simple, and we saw that in the prospects game, particularly on the play where he stood up Ryan Strome and denied a shot on net. It was the kind of unheralded play that every good defender needs to be able to make, but won't often get the credit for.

We'll return tomorrow to close out the analysis of the Team Orr forwards.

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