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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Memorial Cup Preview #2: Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

The Owen Sound Attack stunned the favored Mississauga St. Michaels Majors to capture the OHL's Robertson Cup as league champions last week, going the distance with an overtime win in Game 7.

The Attack have some Bruins ties- co-owner Paul MacDermid is B's prospect Lane MacDermid's dad and a former Adams Division rival with the Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques.

Assistant coach Terry Virtue was a journeyman AHL defenseman and longtime Worcester IceCat who played for the Bruins in the late 90's and was a member of Providence's 1999 Calder Cup-winning team.

The Attack are keyed offensively by Colorado 2010 first-rounder Joey Hishon, a guy who one NHL scout told B2011DW was tremendous in his interview with them a year ago at the Combine, and then proved his selection with a 37-goal, 87-point season in just 50 games. He's not only skilled, but a heart-and-soul guy who is as much of a winner as you can ask for. Captain Garrett Wilson scored 40 goals to lead the Attack and is an '09 fourth-rounder for Florida.

Overager and undrafted free agent Bobby Mignardi won the Wayne Gretzky99 Trophy as OHL playoff MVP with his 15 goals in the postseason. He has 30 and 32 goals in each of the past two seasons, and should get an NHL deal given his big-game play and solid production in junior. 1991-born center Andrew Shaw also found ways to get it done in the playoffs, scoring 10 goals in 20 games- almost half of his total (22) for the whole season.

On defense, Leafs prospect Jesse Blacker is an effective two-way presence who anchors a solid, yet unheralded blue line corps.

The Attack don't have much in the way of draft eligibles for talent, but goaltender Jordan Binnington, who came into a do-or-die situation in Game 6 is raising his stock in dramatic fashion after flaming out in the first round against London. Forward Andrew Fritsch is another player to watch for the 2011 draft. He scored nearly 30 goals this season after coming over from Niagara at the beginning of the season. Keevin Cutting doesn't get much ink on the blue line, but has some potential as an organizational depth guy.

This is an underrated club who surprised the powerhouse Majors with their resiliency and ability to cheat death several times over. The Memorial Cup is a completely different animal than a best-of-seven series format, so it will be interesting to see what these guys can accomplish.

Owen Sound Attack 2011 Draft Eligibles

Jordan Binnington, G
Born: July 11, 1993 in Richmond Hill, Ontario
6-2, 160 Catches: Left

Nice height and long limbs. Light frame- needs to add weight to better handle traffic and opponents who will crash the net. Strong net presence; is good on his angles and can butterfly effectively. Needs to keep working on his consistency in pad movements; will open the five-hole too long or have his stick off the ice, giving shooters a target to hit. Has an effective glove hand. Blocker is so-so; punches at the puck instead of smoothly deflecting shots out of danger areas in and around his net and crease area. Uneven concentration and focus; tough to beat when dialed in, but gives up back-breaking soft goals at times. His mediocre showing against London destroyed coaches and team's trust in him, and if not for Scott Stajcer's health and Michael Zador's ineffectiveness against Mississauga, would have been the end of his 2011 season. Instead, Binnington became a hero, making 41 saves in a Game 6 home win and then getting the series-clinching victory in Missy. Showed tremendous mental toughness with back up against the wall; even more impressive was that his last action had been in late March. Kept himself sharp, focused and prepared, then when the window of opportunity presented itself, jumped through.
NHL upside: Starter on a lower-tier NHL club; solid backup

Andrew Fritsch, RW
Born March 24, 1993 in Brantford, Ontario
6-0, 187 Shoots: Right

A stealth prospect if ever there was one- this guy tends to get lost in the shuffle with so many big names in the OHL and even on his own Attack squad. That said, 27 goals in 58 games after coming to Owen Sound via trade early (he scored once in two games with Niagara) gives you a glimpse into his potential. We're told that he's a very fluid skater, with a long, smooth stride. He'll get better when he gets stronger. He's got both speed and elusiveness. What makes Fritsch an interesting player is that he's got real good hockey sense in terms of knowing where he needs to go and finding those soft areas in a defense. He's a bit of a ghost in that regard- he'll slide over from his defender just enough to open that lane and then is able to get the puck on net. A lower-body injury forced him out of the first few rounds of the playoffs and he wasn't himself when he returned, but the Memorial Cup could be a nice breakout for him. He's got to work on his strength and conditioning, plus learning the defensive aspects/play in his own end. Good, solid late-second to early-fourth-rounder we're being told.
Upside: Lower-end 2nd-line forward on a good team, Solid 3rd liner with goal-scoring punch

Keevin Cutting, D
Born: September 22, 1992 in Bracebridge, Ontario
6-1, 181 Shoots: Right

Non-flashy, stay-at-home guy with some good skills to move the puck out of trouble and a willingness to sacrifice the body for possession and control. Decent skater with good short-area closing skills and solid gap control. Doesn't have ideal or prototypical size, but understands angling, body leverage and doesn't put himself in position to lose physical battles or get beaten in open ice. Smart, efficient blue liner who simply does his job and you don't notice much because he doesn't make many mistakes. Won't give you much offense, but can hammer the puck pretty well. Played it simple and conservative this season, but also brings an edge and will defend teammates when needed. Character guy that all winning teams have in the defensive grouping. Missed the 2010 NHL draft 15 September 1992 cutoff date by exactly one week.
Upside: Bottom-pairing defender and "glue" guy

Other eligibles: Andrew Shaw, Mike Halmo (1991), Matt Petgrave (1992), Cameron Brace (1993)

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